• Paffett Recovering from Surgery

    Mon, June 30, 2008 by admin with no comments

    Air Force senior Z-receiver Ty Paffett is recovering from surgery for a herniated disc, and he hopes to be ready for the start of preseason practice on July 31.

    Paffett, a Lewis-Palmer grad, said last Thursday’s surgery “went well.” It entailed shaving off some cartilage that had been hitting a nerve and sending a shooting pain down his leg. Paffett said the surgery eliminated that pain, that he plans to begin doing “some light rehab stuff” on Friday and that he should begin jogging a week after that.

    “It’s kind of early to say, but talking with the doctor, he’s pretty optimistic that I’ll be able to get out there,” for the start of preseason practice, Paffett said. “I’m not sure how much hitting I’ll be able to do right off the bat, but I should be out there doing something. … I’m going to work my butt off to get ready for day one of practice.”

    Paffett finished spring practices listed as the Falcons’ starter at Z-receiver – the hybrid running back/receiver position Chad Hall played in 2007 when he earned Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors. Paffett played Z last season when Hall was on the sideline or lined up at tailback – which Hall did often later in the season. Paffett played a key role as a blocker in those situations but also showed glimpses of potential as a ball carrier. In the regular season finale against San Diego State he ran for three touchdowns, one of which covered 73 yards.

    If Paffett is limited early, the Falcons likely would turn to sophomore Kyle Halderman, who finished spring listed as the backup at Z. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun also hopes to use sophomore cornerback Reggie Rembert some at Z.

    Paffett will need to be able to practice consistently if he expects to play in games, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said last Wednesday.

    “If he can’t practice every day, he’s not going to play very well,” Calhoun said. “I know guys sometimes think they can muster it up, and they’ll be gamers on game day, but you don’t perform at an optimal level.”

  • First Look: San Diego State

    Fri, June 27, 2008 by admin with no comments

    The First Look Series turns its gaze west this week to San Diego. It’s a favorite road trip for this writer, but it hasn’t been the kindest destination for the Falcons of late. After winning four of five games against the Aztecs in San Diego from 1992 through 2001, Air Force has lost two straight there. The Falcons’ 19-12 loss in 2006 started a collapse in which they lost six of their final seven games.

    Will 2008 be different?

    2007 Record: 4-8, 3-5

    Off/Def Starters Back: 4/8

    Last Year vs. AF: Air Force 55-23

    This Year vs. AF: Oct. 11, at San Diego State

     

    Roster Report: The Aztecs have a whole lot of holes to fill on offense. Gone from their 2007 unit are quarterback Kevin O’Connell, a second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection who passed for 3,063 yards and led the team in rushing with 408 yards, second-leading rusher Brandon Bornes, the top three receivers and several starting offensive linemen. Ouch.

    So the Aztecs will be young. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Lindley passed sophomore Kelsey Sokoloski and junior transfer Drew Westling during spring drills and will enter the fall as the team’s top quarterback. But according to a report by Mick McGrane of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lindley hasn’t locked up the top spot just yet.

    “When we looked at the numbers coming out of spring, Ryan graded out as the best of the three,” San Diego State coach Chuck Long told The Union-Tribune. “But that doesn’t mean anything is final. It’s a position that still has to be earned during fall camp.”

    The three quarterbacks combined to complete just 9 of 24 passes for 89 yards in San Diego State’s annual Red-Black Game that marks the end of spring practices, according to the Union-Tribune. McGrane wrote that the quarterbacks’ collective performance was “made all the more disconcerting when one considers that 27 of those (passing) yards came on one play. In sum, the offense managed 110 total yards and scored one touchdown – on the final play of the day.”

    The offensive line will be especially young with a pair of redshirt freshmen – Mike Matamua and Kurtis Gunther – penciled in at the tackle spots and another redshirt freshman – Tommie Draheim – expected to start at center.

    “We have some guys who are going to have to grow up real quick,” Long told The Union-Tribune.

