• Post-Practice Odds and Ends – and a Question

    Mon, August 31, 2009 by admin with 11 comments

    -One of the things that jumped out at me while reading the bios of players added to the Falcons’ varsity roster was this nugget about freshman outside linebacker Alex Means: “Was also recruited by Notre Dame and Michigan State.”

    That tells you the caliber of player Means is – and can be in the future. He’s athletic and has 215 pounds spread on his 6-foot-6 frame. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said once Means spends some time in the weight room, he will be a really good player for the Falcons. “And yet we’re going to ask him to be a strong contributor right now,” Calhoun said.

    Indeed. It looks like Means will start Saturday against Nicholls State in place of the injured Patrick Hennessey (shoulder).

    -Three more freshmen have been added to the varsity roster:

    35 Wesley Cobb – RB (5-9, 190) Houston, Texas (Cy-Fair)
    37 James Chambers – LB (6-0, 220) Wichita Falls, Texas (Rider)
    96 Daniel Compton – K (5-8, 190) Phoenix, Ariz. (Paradise Valley)

    -There are 94 players on the varsity roster that appears in Air Force’s Nicholls State release. The class breakdown reveals the Falcons still are a pretty young team: 15 seniors, 23 juniors, 46 sophomores, 10 freshmen.

    “There are some really good football players in the sophomore class and the freshman class and next year there’ll be another good batch of football players in next year’s freshman class too,” Calhoun said.

    -Freshman Mikel Hunter will wear No. 30 (he’s been wearing 13 in practices).

    -Here’s my question: I’m writing later this week about Air Force scheduling a Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA) squad for the home opener. I’m wondering what people think? Good idea for the health and progress of the team during the season? Or would you rather Air Force play a big-name out-of-conference foe?

    Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section or drop me a line at jake.schaller@gazette.com.

  • Initial Depth Chart Thoughts

    Mon, August 31, 2009 by admin with no comments

    A few quick-hit thoughts on the new depth chart (which you can see in the post below).

    -Yes, junior Reggie Rembert is listed as a starter at cornerback. That doesn’t mean, I’ve been told, that he is cleared to play. Apparently coach Troy Calhoun wanted the chart to reflect how things stand coming out of the preseason.

    -As expected and predicted here, Tim Jefferson is listed as the starting QB with Asher Clark listed as the starting TB.

    -The WRs aren’t listed by specific position (i.e. WR-Z and WR-X) which, I’m assuming, is why you have a Z receiver (Cody Getz) listed behind an X (Kevin Fogler) at one WR spot and an X receiver (Josh Cousins) listed behind a Z (Jonathan Warzeka) at the other.

    -Sophomore guard A.J. Wallerstein and freshman outside linebacker Alex Means are listed as starters in front of Nick Charles and Patrick Hennessey, respectively.

    -Junior fullback Ryan Southworth does not appear on the chart. I’m guessing that’s in part because he’s had a minor injury and didn’t participate in the scrimmage last week.

    Will have more after getting a chance to speak with Calhoun after today’s practice.

  • Updated Depth Chart

    Mon, August 31, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Here it is. My thoughts in the next post.

    OFFENSE
    WR

    83 Kevin Fogler (6-5, 205) Jr.
    28 Cody Getz (5-7, 170) Fr.

    TE
    81 Sean Quintana (6-2, 200) Sr.
    82 Chaz Demerath (6-2, 195) Jr.

    LT
    59 Ryan Gonzales (6-3, 255) Sr.
    74 Chase Darden (6-3, 265) Jr.

    LG
    73 A.J. Wallerstein (6-4, 285) So.
    57 Nick Charles (6-4, 285) Sr.

    C
    65 Michael Hampton (6-2, 260) Sr.
    69 Michael Hester (6-3, 240) So.

    RG
    62 Peter Lusk (6-3, 270) Sr.
    61 Tyler Schonsheck (6-1, 265) Jr.

    RT
    60 Chris Campbell (6-3, 270) Sr.
    66 Blake Dowd (6-5, 285) So.

    QB
    7   Tim Jefferson (6-0, 200) So.
    11 Connor Dietz (6-0, 185) So.

    FB
    42 Jared Tew (6-0, 210) Jr.
    39 Nathan Walker (5-11, 215) Jr.

    TB
    17 Asher Clark (5-8, 185) So.
    2   Savier Stephens (5-11, 190) Jr.

