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  • Spring Football Around the MWC – Wyoming

    Thu, April 30, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Note: The Mountain West Conference’s football coaches participated in a teleconference on Tuesday. This is another in a series of posts from the call. Earlier posts dealt with Air Force, Utah, San Diego State, BYU, CSU, UNLV and TCU.

    New Wyoming coach Dave Christensen has overhauled the Cowboys’ offense, installing the up-tempo spread that he brought with him from Missouri (where he served as offensive coordinator).

    But that wasn’t Christensen’s only change. In his first spring, he also tried to change the culture at Wyoming.

    “I’m trying to bring back the Cowboy tough attitude that Wyoming was so known for and develop a physical football team,” he said. “Other than that, our program is one that’s based on a lot of discipline, attention to detail, going extra hard from start to finish and being physical.”

    Those changes were apparent when, according to the Casper Star-Tribune, Christensen started a spring practice over after three periods because he didn’t like how it was going.

    –Senior-to-be Karsten Sween will enter the preseason as the Cowboys’ No. 1 quarterback. “But we’ll have a lot of competition in the fall,” Christensen said. “All five quarterbacks at that point in time will be given equal opportunity.”

    –Wyoming’s second and third games of the season are against Big 12 foes. The Cowboys host Texas on Sept. 12 and then play at Colorado on Sept. 19.

    –Wyoming had 17 players not participate in the spring game because of injury. But all but one of them will be ready to participate fully when the Cowboys’ preseason begins on Aug. 5.

  • Spring Football Around the MWC – TCU

    Thu, April 30, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Note: The Mountain West Conference’s football coaches participated in a teleconference on Tuesday. This is another in a series of posts that I’ve written from the call. Earlier posts dealt with Air Force, Utah, San Diego State, BYU, CSU and UNLV.

    Five of the 16 Mountain West Conference players selected in the NFL Draft last weekend were from TCU – running back Aaron Brown (Lions), outside linebacker Jason Phillips (Ravens), center Blake Schlueter (Broncos), safety Stephen Hodge (Cowboys) and inside linebacker Robert Henson (Redskins).

    “Any time you lose a senior class which has five guys drafted, you have some holes to fill,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said.

    Yet the Horned Frogs have plenty of horses back for 2009, and I might vote them number one when I fill out my preseason MWC ballot later this summer (too early to say that definitively).

    Patterson is a former defensive coordinator, and his teams always are strong on that side of the ball. But the TCU should have a pretty strong offense in 2009 too.

    Junior Andy Dalton returns for his third year starting at quarterback, as do most of his top receivers, including Jimmy Young, who led the Horned Frogs in 2008 with 59 receptions for 988 yards and five touchdowns. Tailbacks Joseph Turner and Ryan Christian also will be back.

    –Patterson said TCU will have only 13 seniors in 2009. “So we’ll have a very young football team in that respect,” he said.

    –TCU’s first and third games of the season are on the road against Atlantic Coast Conference teams – Virginia and Clemson, respectively.

    –Scary news for TCU foes: Patterson said defensive end Jerry Hughes (who led the nation with 17 sacks in 2008) is “stronger and faster than he’s ever been since he’s been here, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”

    “He’s in one of those situations where with all the limelight that came to him he could have taken the spring off, and he didn’t do that.”

  • Calhoun’s Little Sis

    Thu, April 30, 2009 by admin with 3 comments

    I wrote this story for today’s edition of The Gazette about Callie (Calhoun) Molloy, one of the six members of the Air Force Academy Athletic Department Hall of Fame’s second induction class. (The other members are former athletic administrator/football coach Jim Bowman, former football coach Ben Martin, former football players Dee Dowis and Ernie Jennings and former football player and wrestler Terry Isaacson. I posted some more information about those folks below).

    Anyway, there were some interesting things I was unable to fit in the story that I thought I’d add here.

    –I wrote about how Molloy became an elite runner because of her drive and work ethic. Both have helped her in her professional life as well.

    After serving on active duty for the Air Force, she received a full scholarship from the Army to go to optometry school. She served four years on active duty in the Army following graduation, then went back to working in the Air force reserves. She still does some work for the Air Force reserves, does part-time civilian optometry work, interviews perspective Air Force Academy cadets and (if all that wasn’t enough) runs her own financial planning business – CJ Wealth Consulting, LLC.

    –Molloy and her older brother (Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun) both said they were constantly competing when they were growing up in Oregon.

