First-year coach Troy Calhoun was named the conference coach of the year, and four Air Force players were named to the all-conference first team, including senior running back/receiver Chad Hall, who was named the conference’s offensive player of the year. The selections were made by the league’s nine coaches and a panel of media.
Senior center Blaine Guenther, senior outside linebacker John Rabold and senior cornerback Carson Bird all also were named to the first team, giving Air Force its most players on an all-conference first team since 1998 when five Falcons made the All-Western Athletic Conference first team.
Senior inside linebacker Drew Fowler, a first-team selection in 2006, and sophomore offensive lineman Nick Charles were named to the all-conference second team, while senior quarterback Shaun Carney, junior tight end Travis Dekker, junior defensive end Ryan Kemp and sophomore safety Chris Thomas received honorable mention honors.
Calhoun, who earlier in the day was named the American Football Coaches Association 2007 Region 5 Coach of the Year, is the first Air Force coach to win a conference coach of the year award in his first season and the second coach at the academy to earn such an honor. Former coach Fisher DeBerry won three.
Calhoun, who replaced DeBerry and took over a team that had suffered through three consecutive losing seasons, constructed a staff of assistants with academy ties, altered the team’s offensive and defensive philosophies, put a premium on in-season strength and conditioning and re-energized a program that had stumbled to a 4-8 mark in 2006.’
The result was a 9-3 record – the second-largest turnaround in academy history – a second-place finish in the league and the first invitation to a bowl since 2002.
“Really as a coach, your feet are on the ground and you realize it’s earned by staff members, the administration, players and coaches,” Calhoun said. “Whenever you identify a coach, it’s a reflection on an entire school, especially here at the Air Force Academy.”
Hall became the sixth Air Force player – and first non-quarterback – to win a conference offensive player of the year award.
He made the all-conference first team as a running back, but he made his contributions all over the field. The 5-foot-8, 180-pounder from Atlanta was the only player in the country to lead his team in both rushing yards (a league-high 1,415) and receiving yards (488). He also set academy records for all-purpose yards in a game, career and season in 2007, averaging a conference-high 208.7 all-purpose yards per game.
Guenther, who moved from tackle to center, was the lone full-time returning starter from the 2006 offensive line. He helped pave the way for the nation’s second-best rushing attack (298.5 yards per game).
Rabold ranked second in the conference with 16.5 tackles for losses and led the conference with four fumble recoveries. Bird led the conference and ranked seventh nationally with six interceptions and ranked second in the conference with three fumble recoveries.
UNLV linebacker Beau Bell was named the conference’s defensive player of the year. Utah place kicker/punter Louie Sakoda, one of a league-high 10 Utes on the all-conference first or second teams, was named the special teams player of the year for the second consecutive season. And BYU’s Harvey Unga was selected as the conference’s freshman of the year.