    WR
    15 Jonathan Warzeka (5-9, 175) So.
    87 Josh Cousins (6-0, 200) Sr.

    DEFENSE
    DE

    51 Myles Morales (6-3, 250) Sr.
    92 Wylie Wikstrom (6-2, 235) Jr.

    NG
    93 Ben Garland (6-5, 275) Sr.
    86 Ryan Gardner (6-3, 240) So.

    DE
    90 Rick Ricketts (6-3, 260) Jr.
    88 Ben Kopacka (6-5, 235) So.

    OLB
    50 Alex Means (6-6, 215) Fr.
    44 Patrick Hennessey (6-2, 215) Jr.

    ILB
    43 Justin Moore (5-11, 225) Sr.
    41 Brady Amack (6-0, 225) So.

    ILB
    47 Ken Lamendola (6-2, 230) Jr.
    45 John Falgout (6-0, 225) Sr.

    OLB
    36 Andre Morris, Jr. (6-3, 235) Jr.
    32 Jordan Waiwaiole (6-3, 210) So.

    CB
    5   Anthony Wright (5-10, 190) So.
    24 P.J. Adeji-Paul (6-0, 190) So.

    CB
    8   Reggie Rembert (5-8, 185) Jr.
    14 Josh Hall (6-0, 175) So.

    SS
    34 Chris Thomas (5-11, 205) Sr.
    10 Phil Ofili (5-11, 200) So.

    FS
    16 Jon Davis (6-1, 190) So.
    9   Luke Hyder (5-11, 195) Sr.

    SPECIAL TEAMS
    PK

    99 Erik Soderberg (6-1, 190) So.
    96 Daniel Compton (5-8, 190) Fr.

    P
    98 Brandon Geyer (6-4, 200) Sr.
    97 Keil Bartholomew (5-8, 165) Jr.

    DS
    56 Colton Reid (6-0, 255) So.
    40 Ryan Southworth (5-10, 220) Jr.

    H
    98 Brandon Geyer (6-4, 200) Sr.
    12 Ben Cochran (6-0, 185) Jr.

    PR
    8   Reggie Rembert (5-8, 185) Jr.
    5   Anthony Wright (5-10, 190) So.

    KOR
    15 Jonathan Warzeka (5-9, 175) So.
    8   Reggie Rembert (5-8, 185) Jr.

  • Stephens Still Silent

    Mon, August 31, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    Savier Stephens wants his actions to speak before he does.

    I requested an interview with the Falcons’ junior tailback for before practice today. Stephens declined, telling sports information officials that he wants to “do something on the field” before he talks to the press.

    Stephens had a similar reaction when I tried to interview him after a spring practice. “I haven’t done anything yet,” he explained.

    Stephens should get his chance this season. Asher Clark will start at tailback, but Air Force always uses multiple players at that spot. So we should know if the Falcons’ ground game is humming if Stephens is talking by mid-season.

    By the way, expecting the new depth chart soon. Will post it when I get my hands on it.

  • Monday Morning Links

    Mon, August 31, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Game week is here. Finally.

    Two quick links for you this morning: My story that appeared in today’s edition of The Gazette about play-making senior inside linebacker Justin Moore; and an article by SI.com’s Stewart Mandel that I enjoyed.

    Mandel touches on some intriguing week one matchups, including BYU-Oklahoma. This game should be really interesting for Air Force fans for three reasons. One: BYU takes the Mountain West Conference flag into a game against the No. 3 team in the country (and if it gets blown out, however unfair, the MWC’s recently swelled clout will take a hit). Two: Air Force closes with BYU in a game that could mean a lot for the MWC standings and bowl positioning. Three: Air Force at OU next season.

    Mandel also looks at Minnesota (Air Force’s week two opponent) and its game against Syracuse, Navy’s trip to the Horseshoe to face Ohio State, Boise State-Oregon, ‘Bama-Va. Tech and Georgia-Oklahoma State.

    Wow, what an opening weekend.

    One last note. Tried to get the new intro video that will play before the Falcons take the field at home. Sorry. AF is keeping it under wraps until Saturday’s opener. After that, I’ll have it up on the blog.

  • Sunday Morning Links/Mailbag

    Sun, August 30, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Good Sunday morning. Wanted to post a few links and also answer some questions that have been left in the comments section with another round of Mailbag.

    First the links:

    Prior to the preseason, I looked at five pressing questions facing the Falcons and took a stab at some answers. After 24 preseason practices, I feel like I’ve got some much better answers to the questions.

