Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Congressional Bowl Licensed

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun wants the academy to pursue direct tie-ins with bowl games similar to what Navy had with the Poinsettia Bowl last year.

You become bowl eligible (by winning six or more games), you get an automatic invite to the bowl with which you have a direct tie-in.

There appears to be a perfect scenario for such a partnership in the Congressional Bowl, which was sanctioned by the NCAA on Wednesday along with the St. Petersburg Bowl. Those two bowl games will join the 32 existing bowl games that were played last season and were licensed again by the NCAA Postseason Football Licensing Subcommittee on Wednesday. The proposed Rocky Mountain Bowl in Salt Lake City was not licensed.

The 2008 Congressional Bowl will feature Navy (if it reaches six victories and thus becomes “bowl eligible”) against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The bowl has a deal in place with Army for the 2009 game and would like to arrange a future tie-in with Air Force.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Injury/NFL Updates

Spoke with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun today and got some updates on some of the Falcons’ injured players:

-Outside linebacker Hunter Altman, who had an arthroscopic procedure on his right ankle on April 11 (the day before the final spring scrimmage), is “doing pretty much everything right now,” Calhoun said. Altman is “a little limited,” pushing off his right foot, Calhoun said, but he should be back to full strength by May 15.

-Tailback Savier Stephens is recovering from hernia surgery and is in rehab, Calhoun said. “He’s able to do some of the core work, and he ought to be able to do everything in early June,” Cahoun said.

-Nose guard Jared Marvin continues to rehab his surgically repaired right knee. Calhoun said Marvin is looking at a mid-September return. …

Calhoun also said that senior linebackers Drew Fowler and John Rabold are drawing interest from some NFL teams – Fowler with the Lions, Rabold with the Chiefs, specifically. Both are looking to sign with teams as undrafted free agents, participate in camps during the next two years and then join the teams (while continuing to serve in the reserves) after completing two years of active duty.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cover Boys

Air Force’s 2008 football team will be one of the youngest in academy history, according to coach Troy Calhoun.

The media guide – which has not yet been released – will suggest as much.

Last year the media guide featured all seniors on the front and back covers. Linebacker Drew Fowler, quarterback Shaun Carney and fullback Ryan Williams were on the front, while running back/receiver Chad Hall, linebacker John Rabold and safety Bobby Giannini were on the back.

This year’s media guide, according to sports information director Troy Garnhart, will feature seven players in some combination on the front and back. There will be four seniors (defensive end Ryan Kemp, linebacker Hunter Altman, tight end Travis Dekker and kicker/punter Ryan Harrison), two juniors (safety Chris Thomas and guard Nick Charles) and a sophomore (Reggie Rembert).

Garnhart said he can't remember a sophomore appearing on the cover of the media guide in his approximately 20 years at the academy and that it traditionally has been reserved for upperclassmen. However, he said a sophomore appearing might just suggest a change in philosophy under Calhoun - the best players are featured, regardless of class. ...

Air Force seniors have received their post-graduate assignments, and four football players from the Class of 2008 will stay around the academy next year. Fowler and Carney will serve as graduate assistants for the Air Force football team, while Blaine Guenther and Hall will serve as graduate assistants for the academy prep school's football team.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why the Price Increases?

As noted in this article that appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The Gazette, Air Force has raised prices for football season tickets.

There were across-the-board price increases, and most ticket prices went up about five percent. Such increases are immediately understandable. The academy had not raised prices in three years, and many sections had not seen an increase in five years. Plus, Air Force is coming off a surprisingly successful 9-4 campaign and wants to capitalize on that momentum.

But the premium seats at Falcon Stadium – four sections near the 50-yard line – were raised about 56 percent. And that increase shocked – if not angered – some season-ticket holders, some of whom expressed their displeasure to The Gazette.

The academy, however, had reasons for the increase, said Chris Peludat, Air Force’s assistant athletic director for tickets and marketing. And it was not given the opportunity to explain those reasons in the aforementioned article. It is given that opportunity here.

Peludat said that while the prices for 50-yard line seats increased by $100 ($175 to $275), there is $65 in value added to those seats. The academy is installing cushioned seat backs in those sections (a $35 value, Peludat said) and each individual game ticket for those seats will include $5 of stored value that can be used at concessions stands like a debit card for that particular game.

“So it wasn’t just a $100 increase and they’re getting nothing for it,” Peludat said.

And while the increase was dramatic, Air Force’s tickets still are among the lowest in the Mountain West Conference and are roughly commensurate to those at Army and Navy.

If Air Force season ticket holders are members of the Blue and Silver Club, they receive a 15 percent discount on tickets (up to four). Factoring in that discount makes Air Force’s season tickets (around the 50-yard line) the lowest in the league.

(Note: The base prices for season tickets in premium areas are lower at some other schools, but those schools require minimum donations as well. For instance, according to academy research, Wyoming season tickets near the 50 are $168 but require a $500 per-seat donation.)

