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.