    Also, here’s my notebook from today’s paper, which touches on a variety of topics.

    Finally, check out this preview of the college football season by Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News. It’s a series of “Top 5s,” and a good read. On a personal note, Solomon cut his teeth – like I did – at The Montgomery Journal in Montgomery County, Md. (a paper that no longer exists). Solomon lists Air Force’s Troy Calhoun as a “Top 5 Under the Radar Coach.”

    Mailbag time …

    Q: I take from your post that (senior guard) Nick Charles is close to being ready?
    A: Seems like it to me. He’s still in a red jersey, and he did not participate in any of Saturday’s scrimmage, instead working out with strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan. I don’t see him playing against Nicholls State, just so he can get all the way back (and Calhoun said he’s doubtful). But, like I said, if he absolutely had to play. I’m thinking he could.

    Q: Throughout the summer practices, you’ve had concerns about the kicking game. How did it look today?
    A: Well, first, I think punting will be a strength. Brandon Geyer has looked very good. I wouldn’t have too many concerns about kickoffs either. Place kicking? It looked decent on Saturday but still a bit inconsistent. I expect sophomore Erik Soderberg to be the starter, and he can really drill the ball on occasion. Plus, he played high school playoff games in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, so he’s been on a big stage.

    But we’ll have to wait and see how he reacts to college pressure. Last season, field goals within 40 yards were just about automatic. Can’t say that this season. Yet.

    Q: Are you hearing anything at all about (junior cornerback Reggie) Rembert? His suspension seems so mysterious. Any idea why they won’t just come out and say something?
    A: I’ll answer the second question first: Because policy forbids it. I’ll quote from the story I wrote when I first found out about the suspension.

    “Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth said the academy could not elaborate on the infraction or the length of the suspension because that would indicate the rule Rembert broke and thus violate the federal privacy act.

    Ashworth said Rembert, who will be a junior in the fall, was not facing any criminal charges. An unspecified violation of academy standards often has to do with an academic or military issue.”

    It was the same thing with Ryan Harrison’s suspension a couple years ago – nobody could say how long he’d be out because that (according to the academy) would tip what rule he broke. But that always seemed silly to me because when someone is reinstated from suspension, we’ll have a pretty good timeline. Whatever.

    As for what I’m hearing. Well, here’s what we know on the record: Calhoun has said several times that Rembert will play “a lot” this season. That tells me he clearly will play the majority of the games. And, considering I found out about the suspension last spring, I’d think that rules out a year or even three-quarters-of-a-year suspension. That makes me think, as has been suggested to me by some folks (who were just guessing), that it’s a six-month suspension. If that’s the case, it all depends on when the suspension officially started. Which I don’t know.

    All I can do right now is give a best guess as to the opener. And as I noted in yesterday’s post, Rembert has been practicing lately with the second team. That tells me the coaches (who I’m sure know when he’s coming back) are preparing for the Nicholls State game as if he won’t be in the lineup.

    Q: How did Darius Jones do during the scrimmage (Saturday)? Based on his high school highlights video, I suspect we will see a great deal of him as the season progresses, even though he is a freshman.
    A: Meant to write about Jones yesterday in the blog. I was impressed with how a kid his size (listed at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds) dealt with the contact and the pounding he received. Jones took big licks but each time got right up and lined up for the next play.

    He got crunched for losses on his first two carries (playing with the second offense against the first defense), but when he lined up with the first offense (against the second defense), he broke off a nice 11-yard run.

    When I spoke to running backs coach Jemal Singleton last week, he said he’d prefer not to have to throw Jones into the fire much this season. But if there are injuries to guys ahead of him (Asher Clark, Savier Stephens, Jared Tew), we could see him quite a bit. And if he shows he can put up with the pounding in games, there’s no reason he won’t get some time here and there.

    Q: Any idea when a new depth chart is coming out? Coach Calhoun has been keeping us in the dark?
    A: Unlike last preseason, when Calhoun updated the depth chart a couple times, we haven’t gotten a new one since the start of practice. Until Monday. Calhoun told me last week that he’ll have an updated chart then, and I plan to post it here and on Gazette.com as soon as I can type it out.

    I think I have a pretty good feel for who the starters will be (though it will be interesting to see how he lists Asher Clark – co-starter at QB? No. 2 QB? No. 1 TB? Some combination?). I’m more interested to see how he lists the backups.