    Redshirt freshman linebacker Miles Burris had a strong spring, according to The Union-Tribune, and had three sacks in two scrimmages. Defensive end Ryan Williams, a transfer from Ohio State, will be eligible to play for the Aztecs this season and could help a defense that struggled in 2008.

    Fast Facts: San Diego State has not had a winning season since 1998. It has won four or fewer games in six of the last nine seasons.

    What Caught My Eye: Some ugly, ugly stats from 2007. Check these out:

    -O’Connell led the Aztecs in rushing last season – with 408 yards!

    -For the season, San Diego State rushed for just 1,247 yards (10 less than Air Force’s Chad Hall gained in the Falcons’ last seven games of the regular season) and its 103.9 yards-per-game average ranked last in the MWC and 105th out of 119 teams in the country. .I know the Aztecs were a passing team (they threw for 272.7 yards per game – which ranked second in the MWC and 28th in the country), but, wow, just 1,247 rushing yards? Really?

    -It’s too bad the Aztecs didn’t get a chance to run the ball against their own defense. San Diego State allowed 241.5 rushing yards per game in 2007, which ranked next-to-last (118th) in the country.

    -Amazingly, the Aztecs’ passing defense was almost equally bad. Teams averaged 256.7 yards per game through the air against San Diego State in 2007.

    -Combined, San Diego State allowed 498.2 yards per game. That mark ranked 115th in the country and last in the MWC. The Aztecs also allowed 34.4 points per game, which ranked 103rd in the country and last in the MWC.

    Yikes.

    Final Thought: The Falcons’ contest at San Diego State has “let-down game” written all over it. Air Force will play an emotionally draining game against Navy the week before, then travel to San Diego to face the Aztecs.

    Two years ago Air Force went to San Diego State after its emotionally draining comeback victory over Colorado State and lost a 19-12 clunker to the Aztecs.

    This game starts a stretch of five straight winnable contests for the Falcons, and they need to start the stretch with a victory if they hope to go bowling.

    Jake’s Way Too Early Line vs. AF: Air Force -2.5. The Falcons still should be able to run the ball against the Aztecs.

  • Luncheon Leftovers

    Wed, June 25, 2008 by admin with 7 comments

    I attended the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation’s College Football Kickoff Luncheon today and got to talk to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun about a bunch of topics related to his program and the upcoming season.

    Check tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette for a pair of stories – one deals mostly with the Falcons’ personnel (and the reason Calhoun thinks Air Force will “still have a chance” despite heavy graduation losses), and the other is a notebook that includes an update on the progress being made on a new indoor facility.

    But I didn’t have enough space in the paper to pass along all the things I thought would be of interest to Air Force fans, so I put the rest of them here.

    -Now that Air Force has completed its summer camps, Calhoun and his coaches are looking at tape from spring practices and re-evaluating players. Asked if any players stood out, here was Calhoun’s response:

    “If you had to say just off the top of your head guys that stood out a little bit – it’d be interesting to see how Kyle Lumpkin does as a tailback, as much as we utilize the tailback in varied ways. He’s got some versatility to him. Can a guy like (outside linebacker) Bill Keuchler step up and be ready to play? Can Andrew Pipes at center be ready to go even though he’s 249 pounds? I still think he’s got a chance to be a pretty good center. Defensively, can a guy like (inside linebacker) Kenny Lamendola emerge? At safety, (Aaron) Kirchoff, I think he started one game last year. Is he ready to be truly an every-down guy? (Cornerback) Reggie Rembert only started the one game at New Mexico when (Carson) Bird was sick, and yet is he ready to contribute in a significant way as a punt returner, kick returner and then certainly at corner too? Those are some guys that will be interesting to keep tabs on once we get into the season.”

    -A bit more on Rembert: Calhoun said he’d start August planning to use the sophomore occasionally at Z on offense in addition to cornerback and in the return game. “I think at the Air Force Academy, when we get a rare guy that has some quickness, that has some athleticism – like Chad (Hall) was that way last year – then I think we’ve got to put a harness on that guy and find different ways to try and tap that guy out.”