    “All the time – that’s all I remember,” Molloy said. “We grew up out in the country, and my dad had a little baseball field in the front yard, a basketball hoop on the side of the house, a swimming pool, and we were pretty much playing something and competing from sun up to sun down – whether it was sports or Monopoly or whatever.”

    Calhoun said they’ll still go at it playing basketball to this day.

    “It usually works best when nobody else is around,” Calhoun said. “Because that’s the only time people don’t want to be around us.”

    –Molloy said her brother’s experience at Air Force (he graduated in 1989, two years before his sister) and the strong feelings he had for the academy influenced her college choice.

    “Obviously I wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps,” Molloy said. “We had a pretty special bond.”

    –Calhoun, like others I spoke to for the story, praised his sister’s commitment and her work ethic.

    “You can just remember hours upon hours she would play basketball in the rain,” he said. “It’s cold and wet, and she’d shoot and shoot and shoot and practice and practice, and you’d think, ‘Holy Cow.’”

    –Molloy married a West Point grad, Joe. Calhoun said he’s fine with that choice “51 weeks out of the year.”

    Air Force’s Other 2009 Hall of Fame Inductees

    JIM BOWMAN
    Football Coach/Associate AD
    1958-2007

    Few have loved the academy and meant more to its athletic department than Bowman. He came to Air Force in 1958 as a physical education instructor and served on the football team’s coaching staff. He was the head freshman and junior varsity coach before leaving coaching to devote all his time to recruiting support, where he served until retiring last year. An honorary member of the Association of Graduates, Bowman coached more than 1,000 football players and helped more than 13,000 cadet-athletes receive academy appointments.

    DEE DOWIS
    Football Player
    Class of 1990

    Arguably the best option quarterback in Air Force history. He started for three seasons and owns the academy record for career rushing yards with 3,612. In his senior season (1989), he finished sixth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, earned honorable mention Associated Press All-American honors and was named the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

    TERRY ISAACSON
    Wrestler/Football Player
    Class of 1964

    A retired Air Force colonel and former multi-sport star, Isaacson is the academy’s lone three-time wrestling All-American (1962-64). He went 161-13 in his career and was the NCAA runner-up at 167 pounds in 1962. He also started on offense and defense for the football team from 1961-63. He led the team in rushing in 1961 and 1963 and led the team in passing, total offense and punting in 1962 and 1963. Isaacson gained 1,747 yards of total offense in 1963 when he was a Helms Football Foundation All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy vote.

    ERNIE JENNINGS
    Football Player
    Class of 1971

    Arguably the greatest receiver in Air Force history and one of the top pass-catchers in college football in the early 1970s, Jennings owns every major academy receiving record, including career receptions (148), receiving yards (2,392) and touchdown receptions (28). He also still holds single-game school records for receptions (15 vs. Wyoming in 1969) and receiving yards (235 vs. Wyoming in 1970). Jennings is one of Air Force’s five consensus football All-Americans, earning the honor in 1970 when he also finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting and set single-season academy marks for catches (74) and receiving yards (1,289).

    BEN MARTIN
    Football Coach
    1958-1977

    Known as the father of Air Force football, Martin helped put the Falcons on the college football map. In his first season, before the academy had even graduated a class, he guided Air Force to a 9-0-2 mark that included a trip to the Cotton Bowl. It remains the lone unbeaten season in academy history. Martin compiled a 96-103-9 record in his tenure, leading the 1970 squad to the Sugar Bowl.

  • Spring Football Around the MWC – UNLV

    Thu, April 30, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Note: The Mountain West Conference’s football coaches participated in a teleconference on Tuesday. This is another in a series of posts from the call. Scroll down for posts about Air Force, Utah, San Diego State, BYU and CSU.

    Looking for a team that might a leap in 2009?

    How about UNLV.

    The Rebels were 5-7 last season but lost by a point to Air Force and by a touchdown at BYU. They have 15 starters back, including a good one at quarterback – Omar Clayton. Last season Clayton completed 152-of-258 passes for 1,894 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. When Clayton was injured, backup Mike Clausen performed well, completing 70-of-125 passes for 767 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

    “I feel very good about our quarterback situation,” said coach Mike Sanford (who probably needs to make a bowl game this season for job security). “Omar Clayton is the starter, Mike Clausen is the backup, but he’s not a true No. 2, he’s a 1A. … This is the best our quarterback situation has been since I’ve been here.”

    If the Rebels are going to make the leap, however, they need to play better defense.