  • Practice Wrap – 8/29

    Sat, August 29, 2009 by admin with 5 comments

    Air Force held its final session of preseason scrimmaging at Falcon Stadium today, which means another monster blog post, hopefully chock full of information and semi-coherent analysis. Without further ado …

    Overall Impression
    As I mentioned in my notebook that will appear in tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette, there were plenty of good plays on Saturday (see “Top Players and Plays,” below) but also plenty of mistakes. Specifically fumbles, busted assignments and penalties.

    “It’s got to get cleaned up,” Calhoun said of his team’s overall play. “I think to play at the level that you want to as a team, and to be able to play well next Saturday, it’s stuff that’s got to get fixed.”

    “I think we’re going to be ready to go, judging by today,” sophomore quarterback Tim Jefferson said. “We need to clean up our penalties, and that’s the main thing coach Calhoun was concerned about.”

    News and Notes
    -Rembert Status:
    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun was noncommittal about junior cornerback Reggie Rembert’s status for next Saturday’s opener.

    Rembert was suspended last spring for an unspecified violation of academy standards. While suspended he is allowed to practice but cannot “represent the academy,” meaning he can’t play in games or speak with the media.

    When I asked Calhoun if Rembert would play against Nicholls State, Calhoun said: “We’ll see.”

    When pressed, Calhoun said Rembert had not yet been cleared and that he’d get word through “a chain of command” about when he could play.

    Now, the coaches simply have to know when they’re getting Rembert back. They just aren’t permitted to (and don’t want to) say.

    My take is Rembert will not play in the opener because all his reps in recent practices – and specifically today during the scrimmage – have come with the second-team defense. So I expect Rembert to miss at least the first game. Sophomore P.J. Adeji-Paul was playing corner for the first-team defense in Rembert’s place.

    -Jefferson at the Helm: There’s no question sophomore Tim Jefferson has won back the starting quarterback job. Jefferson took all the snaps with the first-team offense on Saturday. One of his top competitors for the job, sophomore Asher Clark, was back at tailback with the first-team offense and did not take any snaps at quarterback.

    More on TJ and Clark in the “Top Players and Plays” section.

    -Injuries: I wouldn’t count on senior guard Nick Charles for the opener. Charles (hamstring) was in a red jersey at practice.

    “We’ll see,” Calhoun said of Charles. “Right now I’d say probably not in the first game.”

    If Air Force was playing Navy next Saturday, I’m betting Charles could go. Against Nicholls State, I’d expect him to sit. Sophomore A.J. Wallerstein will play in his place.

    In addition, junior outside linebacker Patrick Hennessey did not participate in practice again Saturday because of an injured right shoulder. If he does not play in the opener, freshman Alex Means might start in his place. Means, who has an impressive frame (he’s listed at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds) and has been impressive in camp, looked good Saturday. “He did some good things,” Calhoun said.

    -So Long Larson: Senior defensive tackle Stephen Larson no longer is with the team. Larson, who gave the Falcons a solid veteran reserve, will concentrate on wrestling. Larson is a standout heavyweight.

    “Larson was a huge asset on the defensive line – great player, great guy,” said senior defensive tackle Ben Garland. “With the (knee) injuries that he had, he just felt like wrestling was the best. I think we still have great depth. We have (sophomore Henry) Kehs, and (sophomore Ryan) Gardner’s really looking great. And even if we needed to, (junior Bradley Connor) or (junior Rick) Ricketts could move to nose guard.”

    Top Players and Plays

    - In six possessions with the first-team offense, Jefferson completed 5-of-8 passes for 64 yards (according to the stats I took while walking the sideline).

    Jefferson and Tew botched a handoff, leading to a fumble that the defense recovered, and Jefferson sailed the first pass he threw. But otherwise he was extremely solid. His best moment came on the first-team offense’s second series. Facing a third-and-16 from the defense’s 30-yard line, Jefferson rolled right to avoid pressure and then fired a strike to sophomore receiver Zack Kauth for a gain of 22 yards.

    -Speaking of Kauth, he had another reception for 20 yards. But with the first-team offense running hurry-up at the end of the first “half” of the scrimmage, Kauth lost a fumble after a catch.

    -Clark had five carries for 27 yards.

    -Sophomore Z receiver Jonathan Warzeka carried the ball three times for 36 yards and a touchdown.

