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  • Calhoun Q and A

    Sun, December 28, 2008 by admin with no comments

    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.

  • On the Way to The Worth

    Sat, December 27, 2008 by admin with no comments

    I’m flying to Fort Worth this evening, so starting tomorrow morning I’m hoping to post to the blog several times each day with updates about bowl preparations, places to eat and other random musings.


    In addition, part two of my two-part breakdown of which Air Force players will be back for the 2009 season appears in today’s edition of The Gazette. You can find it here and find part one here.


    Finally, I sat down with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun for an interview shortly before the holiday break. Some of the interview will appear in Sunday’s edition of The Gazette. The parts that could not fit in the paper because of space limitations will be posted to the blog Sunday morning.

  • In Today’s Gazette …

    Fri, December 26, 2008 by admin with no comments

    As promised, the story about Air Force coach Troy Calhoun’s memory appeared in today’s edition of The Gazette (find it here). So did part one of a two-part breakdown of which Air Force players will be back for the 2009 season (find it here). Part two will appear tomorrow.

  • On Second Thought …

    Wed, December 24, 2008 by admin with 2 comments

    The Calhoun story (see post below) actually will run on Friday. Also running that day will be part one of a two-part article about who Air Force will have coming back next season.

  • TCU’s Big Victory and Calhoun’s Memory

    Wed, December 24, 2008 by admin with 1 comment

    The Mountain West Conference now is 2-1 this bowl season after TCU edged Boise State, 17-16, last night in San Diego.


    The Horned Frogs’ win was a big one because it came against a Western Athletic Conference team. And among the non-BCS conferences, the MWC and WAC are probably the two best known.


    Even though TCU didn’t get it done in Salt Lake City, I think it’s the best team in the league this year. That defense is tough. …


    Also, if you have time on Christmas Day, check out The Gazette for a story about Air Force coach Troy Calhoun’s memory. You’ll be able to find it on Gazette.com as well.

  • Notes from D.C.

    Mon, December 22, 2008 by admin with 5 comments

    Holiday greetings from our Nation’s Capital, where I’ll be spending the next few days until I head down to Fort Worth for the bowl game.


    A couple of notes from the academy:


    -According to Chris Peludat, Air Force’s associate athletic director – tickets, the academy has sold a little more than 5,900 tickets for the Dec. 31 Armed Forces Bowl game against Houston, including a little more than 2,700 that have been bought and donated.


    -As reported in The Gazette last week, Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun and athletic director Hans Mueh have met about updating and renewing Calhoun’s rolling five-year contract. According to sports information director Troy Garnhart, they will continue to meet but likely not this week, as both are on vacation.


    -Keep up with the Houston Cougars at the Houston Chronicle’s web site. The paper’s Houston beat writer, Michael Murphy, also has a very good blog, which you can find here.

  • And the Bowling Begins

    Sat, December 20, 2008 by admin with 4 comments

    Some pretty good games so far for the first day of the bowl season.


    Wake Forest beat Navy, 29-19, in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl in Washington. That was a re-match of Navy’s 24-17 victory earlier this season. Does that say anything about Air Force’s re-match with Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl? Probably not. But it’s interesting that the team that lost the first round won this time.

    Also, how about Colorado State’s Gartrell Johnson? He rushed for 285 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 40-35 victory over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. Johnson also had 90 receiving yards.


    Johnson is a senior, so Air Force won’t have to worry about him any more. But the Falcons are going to have to get used to dealing with an improving Colorado State team. Steve Fairchild has this program moving in the right direction. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said the other day he thinks it’s only a matter of time before Colorado State becomes an annual contender in the Mountain West like it was in Sonny Lubick’s glory years.


    Anyway, I’ve got the South Florida-Memphis game on while packing for a trip back to D.C. Will probably watch some of the BYU game later. What games are folks looking forward to watching other than the Falcons’ clash with Houston?

  • Thursday Practice Notes

    Thu, December 18, 2008 by admin with no comments

    Air Force practiced at the academy for the final time this season this morning. Players now are on break until Dec. 26 when they will reconvene in Fort Worth to begin final preparations for the Dec. 31 Armed Forces Bowl.


    Air Force will not practice on Dec. 26 – the Falcons will meet simply to stretch and run. Practices in Fort Worth are scheduled for Dec. 27-29. Air Force will take the day before the bowl off, as they do the day before games during the regular season.


    I wrote in my Wednesday Practice Notes (see several posts below) about how there were a bunch of scuffles in Wednesday’s practice and how I’ve seen a ton of them this season. There were a few more today. And it bears repeating – the fact that these guys still are getting after each other with such intensity at this point in the season (when the players on lots of teams would be thinking only of getting practice finished so they could go home) is remarkable.


    You’ve got to love the intensity.


    Other notes:


    -Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said sophomore reserve receiver Nate Carlson no longer is with the team and is planning to transfer. Sophomore guard Jacob Morgan and sophomore outside linebacker Brett Satterfield also have left the team but are planning to stay at the academy, Calhoun said.


    -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 Thursday. … Sophomore Z receiver Kyle Halderman, who is recovering from mono, participated in most of practice, and his chances of playing in the bowl game are improving, Calhoun said. “He’ll have to go full-tilt (in practice) on the 27th, and if he does, then I think he’ll have a chance to get some snaps.”


    -Look for senior X receiver Spencer Armstrong, who has not played since Dec. 13, to start the Armed Forces Bowl. Junior Josh Cousins and other X receivers will rotate into the game and get plenty of time.

    -According to the Ames Tribune, which covers Iowa State, Calhoun is at the top of “Cyclone Nation’s wish list to replace Gene Chizik, who took the Auburn job last Saturday.” See the story here. Unlike the Clemson and Tennessee rumors, I don’t think Air Force fans should lose too much sleep over this.


    -Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, a former Army football player who lost both his legs to a bomb in Iraq, will be the featured speaker at the Armed Forces Bowl Kickoff Luncheon held Dec. 30 at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Tickets to the luncheon can be purchased in advanced by phone (817-810-0012) or on-line (www.armedforcesbowl.com) or at the door. Tickets are $25 per person or $250 for a table of eight.


    -Rest in peace, Sammy Baugh. Check out a great obituary from The Washington Post about the legendary Redskin – and TCU grad. And here’s a link to a great NFL Films feature on Baugh sent along by my buddy Gav, a fellow Skins fan.

  • In Today’s Gazette …

    Thu, December 18, 2008 by admin with no comments

    … David Ramsey’s column on Tim Jefferson and my Spencer Armstrong story. Also, see posts below for reviews of practices Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • Wednesday Practice Notes

    Thu, December 18, 2008 by admin with 2 comments

    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.”


    Other notes:


    -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.