    “That’s going to be a big thing is improving our defense and specifically improving the play of our secondary,” Sanford said.

  • Spring Football Around the MWC – CSU

    Wed, April 29, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Note: The Mountain West Conference’s football coaches participated in a teleconference on Tuesday. This is another in a series of posts from the call. Scroll down for posts about Air Force, Utah, San Diego State and BYU.

    Just like last year, Colorado State will enter the preseason without a clear-cut starting quarterback. Neither senior-to-be Grant Stucker nor junior-to-be transfer Jon Eastman separated himself in the spring.

    “It’ll be wide open,” coach Steve Fairchild said of his quarterback competition. “I wasn’t pleased at all with what happened at quarterback in spring balll. We’ve got to have someone develop in a hurry.”

    Freshman Nico Ranieri and Klay Kubiak, who was injured in the spring, will join the quarterback batte in the fall.

    –Check out how the Rams open MWC play: at BYU, vs. Utah and at TCU.

    Ouch.

  • Post-Spring Top 25

    Wed, April 29, 2009 by admin with no comments

    SI.com posted its post-spring Top 25 on its site today.

    A pair of Mountain West Conference teams were included – TCU at No. 11 and Utah at No. 19 – and BYU was in the “Just missed the cut” category.

    In the above link, SI.com linked to this article about how TCU pulled a student reporter off of a show on The Mtn. for criticizing a Horned Frogs player. Doesn’t surprise me. TCU is the only school in the conference that does not allow its players to speak with out-of-town media the week of a game.

  • Spring Football Around the MWC – BYU

    Tue, April 28, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    Note: The Mountain West Conference’s football coaches participated in a teleconference today. I’ll be posting notes today and tomorrow on some of the things coaches said. Scroll down for posts about Air Force, Utah and San Diego State.

    BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall had some interesting things to say about what he learned last season when his team received plenty of hype and attention early in the year.

    The Cougars entered last season ranked in the Top 25 and considered the nation’s BCS busting darling. Plenty of attention and expectations came with BYU’s lofty preseason status, and they were only increased when the Cougars blew out UCLA, 59-0, early in the season.

    But BYU was beaten convincingly by both TCU and Utah in the regular season and lost in the Las Vegas Bowl to Arizona.

    Mendenhall thought he – and his players – could have done a better job of managing the attention and expectations.

    “If I were to do anything again, I would just be maybe more specific as to what I shared with our team and what I shared with the media,” Mendenhall said. “I’ve been always very open regarding both and just simply been matter-of-fact and telling the truth. But what was very clear was being the projected BCS buster going into the year, having the nation’s longest winning streak, having not lost a conference game for two straight years and with two 11-2 seasons, the expectations climbed to a really unprecedented rate. And as a first-time head coach in that situation and a team, it certainly made us I think play tighter, not have as much fun, but also be distracted.”

    –BYU has to replace four starters on its offensive line, but Mendenhall said his offensive line was one of the bright spots during the spring.

    “I think it’s reflective more of where we are as a program,” Mendenhall said. “What (the linemen) proved this spring is they’re capable. They’re not as seasoned, they’re not experienced, they’re not as sharp yet, but they all are capable.”

    –BYU opens 2009 against Oklahoma at the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium on Sept. 5 and also welcomes Florida State to Provo. The Cougars get MWC rivals Utah, TCU and Air Force at home.

  • Spring Football Around the MWC – San Diego State

    Tue, April 28, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Note: The Mountain West Conference’s football coaches participated in a teleconference today. I’ll be posting notes today and tomorrow on some of the things coaches said. This is the third post. Scroll down for posts about Air Force and Utah.

    Upon taking over a reeling San Diego State program, Brady Hoke set about changing his players’ mindset.

    “This is such a mental game,” said Hoke, who spent the previous six seasons guiding Ball State. “Your demeanor as a football player, your attitude every day and how that determines who you are.”

    In winter conditioning and in spring practice (which has not yet finished for the Aztecs), Hoke preached “being a tough football team and a football team that’s going to play with effort every time you take the field and an aggressiveness that we want to play with on both sides of the football.”

    –As his defensive coordinator, Hoke hired Rocky Long, who had spent the previous 11 seasons as New Mexico’s head coach.

    “I think there’s no question that’s a factor with coach Long’s experience in the league and knowing the league,” Hoke said. “Obviously we’re really privileged and lucky to have him here. … I think we share the same mindset defensively about how we want to play the game and what we want to achieve.”