“We think our prices are very fair and in line with what other schools are charging, what Army and Navy are charging, plus ours include benefits,” Peludat said. “Nobody’s giving you $5 per game to spend. The seat-back is nice, not every school has that. We’re bringing things in to try to make those sections nicer, and there’s cost associated with that. We did raise the price, but we’re giving 65 percent of that increase back to our fans. Some like that and some don’t.”

While Air Force premium tickets still are affordable in relation to other conference schools, it was the dramatic increase that might have caught fans off guard. Peludat understood that sentiment.

“It probably would have gone over easier, especially in the center section, if we had increased prices incrementally each year,” he said. “It might have been easier to swallow.”

So what’s the increase’s bottom-line effect on season ticket sales? While Peludat acknowledged they’ve received some upset phone calls, he said it’s far too early in the renewal process to tell.

“We don’t keep a tote board, but if we did, it’s been pretty equal as far as complaints versus people buying in,” he said.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Coaching Clinics

Air Force football coaches are on the road this week, taking some time to learn from their peers.

Offensive coaches visited West Virginia spring practices and now are at the University of Arizona. Defensive coaches are visiting Clemson and UCLA.

The Falcons’ coaches are making these visits to watch how other programs work and to see if there’s anything they are doing schematically that might work well at the academy. “Professional development,” is how Calhoun explained it.

Air Force’s coaches were unable to make such trips last year because Calhoun had just been hired and was scrambling to get settled. But he wants to make visiting other schools an annual activity, along with watching plenty of film of other schools.

“I just think it’s really healthy to do, and sometimes you pick up things where you think, ‘Hey, maybe in two, three years when so-and-so and so-and-so are juniors at the academy, that’s something that could work pretty well for us,’” Calhoun said via phone from Arizona Thursday afternoon. “I just think you’ve got to do it.”

Calhoun said “a couple” teams visited Air Force this spring, “and that’s something we try to encourage – let them know they’re welcome.”

But something tells me Navy and BYU coaches wouldn’t exactly be greeted with open arms.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

AF-Houston Time, TV Set

Kickoff for the Air Force football team’s third game of the 2008 season – at Houston on Sept. 13 – has been set for 1:30 p.m. (MT), according to an academy release.

That means the Falcons likely will have to deal with hot and humid conditions. The game will begin at 2:30 local time, about the hottest part of the day, and – according to a National Weather Service site I visited – the typical high for Sept. 13 in Houston is 90 degrees. Air Force players' conditioning will be tested.

Air Force also announced the Houston game will be televised nationally by CBS College Sports Network, formerly known as College Sports Television (CSTV).

That gives Air Force seven nationally televised regular season contests in 2008. The Falcons’ games at Wyoming (Sept. 6) and at home against New Mexico (Oct. 23) and BYU (Nov. 15) also will be televised by CBS College Sports Network. In addition, Air Force’s home games against Utah (Sept. 20) and Navy (Oct. 4) and its regular season finale at TCU (Nov. 22) will be televised on Versus.

Air Force’s game at Army (Nov. 1) is expected to be televised by one of the ESPN family of networks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Basketball Banquet Review

Thought I’d pass along some highlights from Wednesday night’s men’s basketball banquet for those of you unable to attend.

-As one would expect, senior guard Tim Anderson was given the program’s top honor – the Bob Spear Award. Named after a former coach (known as the father of Air Force basketball), the award is given to “the student-athlete that is outstanding in all areas of the academy – academics, athletics and military performance.”

Anderson was a no-brainer pick.

Though he was a second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection and the league’s defensive player of the year, Anderson never was fully appreciated during his career by those outside academy grounds. It had something to do with his quiet demeanor, and it was in part because he played his junior season in the shadows of the academy’s outstanding Class of 2007. Mostly, though, it was because some of his most valuable contributions were little things that casual fans don’t notice – deflecting passes, picking up charges, helping out on defense.

He led the 2007-08 Falcons in scoring, assists and steals, and he’ll graduate ranked No. 2 at the academy in career games played and career steals – behind Jacob Burtschi in both candidates.

Anderson won’t be leaving the program totally, however. He’ll be back next year to serve as an assistant coach for the prep school’s team.

-Junior Andrew Henke was given the Falcon Award, “given to the player that gives 100 percent regardless of the situation and his place on the team.”

Henke won the award in large part because he willingly accepted the role of “sixth man” even though he played the minutes of a starter, led the team in rebounding and ranked second on the team in scoring.

Coaches often like to say that who starts is insignificant. Back when I covered the Nuggets, George Karl would scoff when I asked him about his starting lineup. He said that was something that wasn’t a big deal and that “you guys” (the media) blew out of proportion.

But players care. They’re lying if they say they don’t. And Henke, though he deserved to start (as it said several times in this blog and multiple times in columns in The Gazette), never complained.

“He put himself behind the team,” Reynolds said.

-Anderson and senior Eric Kenzik shared the Captain’s Award, and senior Keith Maren was given the Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year award.

-Athletic director Hans Mueh praised the coaches and the team, calling it one “that will forever leave its mark on the academy.” Mueh said he is “as proud of this program now as I’ve ever been.”

