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  • The Debut of BlogDog

    Fri, August 31, 2007 by admin with 6 comments

    So here’s the deal: My favorite type of football column to read is the prediction column. I love reading what writers have to say about upcoming games (or entire seasons) and seeing them lay it on the line with bold claims.

    Case in point: The Gazette’s Milo Bryant predicting in a column earlier this year that Air Force will go 8-4. Nobody else in the country (that I know of) has the Falcons finishing even at .500, and in the preseason Mountain West Conference poll, Air Force was selected by members of the media to finish seventh out of nine teams.

    I don’t vote in the preseason polls (The Gazette doesn’t let me) and, as a beat writer, I am not allowed to make a prediction on Air Force games (the whole conflict of interest thing).

    But I’ve gone over The Gazette’s policies with a fine-tooth comb, and I see nothing prohibiting beat writers’ dogs from making predictions.

    So, Norm, my dog, will be calling each game this year through an exact and rigorous process. Basically, I’m going to hold up a mini-replica Air Force helmet and the mini-replica helmet of the opponent they are facing that week (you can see them in the foreground of Norm’s picture below). Whichever one Norm goes to first, that’s the team he thinks is going to win. Just to be completely sure, we’re doing best three out of five. If Norm picks the same helmet three times in a row, he’s thinking blowout. If he chooses one team three times and the other one once, he’s thinking the game will be decided by about a touchdown. If he chooses one team three times and the other one twice, then it’s going to be close.

    I didn’t have a South Carolina State helmet, so I wrote “Air Force” on one piece of paper and “South Carolina State” on the other. Norm went for “Air Force” twice in a row, then South Carolina State, then Air Force again.

    Norm’s Pick: Air Force 28, South Carolina State 20

  • Mark your calendars

    Fri, August 31, 2007 by admin with 2 comments

    Before we go into full-fledged football blogging (which will begin with one more post tonight), I had to share a couple of thoughts on the hoops team.

    I spoke with new coach Jeff Reynolds for a while yesterday about the Canada trip, and, like I said in my article in today’s edition of The Gazette, the trip couldn’t have come at a better time. Air Force relied almost exclusively on its starters last season (one of the only on-court decisions for which former coach Jeff Bzdelik can be criticized), and only one of those starters – Tim Anderson – is back.

    So there’s a whole lot to sort out before the Falcons hit the court for real games. And this trip will be perfect for that.

    Now, about that still unreleased schedule. When I asked Reynolds it, he shook his head and laughed.

    “Jake, it’s amazing,” he said.

    The Falcons’ schedule is just about complete (some minor kinks have to be worked out), but this is pretty late in the game to have it unfinished. When it’s done, Air Force likely will settle for 29 games, one less than the 30 that the NCAA allows.

    According to Reynolds, there are about 90 Division I teams still trying to fill out their schedules. That’s 90. Nine, zero. I asked why, if there are that many teams in search of games, schools can’t work anything out.

    “Nobody wants to go on the road,” Reynolds said. “So they hold out.”

    Air Force’s schedule won’t have a lot of big out-of-conference names on it this season. But the Falcons will play what will end up being one of the most highly anticipated home contests in program history Nov. 29.

    That’s when Bzdelik comes back to town with his new team, Colorado. The Buffaloes will have something to prove after the way Air Force destroyed them last year in Boulder. And the players Bzdelik left behind will have plenty to prove as well.

    I asked junior Andrew Henke if he has Nov. 29 circled on his calendar.

    “Who do we play that day?” he asked.

    But his smile gave him away.

    “No, I know. You could say it’s circled on my calendar.”

    Henke, who looks like he grew about a half an inch and added some muscle, said he is excited to take on the role of underdog this year.

    “I’ve always loved that role,” he said. “I want to prove all those people wrong that are going to vote us last in the conference in the preseason. … I love it, and I know all (my teammates) love it too. We’re going to come out ready to get people.”

  • Hello world!

    Wed, August 29, 2007 by admin with 1 comment

    Welcome to Freedomblogging.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

  • Calhoun Press Conference Recap

    Tue, August 28, 2007 by admin with 4 comments

    Troy Calhoun held the first of his weekly press conferences this afternoon. Here are some of the highlights:

    -He will script the first 15 (approximately) offensive plays that Air Force runs – something he said he has been doing for about 10 years. The team typically will decide upon its scripts in the middle of each week, then run them as long as is appropriate.