    Calhoun said he thinks Rembert will be able to handle playing both ways physically, but “if it just hits a point where it’s saturation for the kid, and it’s taking away from what he has to do on defense first and foremost, then we have to pull the reigns back.”

    -No change to the quarterback situation – Air Force will enter August without a definite starter. Calhoun said in re-evaluating spring practices, it’s clear that senior Shea Smith was “a little bit more consistent,” but junior Eric Herbort “probably moves a little better.”

    I’m looking forward to the battle for the starting spot, which I expect to include freshman Tim Jefferson, who attended the prep school last year.

    -Calhoun on Colorado State: “I’ve got to believe that what you’re going to see at CSU is real soon they’re going to be a top two or three program in this conference.”

    -Finally, had to mention that Colorado coach Dan Hawkins had the line of the day at the luncheon. Talking about how young his team was, he compared it to a golden retriever puppy. He said they were really energetic and excited and really cute, “but sometimes we chew things up and pee on the floor.”

  • AFA Launches Season Tickets for Troops Program

    Tue, June 24, 2008 by admin with no comments

    The Air Force Academy athletic department has unveiled a new program called Season Tickets for Troops that will allow fans and graduates to help enlisted members of the local military community attend Air Force football games.

    From now until July 31, fans can make a tax-deductable donation of $100 to help underwrite the cost of one set of tickets to all the Air Force home games. Those tickets then will be offered to enlisted men and women in early August for just $4 per game or $20 for the season. The tickets will be for a seat in a reserved section, and those seats normally cost $144 for the season.

    “By purchasing Season Tickets for the Troops, you are going to help soldiers and their families enjoy the game day experience at Falcon Stadium,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said in a release.

    According to Air Force sports information director Troy Garnhart, this was Calhoun’s idea. Garnhart said Calhoun has “a great affinity” for enlisted troops and has wanted to reach out to them and make them a part of Air Force football.

  • Meents All Class

    Mon, June 23, 2008 by admin with no comments

    Recent Air Force graduate Josh Meents earned a spot on the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award’s All-Senior All-America baseball team, which was revealed recently.

    Meents, a catcher, was one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award in college baseball. Rice University pitcher Cole St. Clair won the award, which is based on a nationwide vote of coaches, media and fans. But the award also names an All-Senior All-America team based on the voting results, and Meents made the first team along with Charlie Mellies of Wake Forest, Rob Musgrave of Wichita State and Brett Scott of Kansas State.

    An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award is a tribute to the nation’s premier college seniors. The award identifies personal qualities that define a complete student-athlete, with the criteria including excellence in the classroom, character and community, as well as the candidate’s performance on the field.

  • First Look: Colorado State

    Thu, June 19, 2008 by admin with no comments

    After a week off, The First Look Series is back to check out Colorado State and the Rams’ new coach, Steve Fairchild

    2007 Record: 3-9, 2-6

    Off/Def Starters Back: 8/6

    Last Year vs. AF: Air Force 45, Colorado State 21

    This Year vs. AF: Nov. 8, at Air Force

    Roster Report: The Rams should have quite a one-two punch at running back with seniors Kyle Bell and Gartrell Johnson III both back.

    Bell was a monster in 2005, rushing for 1,288 yards and 10 touchdowns, but a preseason ACL tear kept him off the field in 2006. And last season he lost his starting job to Johnson.

    But he looked good in the preseason, according to published reports from Fort Collins, and there is a chance new coach Steve Fairchild could use both him and Johnson in the same backfield. The players – both of whom combine size and powerful running with surprising speed – combined for 1,648 yards in 2007 (Johnson had 957, and Bell added 691).

    The Rams’ ground game will have to take the heat off an inexperienced passing game.

    Like Air Force, Colorado State concluded spring practices without a definite starter at quarterback. According to several published reports, senior Billy Farris seemed to have the upper hand over junior Grant Stucker and red-shirt freshmen T.J. Borcky and Klay Kubiak in the race to replace two-year starter Caleb Hanie.