-Head trainer Larry Willock, who is retiring after 14 seasons at the academy, was given a framed No. 14 Air Force jersey.

“I’ve been in coaching for 27 years, and he’s the best,” said Reynolds, who fought back tears as he introduced Willock. “There’s no one close.”

-Reynolds said Air Force is trying to kick off the 2008-09 campaign with the second Air Force Classic. The tournament debuted last season. He also said there are preliminary plans to hold a second tournament at World Arena.

The schedule, however, is coming together quite slowly as teams are shopping for the best deals for their programs.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Reynolds said. “What we’re finding is more and more teams are paying a lot more money to get home games. Anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000 is what the big-time boys are paying to get home games. So consequently, it’s tougher. We’ve had some dialogue with teams. It’s just a work in progress.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rabold Hopeful for NFL Chance

Ran into John Rabold outside the Air Force football locker room the other day.

Rabold, who will graduate in May, is one of several Air Force seniors hoping to continue his football career in the pros.

I think it’s safe to say Rabold has been working hard to make that happen.

The outside linebacker, who earned first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors last fall, looks much bigger after a few months of hitting the weights. Rabold, who was listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds last season, said he’s up to about 250. And it looks like all muscle.

According to Rabold, his agent has been getting calls from NFL teams. Most are wary of his military commitment, however, and that likely means he will go undrafted.

(Air Force grads are required to spend five years on active duty, though those who have the opportunity to land a job that will have public relations benefits for the Air Force – like playing in the NFL – can get an early release from active duty. Instead of their final three years of active duty, they’d serve six in the reserves.)

Rabold hopes if he does not get drafted a team will sign him as a free agent. He’d then use his 60 days of leave following graduation to participate in that team’s preseason camps. He’d then stay in shape while on active duty, use subsequent leave time to take part in other team camps and then hopefully make the team after two years of active duty service.

Sounds like a tall order, but Rabold seems like he is serious about making it happen. And from what I’ve heard, Rabold is the most intriguing of the Air Force seniors with pro aspirations (including inside linebacker Drew Fowler and receiver/running back/returner Chad Hall, among others) to NFL scouts.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Scrimmage Review

As I wrote in my article for Sunday’s Gazette, I thought the defense controlled most of Saturday’s controlled scrimmage.

The defense had trouble stopping the quarterback draw and there were some missed tackles, but for the most part I thought it had the better of the offense. Anyway, here are some quick-hit thoughts from the final day of spring practice:

-Liked the way freshman tailback Kyle Lumpkin ran with the ball on one possession late in the day. He had six carries for 40 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown, on the 60-yard drive.

“He had the one fumble today, which I think is unacceptable, but he’s got a little shake to him, and I just love the kid,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “Attitude-wise, you’re around him as a kid, it’s contagious with the kind of determination he has and how much he loves football.”

-The defensive line played extremely well, led by Ben Garland, who forced and recovered a fumble, and Jake Paulson. Also thought sophomore linebacker Myles Morales stood out. He had a sack and a couple tackles for losses and always seemed to be around the ball.

-Thought freshman receiver Kevin Fogler played well. He made a bunch of grabs and in the situational part of the scrimmage (when the first-team offense would run three straight third-and-2 or third-and-6 plays) he hauled in a 46-yard strike from junior quarterback Shea Smith.

-That was Smith’s finest moment of the practice. He stood in the pocket and launched the ball just before absorbing a big hit. It was impressive enough that he put a deep ball on the money. More impressive that he did it knowing he was about to get stung.

-While quarterback Eric Herbort was really hard on himself after practice, I thought he had a few good moments, specifically the 60-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Hemphill.

-Hemphill again flashed his potential with that grab but it was balanced out by a pair of drops.

-This just in: Ryan Harrison is good.

-Junior tight end Keith Madsen made a great catch in traffic for a 14-yard gain. But the tight ends were relatively quiet otherwise.

-Spoke to senior-to-be nose guard Jared Marvin in the tunnel prior to the scrimmage. Marvin, one of five returning defensive starters, tore both the ACL and MCL in his right knee early in spring practice and had surgery on March 17.

Calhoun had told me that Marvin would need five to seven months of rehabilitation, and I’ve been told that’s pretty much standard for the type of injury he suffered. But coaches rave about Marvin’s toughness and work ethic, and Calhoun said Marvin likely would be back “sooner than it’s supposed to be.”

Marvin thinks so too.

He was doing some exercises when I saw him, and he said his rehab was going well, and he is getting his range of motion back in his leg. According to my math, five months from March 17 is August 17. So I asked if he would be back in late August.

“What?” he said. “Early August.”

It was impossible not to believe him.

-As I’ve written before, defensive line coach Ron Burton is one of my favorite coaches to watch during practices because of his intensity, energy and attention to detail. He’s also one of the more entertaining guys on the field.

Saturday he stopped freshman defensive end William Dallas as Dallas ran onto the field with the third-team defense. Dallas, you see, was wearing around his waist one of those hand-warmer pouches that you’ll often see quarterbacks, receivers and kickers using. Burton obviously didn’t approve.