    “Any time you script, the thing you’ve got to be astute to is situation still plays a factor,” he said.

    In other words, if a triple-option is the next play in the script and Air Force is facing third-and-19, Calhoun will change the play.

    -He said senior quarterback Shaun Carney “absolutely” has a grasp of the new offense.

    “He’s a guy that I think can be a dual-threat player,” Calhoun said. “I think he runs well, he’s not incredibly dynamic as a runner, but he’s more than adequate. I like his mobility throwing, and I like his accuracy. And just from a leadership standpoint I think he’s got a very good command of what we’re doing.”’

    -Here’s coach’s take on South Carolina State:

    “Overall, an extremely talented football team. I think one of the benefits of being a I-AA program is they sit in a pretty good hotbed. So at any time (they get) a transfer, he never has to sit out. So you’ll see they’ve got some guys who are really, really good football players. I think their quarterback (Cleveland McCoy) is versatile, I think he moves well, I think he throws well, and he’s a guy you can tell from a savvy standpoint, he’s played a lot of football. He’s an experienced football player. … (Running back Will Ford) is extremely explosive, a guy that had a 90-yard kickoff return against Coastal Carolina last year, a young man who’s a state sprinter champion, and when you flip the tape on, great quickness, and he’s a guy that’s a threat every time he touches the ball to go a long ways.

    “I’m impressed with their offensive line. Last year they led their conference in rushing at 220 yards a game and also in total offense, and that starts with the group they’ve got up front. The center, the left guard and the right tackle, all three of them are outstanding players. … Very good sized team – you’ll see immediately, as soon as they take the field, and they’re well coached and the whole bit. This is a very good football team.

    “Defensively, the (Marshall) McFadden kid that plays kind of a rover spot for them is an excellent football player. He’s quick, he’s physical, he has great instincts. They’re a good squad, they have no weaknesses. And candidly, it’s probably exactly what we need, though, too.”

  • Nwaelele to work out for Spurs

    Mon, August 27, 2007 by admin with 3 comments

    Recent Air Force graduate Danny Nwaelele’s NBA dreams aren’t dead.

    I just spoke with J.R. Harris, Nwaelele’s agent, and Harris said Nwaelele has been asked to work out for the San Antonio Spurs Sept. 9-13. Harris said Nwaelele, who currently is stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, will be allowed to attend the workout.

    “With Danny coming in this late, it’s always a good sign because it’s’ so close to veteran camp,” “Harris said.

    Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is an Air Force grad, and Harris hopes that will work in Nwaelele’s favor.

    No matter how well Nwaelele does at the workout, he still will have to find a way around Air Force’s new policy regarding early release from service commitment for jobs with potential recruiting benefits. A policy released early this year states an airman who wants to pursue a professional sports career “Must have served on active duty for at least 24 months.”

  • Practice Wrap – 8/25/07

    Sat, August 25, 2007 by admin with 6 comments

    By JAKE SCHALLER, THE GAZETTE

    As today’s session was the last official practice of the preseason, this will be the last “Practice Wrap” entry to the Air Force blog. I’ll still check in consistently – probably daily – but not specifically about each practice.

    One other blog-related note. I’ll be posting from the press box before, during and after games, so if you’re not able to make it to Falcon Stadium, check in here, and I’ll try to help you get a feel for the weather, how the players look warming up and whatever else I can think of.

    Now for some thoughts on today’s scrimmage:

    Who stood out: Senior outside linebacker Julian Madrid. Air Force’s defense places a premium on its outside linebackers creating turnovers, wreaking havoc with blitzes and pressuring the quarterback. Madrid seems like the kind of player that can do all that. On Saturday he knocked down a pass and also forced a fumble when he got to the quarterback and stripped the ball.

    “You can tell he’s active, he’s got good strength,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “What he’s got to learn to do, there’s going to be some times where he’s going to be lined up over a tight end. He’s got to learn to be a little more comfortable that way. When he’s out in space, you can tell he loves it.”

    Kip McCarthy, as will be pointed out in an article that will appear in the Sunday edition of The Gazette, ran the ball effectively Saturday. He picked up 44 yards on seven carries (according to the statistics I kept), including a burst up the middle of 18 yards. He’s always going forward – none of his rushes covered less than 3 yards.

