Greetings from Fort Worth. I landed about eight hours ago and will be off to practice in about a half hour.
But first, here are links to the Air Force stories in today’s edition of The Gazette. There’s a story about Saturday’s practice (here). And a Q and A with coach Troy Calhoun here. That link leads you to the main part of a conversation I had with Calhoun shortly before the academy’s holiday break. We discussed the 2008 season and the future.
Below are some additional questions and answers that didn’t quite fit in the paper. But first, here are a couple random things upon which he touched that I found interesting:
-Calhoun thinks Utah, TCU and BYU – the teams that finished first through third, respectively, in the conference – “are going to be extremely healthy for a while.” But he also thinks two other MWC foes “are going to jump in there at some point.” Those two, Calhoun said, are Colorado State and San Diego State. “Something’s going to hit where they jump up at that level,” Calhoun said of the Aztecs.
-Calhoun on the 2008 Falcons: “This is one of those teams that really was not a dazzling team at all. … Part of that is because we leaned a good bit on our front guys on both sides of the ball, so I don’t think that’s nearly as captivating as it is whenever you have skill players that are involved that way. And yet this is one of those teams that just progressed. Again, there’s not a lot of flash to this group. But as a unit this group really, really gelled chemistry-wise. And I think every team’s got to take on its own charisma that way, and this group had that.”
Here are the other questions and answers:
Q: In your first two seasons you said it took a little while to know where best to use guys. Do you feel like you’ll know a little faster in future seasons now that you’ve been around longer?
A: It’ll help. And I think what you’re going to have is you’ll have guys that have played that you’ve been with. So as you go into spring ball, I think you’re able to pinpoint a bit sooner stuff that you can really incorporate in what you’re doing defensively and offensively. And so there’s probably some progress a little bit that can take place maybe a bit sooner next year. And yet at the same time I don’t think you ever rush – you can never rush. You can push it, but I don’t think you can ever rush it when it comes to development.
Q: Tim Jefferson first started at quarterback against San Diego State. When did it start to become apparent that you wanted to get him more involved or that he might be able to take on that role?
A: Probably the week prior (against Navy). He got a chance to play a little bit at the end. And you started seeing it in practice. And sometimes, as a coach, until you see evidence of it in a game, you want a little more proof. And, you look at the first half at San Diego State, he was tentative. And then he went and played pretty well the next week out in Vegas.
But next year’s team, one of the key things is he’s going to have to improve. And yet, deep down, I think the good guys, they want that – as long as it’s clear to them what they need to work on and there’s some structure there where, whether it’s drill work, whether it’s studying tape, whether it’s moving a little bit more suddenly in the weight room. As long as you can pinpoint it as a coach, then I think good guys, they want that, because they know that’s how you develop as a player and it helps you as a young man, too.
Q: Is Asher Clark now a tailback, or will he still get some looks at quarterback, the position he played in high school and early this season?
A: We’re going to see what happens in the spring. We’ll see if maybe in the spring he doesn’t play some quarterback. I just think we want to keep him involved that way. Just so he’s got his hands on the ball. So that’s something in the spring and something which I’m going to sit down and visit with him about where he goes and plays some quarterback during spring practices.
Q: Do you see any other guys moving positions or moving around? Or is it too early to say?
A: Probably a bit soon that way. But it will be something that we take a look at. What does help is we do have a bunch of guys that have played their spots going into spring. Now, Asher Clark’s not my example in that regard, but we’ve got a bunch of other guys that are going to learn how to be better football players at their respective positions. And maturity-wise, what we’ve got to have is more and more guys carry themselves like they’re seniors on the football field. It might seem like it’s a bit soon, but that’ll have to happen next year.
Q: You’ve talked about improving the assistants’ compensation packages. How confident are you that you’ll be able to keep this staff together.
A: What you always want to do is you always want to help guys. I think you have a responsibility there to help guys. If there are opportunities that really are intriguing, then you’re supportive and find a way to do what you can to help those guys.
Now the other thing is I think you need to make it where this is a place where they realize they can grow a ton as a coach. One thing about coaching here, it requires you every single day to be sharp. And you’ve got to be sharp, and you’ve got to be driven here to coach. It’s not a cream-puff place as a coach. But I think good ones also realize that you learn a heck of a lot by experiencing working at the Air Force Academy playing in the Mountain West Conference. There’s a great, great camaraderie amongst our group. And when you have continuity, continuity at any place, but especially at a service academy, continuity at a service academy is vital. You don’t have continuity, you will not win at a service academy. That’s bottom line.
We’ve got to make it where this is a really, really great place – which it is. Especially the pride part of it in terms of being part of the academy. We’ve got to do everything we can to make it that way for families and coaches, and we’ve got a special group, a really special group.
Q: You’re close to the two-year anniversary of when you were hired. Do you feel like you’re more settled in or things are easier in any way? How different is it heading forward than when you first got here?
A: You don’t have all the initial peripheral stuff that you have the first eight or nine months. I think your focus is even more so on recruiting and coaching. And I think you’re probably a little closer to your guys from a relationship standpoint – you’re probably a little firmer too, because you do know them better. And yet you’re just so much more into just the pure coaching and recruiting part of it just because you know all the other aspects of what you have to address. And probably more than anything else you’re able to distinguish, especially in the recruiting part of it, guys that are legitimate guys that we can pursue, especially academically. I just think that happens a little more instantly than it did the first three months.