    The Rams also must replace their top three receivers from last year’s squad and will be inexperienced at that position. But senior 6-foot-6, 254-pound tight end Kory Sperry is back and should provide an inviting target for whoever is CSU’s quarterback. Sperry, who tore an ACL in the Rams’ second game last season, was granted a medical redshirt. I remember thinking as far back as 2005, when I covered some CU and CSU games for The Gazette, that Sperry was an impressive, NFL-caliber tight end. In the Rams’ opener against Colorado last year Sperry caught eight passes – three for touchdowns.

    Junior safety Klint Kubiak, son of Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, also is back after missing most of last season with an ulcer that caused internal bleeding and low blood pressure.

    Senior defensive end Tommie Hill, who led the Rams in sacks last season (5.5), and senior linebacker Jeff Horinek, who led the Rams in tackles (94), will lead a defense that will have to improve upon 2007 when it ranked next-to-last in the MWC in points allowed per game (30.8) and yards allowed per game (415.2).

    Fast Facts: At halftime of Colorado State’s Thursday night game at Air Force on Oct. 12, 2006, the Rams – 4-1 at the time – held a 21-3 victory over the Falcons. They were in charge and well on their way to a 5-1 start, including 2-0 in the MWC. But then Air Force scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to steal a victory. And the Rams collapsed, losing their final six games of the season. They then lost their first six games of 2007 (the sixth to Air Force). … Colorado State averaged just 21,794 fans per home game in 2007. … The CU-CSU game has been moved from Aug. 30 to Aug. 31, a Sunday.

    What Caught My Eye: The new man in charge – Fairchild – and the symmetry between his arrival and that of Troy Calhoun’s at Air Force last season.

    See if this sounds familiar:

    Coach leaves job as offensive coordinator in the NFL to return to his alma mater where he played quarterback and previously served as an assistant coach. He takes on not only his first head coaching position but the enormous burden of replacing a legend (whose departure was clouded by controversy) and attempting to revitalize a proud program that has struggled for several seasons.

    Same story, right? Just insert Fairchild/Calhoun for “coach,” Buffalo/Houston for the “offensive coordinator” post, Colorado State/Air Force for “alma mater” and Sonny Lubick/Fisher DeBerry for “legend.” You can even throw in “coached under NFL offensive guru,” as Fairchild at one time was an assistant for Mike Martz in St. Louis, and Calhoun spent three years with Mike Shanahan in Denver.

    Colorado State fans should hope Fairchild’s story continues to mirror Calhoun’s through his first season with the Rams as Calhoun engineered a five-game turnaround in 2007 at Air Force and was named the MWC Coach of the Year.

    Stick this in the “symmetry” file as well: In the Greeley Tribune, S. Scott Rosenberg wrote that “The buzzword during the Rams’ spring practice has been tempo, and keeping it high represents one of the focuses. … Running back Kyle Bell said the practice includes more snaps and more repetitions.”

    “They’re stressing tempo a little bit more, get as many reps as we can and we’ll come back, coach them up watching film,” Bell told The Tribune. “As opposed to before, maybe we tried to go back and repeat some reps, get everything fixed there.”

    Calhoun made a similar adjustment to Air Force practices last year, putting an emphasis on a fast tempo. And players were saying a lot of the same things Bell did.

    Final Thought: This sets up as just about a must-win if Air Force is in contention for a bowl late in the season. Following the game against the Rams the Falcons play defending conference champ BYU and then finish the season at TCU. They can’t count on wins against either the Cougars or Horned Frogs, so they’ve got to take care of business against CSU.

    Jake’s Way Too Early Line vs. AF: Air Force -3.

  • Two More ‘Ends’

    Thu, June 19, 2008 by admin with 2 comments

    Two other loose ends I forgot to include earlier today in my post:

    -In the hallway adjacent to the Air Force football office and meeting room, there are now small banners commemorating each of the bowls in which the Falcons have played hanging from the ceiling.

    On the surface, it seems like a fairly insignificant addition. But I think it reveals head coach Troy Calhoun’s attention to detail. How much more impressive is it for a recruit to walk through that hallway now?

    -Farewell to Ryan Grooms.