    “I thought (McCarthy) ran the ball hard,” Calhoun said. “I thought he was decisive and got the ball forward, got it downhill.”

    Tailback Jim Ollis dressed but did not play today. Calhoun said he “could” be ready for next Saturday.

    “He could’ve gone today and we just decided not to, just to give him two more days to let him heal up. I think he’ll be out there Monday ready to practice. Now will he be to a point where he’s ready to play in a game? We’ll find out.”

    Calhoun also said he thought both deep snappers – Scott Howley and Tony Norman – “both did a solid job today.”

    Finally, freshman Reggie Rembert, as he has done all through the preseason, flashed some serious potential. He returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score and looked dangerous as a punt returner. He returned a punt 30 yards after catching the ball in traffic and making a quick move to beat the initial would-be tackler.

    “I really hate fair catches, so any little, slight chance I could maybe catch it and get a little side-step, I’m going to try to do that,” Rembert said.

    Calhoun said Rembert needs to work on tucking the ball away so opponents can’t strip it.

    Lasting image: Running backs coach/running game coordinator Jemal Singleton getting after freshman Savier Stephens on the sideline after Stephens failed to look for a signal and lined up in the wrong spot.

    You can always tell who coaches like – and who they think has lots of potential – by looking at who they stay after and yell at constantly.

    I asked Stephens about this earlier in the week: “Yes sir, coach Singleton,” Stephens said. “He will make you better. He won’t let you get in a comfort zone. He’ll keep you on your toes.”

    Line of the day: “I think the Browns are going to win 49-7, I think I said that before and it worked, so I’ll try it again.” – Air Force quarterback and Cleveland-area native Shaun Carney, when asked for his prediction on Saturday night’s NFL preseason game between the Browns and Broncos.

    Carney was referencing a claim he made to a New York-area newspaper before last year’s Army game. Asked for a prediction, Carney said he thought the Falcons would win, 49-7. It enraged Army players, but Carney proved a prophet, as Air Force won 43-7.

  • Practice Wrap – 8/24/07

    Fri, August 24, 2007 by admin with 1 comment

    By JAKE SCHALLER, THE GAZETTE

    One of the positions that will be up for grabs tomorrow during Air Force’s scrimmage at Falcon Stadium is deep snapper.

    Senior Tony Norman began the season as the starting deep snapper, but on the depth chart released last Monday, junior Scott Howley had moved in front of him.

    Heading into Saturday, coach Troy Calhoun said, “It’s a toss-up.”

    “I think Scott Howley, his snaps have been a little more consistent, a little more velocity, a little better spiral from what I see. I think Tony Norman might be a little better in coverage,” Calhoun said. “That will be one thing tomorrow that we’ll really look at.”

    Notes from Friday …

    Who stood out: Senior tailback Jim Ollis. Mostly because Ollis was on the field.

    The converted quarterback, who was expected to challenge for the starting tailback job, has been hampered most of the preseason with an injured left ankle. He was back Friday, albeit during a practice in which players were dressed in helmets, jerseys and shorts.

    “I watched him today and I see him at about 85, 90 percent,” Calhoun said. “If I look out there at any time and I see a guy favoring something, then he’s not ready. I admire the heck out of his determination – I see a guy like Jim Ollis, and I know he’s busting it to get back out. He’s not a guy that’s going to find a little more time to sit in the training room and try and major in treatment. What his major is is competition.”

    Still, Calhoun said Ollis would play “very little” if at all tomorrow.

    Lasting image: Guard Nick Charles practicing at tackle. No, Charles isn’t switching positions. Calhoun and offensive line coach Clay Hendrix just wanted him to get familiar with the position in case of an emergency. Sophomore tackle Chris Campbell – who opened practice as a starter – should be back from an injury by Monday. But sophomore Anthony Schelstrate likely is done for the year with ligament damage in his left knee.

  • Practice Wrap 8/23

    Thu, August 23, 2007 by admin with 4 comments

    By JAKE SCHALLER, THE GAZETTE

    Who stood out:
    Senior quarterback Shaun Carney.

    He just looks sharp. There’s a zip on his passes, he’s seems to have good timing with his receivers and Thursday he delivered a bunch of balls on the money in traffic.

    One thing about which I was curious: With Air Force planning to throw the ball more this year, and thus needing to practice throwing the ball more, does coach Troy Calhoun monitor the amount of passes Carney throws?