“What are you doin’ with that mess on?” Burton asked. “Makes you look soft.”

Dallas shed the hand-warmer and tossed it to a manager before lining up with his teammates.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring Game, er, Controlled Scrimmage Preview

Air Force will wrap up spring practice tomorrow at Falcon Stadium, but it won’t be with a Blue-Silver Game of years past.

Like last spring, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun will finish spring drills with a practice that includes a controlled scrimmage. Instead of dividing players into two teams (Blue and Silver) and playing an actual game with a final score, Calhoun will keep units together and pit them against each other in a series of situations. So the No. 1 offense will drive against the No. 2 defense, the No. 2 offense will face the No. 1 defense, etc.

Calhoun admits that it “probably takes a hair bit away from the entertainment aspect of it because you don’t have two teams.” But he believes this type of format is necessary – especially with such a young and inexperienced squad.

“We just haven’t had that many guys that have spent time together playing together,” he said. “And I think to develop that kind of chemistry in an 11-on-11 environment where the coaches are off the field, we’ve got to get as much of that as we possibly can. And I think as soon as you start splitting teams up, then that Mike (LB) and that Will (LB) are on a different team and their communication – they don’t quite get a chance to get to play together quite as frequently. That center and the right guard are split up. That quarterback and a couple receivers. I just think it will work better this way.”

“The other thing is I think you’re able to isolate many more situations. Now you can truly focus on playing 11 on 11 and executing situations rather than thinking you’re going to be on two different teams. We’re going to compete, I just think we’ll get so much more done production-wise. “

And you can still glean plenty from this type of scrimmage. Here’s what I’ll be watching:

1) The quarterbacks, of course. Junior-to-be Eric Herbort has played well and moved into the starting spot on the Falcons’ two-deep chart, but senior-to-be Shea Smith has been rock solid as ever. The starting role for the 2008 opener won’t be won tomorrow, but it’s the last chance to see both signal-callers in action.

2) Reggie Rembert. As discussed in the post below, Rembert – a starting corner – has spent a few practices with the offense this spring because he gives an attack with few playmakers an explosive threat. I’ll be interested to see what kind of impact he makes with the ball in his hands.

3) The inside linebackers and cornerbacks. Air Force’s defensive line is arguably the deepest and most talented unit on the team. The outside linebackers and safeties are talented and relatively experienced. But save for Rembert, the corners are brand new. And so are the inside linebackers. Will any step up tomorrow?

4) The tailbacks. Air Force is paper thin at this position right now with Savier Stephens injured and Brenton Byrd playing corner. How will Kyle Lumpkin (who already has one of my favorite nicknames of 2008 – the obvious but perfect-for-a-back “Lump"), D.J. Ford and Chase Wilke look at full speed?

5) Who are the leaders? Air Force lost 26 seniors from last year’s team. It will be interesting to see who takes on a leadership role.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rembert Looks Good in Blue

Went to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in San Jose on Saturday night. Amazing show.

To kick off the encore, Bruce played his “Detroit Medley,” which begins and ends with him covering “Devil with a Blue Dress On.”

So what does that have to do with Falcon football? Well, nothing really. Except that I started to hear the song in my head this afternoon at practice after I saw Reggie with a blue shirt on.

That’d be freshman Reggie Rembert – who will start at one cornerback spot next season – donning the color worn at practice by Air Force offensive players.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said before the start of spring practice that he’d like to try using Rembert – the most explosive player on his roster – on offense in addition to defense. And Thursday, for the third time in 14 spring practices, Rembert practiced with the offense, lining up at the Falcons’ Z receiver spot – a hybrid running back/receiver position.

“He said after the end of the (2007 season) that we were going to try it out, and if I can’t handle it, then we’ll try it next year," Rembert said, referring to the following spring. “But hopefully he thinks I’m handling it alright.”

So, is he?

It was tough to get a really good read Thursday because, thanks to the weather, the team practiced indoors in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. But I’ll say this: Of the players on the Air Force roster right now – not counting incoming freshmen – Rembert has the most burst of anyone that touches the ball.

Last year, when he first stepped on the field in August, Rembert immediately stood out because of his speed, agility and play-making ability. It was the same Thursday. He just seemed to have that extra little zip when he got the ball in his hands.

Granted, Air Force doesn’t have a lot of dynamic playmakers on this team, so Rembert looks that much faster. But look for him to become one of the Falcons’ top weapons.

Calhoun said in a perfect world Rembert would play 12 to 15 snaps per game, but “that might be a bit much this year,” he said. “But maybe this year is at a half dozen every other game or something like that. We’ll just have to see.”

Rembert also is handling punt and kickoff returns. But Calhoun has said defense – where he played last season and even started one game in place of an ill Carson Bird – will be his first priority.

“If there’s ever a moment where I think it’s too much,” Calhoun said of playing both ways, “then we will not do it.”