    Grooms, who served as Air Force’s assistant equipment manager, has accepted an offer to be the University of Minnesota’s head football equipment manager. You could always count on Grooms for a kind word and a smile — and to wear shorts no matter the weather. I always felt like a sissy with five layers, thermal underwear and a ski cap when he was walking around in shorts at a below-freezing practice.

    Best of luck to him.

  • Loose Ends

    Thu, June 19, 2008 by admin with 4 comments

    Here are some tidbits I wasn’t able to fit in my notebook that appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The Gazette.

    You can see that notebook here. It deals mostly with the news that senior Ty Paffett, who is expected to be the Falcons’ starter at Z-receiver (the hybrid running back/receiver position that Chad Hall played last year), might undergo back surgery for a herniated disc on June 26.

    Anyway, onto the notes:

    -Practice is likely to start on July 31 (a Thursday). The Falcons’ practice schedule currently is at the compliance office awaiting final approval.

    -If practice does start on July 31, Air Force will hold its annual media day on July 30 in the afternoon.

    -Air Force’s marketing department has come up with a new poster to promote the 2008 season. It features close-up shots of seniors Travis Dekker (tight end), Ryan Harrison (kicker) and Ryan Kemp (defensive end) in their uniforms. The poster contains the slogan “Athletes, Leaders, Champions.”

    -Later today I’ll be posting the next edition of the First Look Series. This week: CSU.

  • Inexperienced? Uh, You Could Say That

    Wed, June 18, 2008 by admin with 1 comment

    I was checking out some college football previews on the web today and stumbled upon an interesting page of famed football analyst Phil Steele’s site.

    It ranks each Division I-A team (remember, on this blog I’m not doing the whole “Football Bowl Subdivision/Football Championship” nonsense) by number of returning starters (check it out here).

    Including the kicker and punter positions, the Falcons have 10 returning starters (three on offense, five on defense and one each at kicker and punter – which really is just one guy, Ryan Harrison). Only two teams have fewer returning starters than Air Force – Georgia Tech (nine) and Army (eight).

    Hawaii, Louisville, New Mexico and Oregon State each have 10 starters back like Air Force. All the other Division I-A teams have more.

    Here’s how Air Force’s Division I-A opponents in 2008 compare – thanks to Phil Steele’s site for the info:

    Team – Total Number of Starters Back (Off/Def/K-P)

    Utah – 16 (8/6/2) *

    TCU – 15 (8/7/0) *

    UNLV – 14 (9/5/0) *

    Wyoming – 14 (8/6/0) *

    BYU – 13 (9/3/1) *

    CSU – 13 (7/5/1)

    Houston – 13 (5/7/1) *

    Navy – 13 (5/8/0) *

    San Diego State – 11 (3/8/0)

    New Mexico – 10 (5/5/0) *

    Army – 8 (4/4/0) *

    Note: * indicates the team has its starting QB back.

  • Four Falcons make Steele’s All-MWC 2nd Team

    Mon, June 16, 2008 by admin with 2 comments

    This isn’t exactly news, as these teams were released a couple of weeks ago. But I always enjoy looking at preseason all-conference teams, and I just stumbled upon Phil Steele’s 2008 preseason All-Mountain West Conference teams, so I thought I’d pass them along.

    No Air Force players made the first team, but junior guard Nick Charles, senior tackle Keith Williams, junior strong safety Chris Thomas and senior kicker/punter Ryan Harrison all made the second team. Senior defensive end Ryan Kemp and senior outside linebacker Hunter Altman made the third team, and senior Z receiver Ty Paffett, senior tight end Travis Dekker and senior nose guard Jared Marvin all made the fourth team.

    A couple of interesting notes on the teams:

    -Steele’s first-team offense was composed of six players from BYU, four from Utah and one each from UNLV and TCU.

    -His first-team defense included four Utah players (including three in the secondary) and four TCU players.

    -New Mexico had no first-team players and only two on the second team (senior cornerback DeAndre Wright and senior running back Rodney Ferguson).

    Check out the full teams here.