Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Are You Ready for Some (Spring) Football?

After a reserve defensive player picked off a pass in the flat late in Air Force’s first spring practice on Tuesday evening, one defensive coach looked at another.

“Who is that?”

For much of the day, that was a good question.

There have been the usual assortment of number changes – quarterback Eric Herbort went from 8 to 7, Savier Stephens from 42 to 2, Kyle Halderman from 83 to 4, Ken Lamendola from 54 to 47, to name a few. But there were a whole bunch of new faces on the field with the standout Class of 2008 gone and the freshmen who played on the JV last year now playing with the varsity.

How quickly those new faces develop will tell a lot about this year.

With that said, here are some initial impressions from Day One:

- Heard running backs coach Jemal Singleton scream “Finish the play!” a few times. The players were in helmets and shorts, but even when a back is touched down or corralled for a stop, Singleton wants him to keep going and sprint another 20 or so yards.

- Best play of the day: A deep pass down the right sideline from Herbort to receiver Spencer Armstrong. It covered about 45 to 50 yards, and the ball was right on the money.

- Shortly after that play, Will McAngus, a freshman quarterback, hit receiver Dal Shealy on a similar pattern.

- I think the Falcons should be in pretty good shape at the X and Z receivers. At X there’s Sean Quintana, who will be a junior and started some games last year, and Armstrong. And when Air Force uses them together, they make a good pair. Quintana is sure-handed and the perfect possession receiver, while Armstrong is a legitimate deep threat. Also on Tuesday, sophomore Chaz Demerath, a 6-foot-2 freshman, made a nice play when a deep pass was thrown to the wrong shoulder. Demerath adjusted and made the grab.

At Z, Ty Paffett likely will start. He came on strong at the end of last season and played Z when Chad Hall was taking snaps at tailback. Also, look for his backup, Kyle Halderman, to make some plays too.

- Still waaaaay too early to talk too much about the QBs. But both Herbort and Shea Smith looked solid. And freshman Ben Cockran can sling it. Lots of heat on his throws.

- The first-team defense showed great enthusiasm, screaming each time it came on the field during team drills. It will be interesting to see what the defense is like this year. The Falcons are stacked up front with six experienced guys back on the defensive line, and Air Force should be set at safety with sophomore Chris Thomas (I think poised for a run at first-team All-MWC honors) and free safety Aaron Kirchoff (who started several games last season).

But the success of the defense will depend on the LBs and CBs. Air Force has a returning starter at one OLB spot (senior-to-be Hunter Altman) and Andre Morris, Jr. (who started one game last year as a freshman) likely will man the other OLB spot. But Air Force will have two brand new inside linebackers, and two new corners. Reggie Rembert, who started one game last year, will man one side of the field. Kevin Rivers, a senior next year, is penciled in at the other corner spot. Rivers was in a red jersey (injured) on Tuesday and did not practice.

- The Mountain West Conference should release its football schedule soon. Air Force should hope its 2008 conference slate doesn’t look like last season’s. In 2007 the Falcons faced the top three teams in the conference plus Navy in the first month of the season. For as young and inexperienced as the 2008 squad will be, it would benefit greatly by playing a couple of the league’s lesser teams early.


Ben said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben said...

Jake, Excellent coverage once again. I'm wondering, when is the Spring Scrimmage, and will it be at Wasson HS like it has been or will it be at Falcon Stadium?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your observations of spring football at the Academy. In the past there have been few avenues for an out-of-state grad to gain information about the team's progress in the spring. Since this blog started in the fall, I have been a regular reader.

If Cochran has the best arm, did you see him running at all? If so, how did he look compared to the other quarterbacks? And, how does the size of the quarterbacks compare?

Jim said...

Thanks, Jake! Your interim reports make the long off-season so much easier to swallow. I love hearing about the new names I expect to see making great contributions to Falcon football. Keep it up, dude!

jake.schaller said...

Hi guys,

Couple answers to questions:

-The Spring Game will be April 12 at Falcon Stadium, but it won't really be a typical Spring Game where the coaching staff divides up its players and plays an actual game. Rather, it will be a controlled scrimmage in which they will keep units (first-team offense, first-team defense, second-team offense, etc.) together.

-As for Cockran, I really didn't get a whole lot of looks at his foot speed or running ability. That is something I'll keep an eye on next time I'm out there. One thing I neglected to mention yesterday is Shea Smith - while not a burner - looked pretty poised running the ball. McAngus had some trouble with a couple of option pitches.

Anonymous said...

What happened to Ryan Gonzales? If were stacked on D maybe move him to O-line.

jake.schaller said...

Good question on Gonzales. The guy is built like a truck and apparently is one of the strongest guys on the team. But he hasn't been as productive as some of the other guys on the line.
Maybe O-Line is the answer. Perhaps as a drive-blocking guard.