    I asked coach after practice.

    “To a degree,” Calhoun said. “I would if we were practicing for two-and-a-half or three hours. We’re so condensed in the amount of practice time we have that I don’t think we have to. The other part is you don’t have a lot of two-a-days. When you have two-a-days, you get concerned with certain guys where they’ll start to feel something in their elbow or shoulder or something like that. That’s really not a factor here.”

    Carney said his arm has felt fine.

    “I’ve had pretty good rest the past three years,” he said, laughing. “I think (my arm) is ready to go.”
    Good point.

    Lasting image: Senior tailback Chad Smith sitting on a cart, holding crutches, his right knee bandaged. Smith had surgery on the knee earlier in the day. He said it went well and he could be back in a month. But it’s a setback both for the team and Smith, who entered the preseason listed as the Falcons’ top tailback.

    Coach’s quote: “Tell you what we’ve got to do – we’ve got to get the alumni around here to build us a (practice) bubble. And I’m one of the alums, so I guess I better ante up too.” – Calhoun, after having to move into the Falcons’ indoor facility (which doesn’t house a full football field) late in practice yesterday due to an approaching storm.

  • Practice Wrap – 8/22

    Wed, August 22, 2007 by admin with 2 comments

    Senior fullback Scott Peeples gave me a great analogy today when discussing how Air Force’s offense has changed from the pure triple-option of former coach Fisher DeBerry to new coach Troy Calhoun’s balanced, multiple-set attack.

    “You could compare it to maybe a hatchet and an axe,” Peeples said. “With the triple-option you’ve got a little hatchet and you’re just banging away and eventually you get through the log. With an axe, you might swing and miss a couple times, but you’re going to connect more solid when you do hit it.”

    So when everyone starts trying to name the offense in a few weeks (like they tried to name DeBerry’s the “Fishbone”), just remember you heard “The Axe” here first – courtesy of Peeples.

    Who stood out: Freshman tailback Savier Stephens.

    Stephens already was getting some repetitions with the varsity, but with Chad Smith out for at least a month and Jim Ollis still bothered by his sprained left ankle, Stephens has a chance to make significant contributions immediately. Read: The opener against South Carolina State.

    Wednesday, in scrimmage situations, Stephens showed good acceleration, speed on the edges and toughness – barreling into a pile to score a touchdown from a yard out.

    Look for more about Stephens in Friday’s Gazette.

    Lasting image: Air Force practicing its pregame routine after scrimmaging. No detail left untouched by Calhoun.

    Coach’s quote: “They’re great competitors, they’re guys that it kills them to not be out here. But at the same time, the path they’re on, maybe in October. Maybe.” – Troy Calhoun on when fullback Ryan Williams and tackle Dan Holder might be able to contribute.

  • Practice Wrap – 8/21

    Tue, August 21, 2007 by admin with 2 comments

    Who stood out: Junior nose guard Jared Marvin.

    At this time last season, Marvin was on the Falcons’ junior varsity, trying to adjust to playing defense (he was recruited to play fullback but was moved to defense in the spring of his freshman year). This year, Marvin is starting and looking sturdy as the anchor of the Falcons’ 3-4 front.

    Marvin got some good experience last year – as did many of his teammates – thanks to the rash of injuries to defensive linemen (as you’ll read about in Wednesday’s edition of The Gazette). And he returned to the academy in what appears to be excellent shape. He put on “a good solid 10 pounds,” he said, to get up to 270.

    “It’s been helping,” he said. “I’m feeling a lot better.”

    With all that muscle on a frame that’s listed at 5-foot-11 (but can’t be more than 5-9), Marvin, naturally, has been given a couple of nicknames.

    “Coach (Ron) Burton (the defensive line coach) is now going with ‘Stump,’” Marvin said. “I get a lot of ‘Baby Marv,’ because I’m short. They come through with a lot of them. Some I don’t want to repeat.”

    Another possibility comes from defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter.

    “He reminds me a lot of a nose guard we had in Reno named ‘Dump Truck,’” DeRuyter said, referring to his days as a co-defensive coordinator at Nevada. “He’s got that same build.”

    Count me in the “Stump” camp.

    Lasting image: Blocked field goals. Junior Kevin Rivers blocked two, freshman Reggie Rembert got to one and just missed another at the end of practice.