Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ready to Launch: Air Force

Progressing to the complete teams-- meaning, teams without glaring weaknesses. No program in the Mountain West has been as successful, but as underheralded, as the Air Force Academy's has been for the last two years. Troy Calhoun took over the helm from Fisher DeBerry, and led a senior-laden team to a bowl in '07. Calhoun put the conference on notice that the bar had risen in Colorado Springs when he repeated the feat in '08, with a freshman-heavy crew. Now those freshmen-- QB Tim Jefferson, RB Asher Clark, FB Jared Tew, OL A. J. Wallerstein, Ss Jon Davis, and Phil Ofili, CBs Anthony Wright and P.J. Adeji-Paul, K Erik Soderberg, WRs Zach Kauth and Jonathan Warzeka-- are sophomores with experience. This year they and their Falcon brethren will put Division I on notice: Navy isn't the only service academy of which to be wary when scheduling. Look for AFA to beat Minnesota, in Minneapolis, as well as Army, and possibly Navy. Air Force's success out of conference, and a strong showing in it, will propel the Falcons into the polls for the first time in years.

Media focus will be on the Falcons' steep ground attack. Jefferson, Clark, and the other skill players will work behind a senior-filled offensive line, led by decorated Nick Charles, pictured. This year's AFA will best last season's-- which was the Falcons' best in several years-- and may meet the production it saw during its 12-win season in 1998. If Jefferson and his receivers get in better synch than last season, the Falcons will rewrite the record book for offense, and may oust one of the conference's Big Three for the second year in three. On that note, however, one notable loss this fall was WR Kyle Halderman, who's in the first month of an anticipated two-month recovery from a broken collarbone.
AFA's defense may not get as much recognition, but should. Calhoun has repeatedly had to tell his defense to back off a little in practice; in other words, they're just too good. The Falcons return only one d-lineman, Ben Garland; but Coach Calhoun has been impressed with new starting DE Rick Ricketts. Ken Lamendola leads a good linebacking corps in Colorado Springs. Star CB Reggie Rembert will miss the first few games while suspended, but Elliot Battle has not disappointed as Rembert's replacement. Anthony Wright- one of Calhoun's super sophomores- returns in strength at the other CB spot. Chris Thomas will be the star of the safeties.

AFA will miss kicker Ben Harrison, and hands kicking duties over to Erik Soderberg.

To sum up: Air Force fields the first complete team in this year's MWC preview lineup. They'll carry the conference's banner high early in the season, and if the machine clicks on all cylinders, will have much to say about which team hoists the banner at the season's end. Playing UNLV and TCU at home makes those two games much more interesting than they might be on the road. BYU, Utah, Navy, and Colorado State on the road is one very tough road schedule. This year's Falcons are up to the challenge, however, and probably will not have a losing road record. Drawing Navy on the road evens the odds AFA will bring the Commander-in-Chief trophy. AFA has potential for a double-digit win total in 2009, if it can stay healthy.


Anonymous said...

muy buen blog !!!. saludos desde argentina

T. Wimple said...

Garcias, bro. That exhausts my Spanish repertoire, but I'm dying to know: how do you say "Go Frogs!" in Spanish?