    – The Aztecs ranked 117th (out of 119 NCAA Division I-A squads) in rushing offense with 73.2 yards per game.

    “We want to be able to run the football,” Hoke said. “We’ll have a lot of two-back component to our offense and a lot of new personnel groups.”

    San Diego State also will have to do a better job of stopping the run. It ranked 118th in rushing defense in 2008.

    –Sophomore quarterback Ryan Lindley currently is working with the Aztecs’ first-team offense.

  • Spring Football Around the MWC – Utah

    Tue, April 28, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Note: The Mountain West Conference’s football coaches participated in a teleconference today. I’ll be posting notes throughout the day on some of the things coaches said. This is the second post. Scroll down for the initial post (about Air Force).

    During the 2008 season, Utah went 13-0, won the Mountain West Conference title and even garnered some first-place votes in the final Associated Press poll.

    Putting those accomplishments in the rearview mirror was task number one for the Utes in the spring.

    “We had a discussion about that – how last year was all well and good, but it’s over with and the starting of spring ball really signifies the start of a new season,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’ve got new challenges that lie ahead, and the kids were very, very receptive to that. … It’s a very focused team, and from what I can read, they’ve definitely put (2008) behind them and are ready to start 2009.”

    Asked what kind of drop-off there might be in 2009 or if the Utes have the potential to make a similar run, Whittingham said: “First and foremost, our goal every year is to win the Mountain West Conference, and that won’t change this year. Can we go undefeated? Shoot, since the advent of the BCS, we’re the only team that’s done it twice, so that tells you how difficult it is.”

    –As is the case with a bunch of MWC teams, Utah’s starting quarterback spot is undecided. Juniors Corbin Louks and Terrance Cain, along with true freshman Jordan Wynn, all have a shot at replacing graduated Brian Johnson.

    Whittingham said he’d like to make a decision on a starter quickly in the preseason.

    “I think maybe the most important thing is to get it narrowed down to two (candidates) as quick as we can because there aren’t enough reps,” he said. “We’ve got to get it to a two-man race fairly rapidly.”

    Whittingham used Louks as “a change-up guy” the last two seasons (bringing him in for a play or two in special situations). But he said he did not want to give a pair of signal callers equal reps in games.

    “I’ve never been a fan of a two-quarterback system,” he said.

    –In addition to losing a number of standout players (including Johnson and four players selected in this past weekend’s NFL Draft – Sean Smith and Paul Kruger were second-round picks) Utah lost both coordinators and its offensive line coach in the offseason.

    “So we went through some transition here,” Whittingham said.

    –Whittingham said he was surprised kicker/punter Louie Sakoda was not selected in the draft. Sakoda was the MWC’s Special Teams Player of the Year each of the last three seasons.

    “For what he’s done for us and the consistency that he’s demonstrated the last four years, I thought for sure that at least one NFL team would select him,” Whittingham said.

    Whittingham said the fact the NFL is “very specialized” may have worked against Sakoda.

    “They’re looking for the strongest legs out there,” Whittingham said. “And even though (Sakoda) was a consensus All-American, he doesn’t have the strongest kicking leg or the strongest punting leg. … (But) nobody does both better than him.”

  • Spring Football Around the MWC – Air Force

    Tue, April 28, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Note: The Mountain West Conference’s football coaches participated in a teleconference today. I’ll be posting notes throughout the day on some of the things coaches said. Here’s the first post. …

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said the Falcons would be without tailback Kyle Lumpkin during the 2009 season.

    Lumpkin, who will be a junior in the fall, will be concentrating solely on academics, Calhoun said. Lumpkin did not participate in spring practices for the same reason.

    “Sometimes these guys get kind of mad at you,” Calhoun said. “But they realize deep down that their real obligation is to prepare themselves to be an officer.”

    Lumpkin started the first five games of the 2008 season and finished the campaign third on the team in rushing with 452 yards.

    Asked if there was a chance Lumpkin could return in 2010, Calhoun said: “We’ll see. Right now I would say yes.”

    –Asked how quarterback Tim Jefferson needs to improve on the field, Calhoun said: “We’ve got to see him make more guys miss in the open field. He’s got to have that little bit of wiggle, that little bit of shake that can make a guy more difficult to tackle. And he’s also got to be a little more precise in terms of delivering the ball.”

    –According to Air Force sports information director Troy Garnhart, the Falcons are aiming to stat preseason camp on Aug. 3, a Monday.

    Air Force likely will not have any two-a-day sessions because of how early classes begin at the academy, Garnhart said.