But both Calhoun and Rembert seem confident that Rembert can handle it. Rembert said after three practices with the offense he feels comfortable at Z and knows all the plays. However, he said he doesn’t have the signals for the plays down perfectly. And he’ll need to because Air Force runs a no-huddle offense and gets its plays via signals from the sideline.

“He’s still learning his way a little bit, but that’s not a real difficult spot to learn,” Calhoun said of the Z receiver position. “So I think he can do it. During August he’s going to have to play both sides a little bit for us to make it feasible once we get into the season.”

Rembert said he likes playing both corner and Z, but “I like having the ball,” he said.

Fans will like watching him with it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Who's Gonna Catch it?

With former four-year starting quarterback Shaun Carney out of eligibility, Air Force is looking for a new signal-caller (a subject that will be explored in detail in my story that is scheduled to appear inThursday's Gazette).

But whoever the quarterback is in 2008, he’ll be inexperienced. And I think that makes the performance of the Falcons’ receivers incredibly important to the success of the Air Force offense.

So I thought I’d pass along some thoughts on the Falcons’ potential 2008 pass catchers.

X Receiver
Who’s Graduating: Mark Root. The reliable 6-foot-2 receiver started the majority of the Falcons’ games last year. Root ranked second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards with 28 and 385, respectively. He also caught a pair of touchdown passes.

Who’s Back: Spencer Armstrong and Sean Quintana. Those two give the Falcons a deep threat and a dependable possession receiver, respectively.

Armstrong, who will be a senior next year, was listed as the Falcons’ backup at X when spring practice started. He was not on the second two-deep chart released early last week, but since then, Armstrong has had several quality practices, in particular last Saturday when he made an impressive leaping catch in the end zone on the last play of the day. Those performances earned him the starting spot on the depth chart released Tuesday by Air Force coach Troy Calhoun (scroll down to the post below to see the full depth chart).

Armstrong was a non-factor early last year as he struggled to get on the field. But he came on late and made several big plays down the stretch – including a touchdown on a reverse against Notre Dame and a 48-yard touchdown reception against Army.

“He did some really good things at the end of the year,” Calhoun said. “But I think now he’s really ready to emerge and be an Air Force football player that’s a senior.”

Quintana, who will be a junior next fall, was listed as the starter at X on the Falcons’ first two two-deep charts before slipping to backup on the chart released Tuesday. Quintana emerged from obscurity in practices last August by catching whatever was thrown in his general direction. He made eight catches for 67 yards and a score in 2007.

Who Else: Freshman Kevin Fogler played on the Falcons’ junior varsity in 2007 but was impressive enough early in spring practice to earn the backup spot on Air Force’s second two-deep chart. The 6-6 Fogler “had some problems,” last week, Thiessen said, with some drops and a busted assignment and dropped off the chart released Tuesday. But he has shown plenty of potential this spring. Like Quintana, he is more of a possession receiver.

“He’s got a little bigger body, and he’s more physical,” Thiessen said. “He plays long, extends really well to fight for the football.”

Thiessen said the Falcons’ top three X receivers right now are Armstrong, Quintana and Fogler, but that Anthony Hemphill and Josh Cousins will push for playing time.

Z Receiver
Who’s Graduating:
Chad Hall. You might have heard of him. Only player in the nation to lead his team in rushing yards (1,478), receiving yards (524) and all-purpose yards (2,683).

Who’s Back: Ty Paffett. Calhoun has said all positions on his team are open, but Paffett is pretty well entrenched as the Falcons’ starter at Z. Paffett got good experience last year, playing the position when Hall lined up at tailback, and he has breakaway speed. Much more on Paffett in The Gazette later this week.

Who Else: Kyle Halderman and Brett Skene. Both players will be sophomores next year, though Halderman has a bit of an advantage as he played and traveled with the varsity the second half of last season.

“He got coached a lot last year, and we really came into spring expecting him to be the next guy,” behind Paffett, Air Force receivers coach Mike Thiessen said. “He’s got some growing up to do, he’s young, but that’s alright.”

Tight End
Who’s Graduating:
Chris Evans, who played sparingly last year.

Who’s Back: Travis Dekker, Keith Madsen, Steve Shaffer. After years when the tight end seemed borderline extinct at Air Force, it was brought back by Calhoun. Last season Travis Dekker caught 25 passes for 382 yards and two scores. The previous four seasons Air Force tight ends caught 19 combined passes.

The renewed emphasis on getting the tight end the ball is a good thing for the Falcons in 2008. Other than a dominant ground game that can relieve pressure from the passing game, nothing is better for an inexperienced quarterback than a big, reliable tight end. The Falcons have three.

Dekker, who will be a senior in 2008, clearly is the starter after ranking third in receptions in 2007 for Air Force. “I thought Travis played well for us last year,” Calhoun said. “He’s going to have to play even better this year. I think we’ve got to keep finding ways to be really resourceful to get him the ball.”

Madsen, who also will be a senior in 2008, caught five passes for 49 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2007.

