I think I can safely say I’ve never been around a football team as feisty as the 2008 Air Force Falcons.
Neither has Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. And he’s been around a whole bunch more football teams than I have.
Seems like the majority of practices the last few weeks have included at least one scuffle. On Wednesday, I spotted three: Outside linebacker Ken Lamendola took on Z receiver Brett Skene; Z receiver Luke Hyder tangled with cornerback Reggie Rembert (and a couple other defenders); and freshman linebacker Caleb Konemann got into it with a few offensive players.
“We’ve had to do more separation this year than probably any other team I’ve ever been around,” Calhoun said. “We had a few today.”
Calhoun doesn’t want his players to get injured in these dust-ups – “You just don’t want to do something stupid and break your hand,” he said. And he doesn’t want players to be undisciplined in games and draw costly personal fouls. So he can’t go so far as to condone the scuffles.
But at the same time, the fights show the Falcons have plenty of fight in them. And that’s a really, really good thing for a team that often is undersized and less talented than its opponents. (As a comparison, I barely remember the 2006 team getting in any scuffles during practice. It finished 4-8.)
“This team’s got plenty of spark to it,” Calhoun said. “They’ve got a good deal of resolve about them. When they get on the field we’ve got some guys that like to mix it up, to say the least.”
-One junior varsity player who stood out on Wednesday was outside linebacker Jordan Waiwaiole. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Spring Lake Park, Minn., spent the year with the junior varsity but got some reps with the Falcons’ second-team defense on Wednesday.
“He was a guy in high school that ran an 11.0(-second) 100 meters,” Calhoun said. “He was a straight-in kid – bright, really bright kid.”
Will Waiwaiole have a chance to make an impact in the bowl game?
“Probably not quite for that, but in the spring he’s got a chance to jump into the mix,” Calhoun said. “He’s got a chance to be a good one. He can run and he’s physical and he’s starting to put a little weight on and he’s bright-eyed. He’s got a chance to be a really, really good outside ‘backer for us.”
-Another junior varsity player who got some snaps with the varsity Wednesday was guard Jeff Benson – a 6-0, 265-pounder from Hoover, Ala. “He’s got really good feet, he’s strong, he’s got good quickness,” Calhoun said. “He had a 3.8 (grade-point average) at the half-way mark in school. Holy cow. Yeah, he’s got a chance.”
-Injury update: Senior nose guard Jared Marvin (knee), senior fullback Todd Newell (ankle) and sophomore outside linebacker Patrick Hennessey (shoulder) all sat out practice again on Wednesday. Calhoun said he thought Marvin could play in the bowl. Newell “probably is a good two weeks away from really being able to move on it well.” Hennessey remains doubtful.
-Sophomore X receiver Kyle Halderman, who is recovering from mono, did some work early in practice but did not participate in contact drills. Senior Z receiver Ty Paffett also did not practice because of an excused absence. He is expected to return to practice today.