“I thought early in (2007), clearly, I thought Madsen was a pretty good football player for us,” Calhoun said. “I thought in the first half against Notre Dame, when he started, he was not very good. I thought in the second half of the game against Notre Dame, I thought he was a pretty solid football player. But it can’t be that temperature one time is at 30 degrees and all of a sudden it goes to 210 degrees – Madsen’s got to find some consistency.”

Madsen started spring as the Falcons’ backup at tight end, but Shaffer has supplanted him. Shaffer, who will be a sophomore in the fall, is big and athletic and talented. Calhoun said he “may have played better than Madsen at the end of (2007), but he wasn’t ready because he was a freshman.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

New Depth Chart

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun released a new two-deep chart on Tuesday. It is the third depth chart of spring practices and contains just two changes:

-At X Receiver, Spencer Armstrong now is listed as the starter, bumping Sean Quintana to backup and Kevin Fogler off the chart

-At TB, junior-to-be Devon Ford now is listed as the backup to Kyle Lumpkin.

The full chart is below. Again, the years listed for each player are what they’ll be in the fall. For example, Spencer Armstrong is a junior, but he’ll be a senior in the fall.

WR- X 26 Spencer Armstrong, Sr.
81 Sean Quintana, Jr.

TE 88 Travis Dekker, Sr.
84 Steve Shaffer, So.

LT 79 Keith Williams, Sr.
70 Matt Markling, So.

LG 57 Nick Charles, Jr.
64 Jake Morrow, So.

C 63 Andrew Pipes, Sr.
65 Michael Hampton, Jr.

RG 62 Peter Lusk, Jr.
67 Tyler Shonsheck, So.

RT 60 Chris Campbell, Jr.
78 Ben Marshall, So.

QB 7 Eric Herbort, Jr.
14 Shea Smith, Sr.

FB 25 Todd Newell, Sr.
42 Jared Tew, So.

TB 28 Kyle Lumpkin, So.
20 Devon Ford, Jr.

WR-Z 19 Ty Paffett, Sr.
4 Kyle Halderman, So.

LE 95 Jake Paulson, Sr.
49 Ryan Gonzales, Jr.

NG 93 Ben Garland, Jr.
76 Stephen Larson, Jr.

RE 91 Ryan Kemp, Sr.
90 Rick Ricketts, So.

OLB 36 Andre Morris, Jr., So.
92 Myles Morales, Jr.

ILB 45 John Falgout, Jr.
55 Clay Bryant, Jr.

ILB 47 Ken Lamendola, So.
43 Justin Moore, Jr.

OLB 32 Hunter Altman, Sr.
37 William Keuchler, So.

CB 22 Brenton Byrd, Jr.
22 Ryan Curry, So.

CB 8 Reggie Rembert, So.
18 Elliot Battle, So.

SS 34 Chris Thomas, Jr.
30 Luke Yeager, Sr.

FS 23 Aaron Kirchoff, Sr.
29 Luke Hyder, Jr.

PK 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
94 Zachary Bell, So.

P 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
98 Brandon Geyer, Jr.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fisher Foundation Events

Hello all.

With former Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry set to be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame tomorrow night, I thought I’d pass along some information about some events that will be taking place next month to raise money for his foundation:

The 3rd Annual Fisher DeBerry Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic (May 16)
-Will be held at the Eisenhower Blue Course at the academy
-Special guest and honorary chairman will be former Notre Dame walk-on football player Rudy Ruettiger, who provided the inspiration for the movie “Rudy.”

The 5th Annual Fisher DeBerry Foundation Chick-fil-A 5K Run and Walk (May 17)
-Will be held at America the Beautiful Park in Colorado Springs at 3 p.m.
-Cost: $15 for students and children;$20 for adults
-Register here

The Inaugural Colorado Coaches for Charity silent auction and dinner (May 19)
-Will be held at the Denver Marriott City Center.
-DeBerry will be on hand along with former Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, Northern Colorado coach Scott Downing and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins.
-Visit this site for more information.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Practice Report - 4/2

Late in Air Force's Wednesday practice, freshman defensive end Rick Ricketts and freshman fullback Ryan Southworth got into a brief scuffle after a play.

In preseason – and to some degree, in spring sessions – coaches sometimes like to see fights. Some won’t admit it, others will come right out and say that it shows players are getting after it and playing hard and with emotion.

So after Wednesday’s practice, I asked Troy Calhoun what he thought about the dust-up.

“We’ve got competitive guys,” he said. “And they’re physical, and they’re going to be active, so every once in a while that’s going to happen. I think the key is this – you play extremely aggressively, and yet you’ve got to have poise too. You ever cross the line, that’s 15 (yards) against us. Our guys are pretty good about that. You don’t see it very often, but you certainly see them flying around.”

Calhoun sent Ricketts, who appeared to be the aggressor, off on a disciplinary run around a far goalpost following the scuffle.

But I think the coaches liked that their players were fired up during a spring session.

Other Thoughts:
-While quarterbacks Eric Herbort and Shea Smith were extremely sharp and receivers made great catches in traffic during Tuesday’s practice at Falcon Stadium, there were some errant throws and drops on Wednesday. Ty Paffett, in particular, dropped a high yet catchable ball on a deep post.

-It will be interesting to see what Brenton Byrd does at cornerback during the last few practices of spring, specifically scrimmage situations. Wednesday he showed the speed and athleticism to stay with receivers, but he’s still learning the coverages. He's had just four practices at the position.

-Freshman tailback Chase Wilke seemed to run hard and show some burst.

-The hit of the day belonged to sophomore inside linebacker Justin Moore, who laid a shoulder into Z receiver Kyle Halderman and elicited cheers from his defensive teammates on the sideline.

Note: I’ll be out of town this weekend but will file practice reports to the blog after each of the Falcons’ last three spring sessions – next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (the controlled scrimmage).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Schedule Thoughts

So Air Force’s 2008 schedule was finalized on Tuesday (scroll down two posts to see the full slate).

First impression upon looking at it?

It sets up pretty well for the Falcons.

First of all, and most importantly, Air Force has a bye week at an opportune time for the first time since the 2004 season when it had a break between its sixth and seventh games.

In 2005, Air Force’s bye came before the last game of the season when a losing season already was assured. In 2006, the Falcons had two bye weeks, but they were sandwiched around their first game. And last season, of course, Air Force had no bye weeks, playing 12 games in 12 weeks.

In the upcoming season, the Falcons will get a break between their fourth game (a tough one against Utah, which should be one of the favorites in the Mountain West Conference) and their fifth (against archrival Navy).

Other impressions on the schedule:

-It’s not as difficult early as it was last season when the Falcons played the teams predicted to be the top three in the conference (Utah, TCU and BYU) and then Navy in consecutive weeks in September. That’s important, as the 2008 team will be young

-Not a terribly difficult start, but how about the finish? Back-to-back games against defending league champ BYU and then at TCU for the regular season finale. Think the Horned Frogs will be hungry for some revenge?

-A couple not-so-fortunate notes for the Falcons: UNLV has a bye week prior to playing host to Air Force on Oct. 18. The Falcons, meanwhile, play at San Diego State the week before facing the Rebels. Plus, TCU has a bye week before playing host to Air Force on Nov. 22. Air Force plays at home against BYU the week before. And finally, Air Force plays at UNLV (at night) on Saturday, Oct. 18. It then has to travel home and prepare to play New Mexico on Thursday, Oct. 23 after a short week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Depth Chart Moves

There were plenty of changes on the updated two-deep chart released by Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun on Tuesday (scroll down to see the full chart).

But that’s to be expected with so many positions considered to be wide open at this point. Calhoun said if coaches released a new depth chart after each practice “we’d probably have five changes every day.”

So how does Calhoun decide who belongs on the two-deep?

“You just want guys that are completely reliable,” Calhoun said. “And I think guys that are dependable and guys that are productive are the ones that get a chance to move to the surface and work with the primary units.”

Here are the changes from the initial spring two-deep chart:

Quarterback: Eric Herbort, listed as a backup on the first depth chart, moved in front of Shea Smith. But Herbort by no means has a stranglehold on the position.

“They’ve been pretty balanced,” Calhoun said of Herbort and Smith. “And that could continue to flip back and forth.”

Much more on the quarterback battle in an upcoming edition of The Gazette – likely this Sunday’s or Monday’s.

Tailback: Sophomore-to-be Savier Stephens and junior-to-be Brenton Byrd were listed as the starter and backup, respectively, at the start of spring practice.

But Stephens, the leading returning rusher from the 2007 squad, has been held out of practice because of a hernia that will require surgery. And Byrd (see below) is getting a look at cornerback.

So two players who were on the Falcons’ junior varsity as freshmen in 2007 – Kyle Lumpkin and Chase Wilke – now are listed as the starter and backup, respectively.

“They’re the two best tailbacks,” Calhoun said. “I think it’s the fairest way to operate is the guys that play the best are the guys that are in the two-deep. … Lumpkin, the kid loves football. He’s spunky, he’s a tough little nut. He’s got to learn how to run a little bit more downhill. But we’ll see how he does.”

Wide Receiver-X: Kevin Fogler, who will be a sophomore next year, moved in front of senior-to-be Spencer Armstrong as the backup to Sean Quintana.

Fogler impressed coaches in the first half of spring by making plenty of plays – specifically coming up with tough catches. “That’s a guy that every day did something in practice,” Calhoun said.

Fogler has an impressive 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame. And Calhoun said Fogler “plays with length.”

“There are times when guys are 6-4 and they play like they’re 5-6,” he said. “This guy’s 6-6 and he plays like he’s 6-6. He’s a great target. … You talk about the old term ‘upside,’ this guy has some.”

Tight End: Another sophomore-to-be, Steve Shaffer, moved in front of senior-to-be Keith Madsen as the backup to starter Travis Dekker. Shaffer is 6-4 and 230 pounds and began to emerge toward the end of last season. He, like Fogler, has plenty of upside.

Fullback: Jared Tew, who will be a sophomore next year, now is listed as the backup to Todd Newell, replacing junior-to-be Justin Moore.

Right Guard: Tyler Shonsheck, who will be a sophomore next year, now is listed as the backup to Peter Lusk, replacing senior-to-be Tyler Weeks.

Defensive Line: A few changes because of a knee injury suffered by nose guard Jared Marvin, who will be a senior next year.

Marvin tore both the ACL and MCL in his knee prior to spring break. He had surgery on March 17 and is expected to be out five to seven months.

With Marvin out, Ben Garland – listed as the starting left end at the beginning of spring – has moved inside to starting nose guard. Jake Paulson, who began spring as Garland’s backup, now is listed as the starting left end. Ryan Gonzales, a nose guard last year, now is listed as Paulson’s backup.

Inside linebacker: At one inside spot, Ken Lamendola, who will be a sophomore next year, now is listed as the starter, bumping Brandon Reeves. Justin Moore, who will be a junior next year, is listed as Lamendola’s backup.

Cornerback: Byrd, who began spring as the Falcons’ backup tailback, is trying his hand at corner. Calhoun said Byrd will finish spring there. Kevin Rivers, originally listed as a starter, has not practiced due to injury and now is not on the depth chart. Ryan Curry, who will be a sophomore next year, is listed as Byrd’s backup, replacing Devon Ford.

Football Schedule, Depth Chart Released

There hadn't been much to talk about in a while when it came to Air Force football, but now there’s a whole bunch.

The Mountain West Conference released its 2008 football schedule today, which finalized the Falcons’ slate. And, prior to Air Force’s practice today – the first in the second half of spring practices – coach Troy Calhoun released an updated depth chart with a whole bunch of changes.

I’ll be weighing in on both the schedule and the changes to the depth chart in this blog later tonight. Until then, here’s the Falcons’ 2008 schedule and the new depth chart.

2008 Air Force Football Schedule

Day Date Time Opponent (TV)
Saturday Aug. 30 12 p.m. Southern Utah
Saturday Sept. 6 1:30 p.m. at Wyoming* (CBS C)
Saturday Sept. 13 TBA at Houston (TBA)
Saturday Sept. 20 2 p.m. Utah* (VERSUS)
Saturday Sept. 27 OPEN
Saturday Oct. 4 2 p.m. Navy (VERSUS)
Saturday Oct. 11 6:30 p.m. at San Diego State* (The Mtn.)
Saturday Oct. 18 7 p.m. at UNLV* (The Mtn.)
Thursday Oct. 23 6 p.m. New Mexico* (CBS C)
Saturday Nov. 1 TBA at Army (TBA)
Saturday Nov. 8 4 p.m. Colorado State* (The Mtn.)
Saturday Nov. 15 1:30 p.m. BYU* (CBS C)
Saturday Nov. 22 2:30 p.m. at TCU* (VERSUS)
* - Mountain West Conference game
All times local to site

(The Mtn.) – MountainWest Sports Network;
(CBS C) – CBS College Sports Network, formerly known as College Sports Television (CSTV).

Updated Air Force Depth Chart

Note: Each player’s class in the depth chart refers to what he will be in 2008, e.g. quarterback Shea Smith currently is a junior, but he is listed as a senior.

WR- X 81 Sean Quintana, Jr.
93 Kevin Fogler, So.

TE 88 Travis Dekker, Sr.
84 Steve Shaffer, So.

LT 79 Keith Williams, Sr.
70 Matt Markling, So.

LG 57 Nick Charles, Jr.
64 Jake Morrow, So.

C 63 Andrew Pipes, Sr.
65 Michael Hampton, Jr.

RG 62 Peter Lusk, Jr.
67 Tyler Shonsheck, So.

RT 60 Chris Campbell, Jr.
78 Ben Marshall, So.

QB 7 Eric Herbort, Jr.
14 Shea Smith, Sr.

FB 25 Todd Newell, Sr.
42 Jared Tew, So.

TB 28 Kyle Lumpkin, So.
20 Chase Wilke, So.

WR-Z 19 Ty Paffett, Sr.
4 Kyle Halderman, So.

LE 95 Jake Paulson, Sr.
49 Ryan Gonzales, Jr.

NG 93 Ben Garland, Jr.
76 Stephen Larson, Jr.

RE 91 Ryan Kemp, Sr.
90 Rick Ricketts, So.

OLB 36 Andre Morris, Jr., So.
92 Myles Morales, Jr.

ILB 45 John Falgout, Jr.
55 Clay Bryant, Jr.

ILB 47 Ken Lamendola, So.
43 Justin Moore, Jr.

OLB 32 Hunter Altman, Sr.
37 William Keuchler, So.

CB 22 Brenton Byrd, Jr.
22 Ryan Curry, So.

CB 8 Reggie Rembert, So.
18 Elliot Battle, So.

SS 34 Chris Thomas, Jr.
30 Luke Yeager, Sr.

FS 23 Aaron Kirchoff, Sr.
29 Luke Hyder, Jr.

PK 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
94 Zachary Bell, So.

P 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
98 Brandon Geyer, Jr.