    -Junior inside linebacker Ken Lamendola made a bunch of tackles and had a sack.

    -Coaches are excited about freshman safety Brian Lindsay, and it was easy to see why on Saturday.

    Lindsay picked off a pass and also blocked a punt and then scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown. Look for him (and Means) to make big contributions on special teams this season.

    -I wrote in a notebook last week about sophomore cornerback Josh Hall, who has made some “splash plays” in the preseason, according to secondary coach Charlton Warren. Hall is rail thin, and Warren said he probably needed to “move in” with strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan for a while.

    But he sure delivered a big hit on Saturday. Facing the scout offense, Hall sniffed out a pass in the flat, flew to the receiver and delivered a hit that knocked the receiver’s helmet off.

    -Connor Dietz had some nice moments quarterbacking the second-team offense – particularly passes to Drew Coleman and a touchdown pass to tight end Joshua Freeman.

    Other Stuff
    -Game Day Videos:
    Got a glimpse of some of the videos that will be played on game day (including one for The Gazette, which is pretty cool) and the new intro video. The intro video weaves the military and academic aspects of the academy into the first part, then gets to the highlights designed to pump up the crowd. (I’ll try to get a link to it, if possible). It features senior strong safety Chris Thomas.

    -Calhoun on the Defense: Air Force’s first-team defense was mostly good on Saturday, but Calhoun said it isn’t where it needs to be yet.

    “You see some positive signs,” he said. “There’s some aggressiveness there. But we still have too many assignments that just aren’t dead-on. And if they were dead-on we’d create more turnovers and we’d give up less big plays. There were a handful of big plays today that shouldn’t be big plays if we’re assignment sound. But you do see some positive signs there.”

    Calhoun said the strength of the defense would be “right down the middle” – the nose guard (Garland), the inside linebackers (Justin Moore and  Lamendola) and the safeties (Thomas and Jon Davis). I had Thomas for three tackles for losses and Davis for another. That duo could be something special this season.

    -Backups Need to Step up: Calhoun said there were several spots on the field where he needed better play from his backups. He mentioned in particular his safeties, wide receivers and offensive linemen.

    “We’ve got some backups that need to develop and grow up and realize they’re going to have to be contributors for us this fall,” Calhoun said. “I think sometimes what can happen is you can get a mindset that you’re a backup and maybe I won’t play. … You don’t get by only playing 11 on both sides of the ball and only playing 11 on each of your respective special teams.”

    -Returners: Looks like Anthony Wright Jr. will be the Falcons’ starting punt returner and Warzeka and Tew will be the starting deep guys on kickoff returns.

    -Marshall Plan Wouldn’t Work at AFA: And, finally, with all the buzz surrounding Brandon Marshall, the Broncos’ immature, malcontent receiver, I had to ask Calhoun if he’d ever had a player loaf through drills and then punt a ball instead of giving it to a manager.

    “I have not,” he said. “No sir.”

    What would happen, I asked, if a player did that at an Air Force practice?

    “Well I don’t think you’d make it through a day of basic training,” he said. “I don’t think we’d ever get to the football part of it.”

    -And with that, the preseason is a wrap. Bring on the games.

  • Morgan Q and A

    Fri, August 28, 2009 by admin with no comments

    For a look at Air Force’s quarterbacks, please check out my Q and A with Blane Morgan, the Falcons’ QBs coach.

  • A Couple More …

    Fri, August 28, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    … links. I also enjoyed this column by CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd. And it’s never to early to start thinking about going bowling. ESPN.com has its projections here. A third straight year in Fort Worth? We’ll see.

  • Friday Morning Links

    Fri, August 28, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    My main story in today’s edition of The Gazette is about senior Brandon Geyer, who will take over as Air Force’s punter and handle holding duties for the third season. As I point out in the article, those are two pretty thankless jobs – ones that plenty of casual fans probably don’t even think about, let alone notice, until something goes wrong.

    Geyer has been close to flawless as a holder the past two seasons, and – judging by his work in practice – might actually be an upgrade at the punter position this season. That’s not a shot at Ryan Harrison, who did well as a punter. But I think of Harrison as a natural place kicker who also punted. I think of Geyer as a natural punter.

    Also, here’s my notebook, which deals with coach Troy Calhoun’s thoughts on making his coaches Top 25 ballot public.

    And check out a column by David Ramsey on a rising star in the Falcons’ secondary – sophomore free safety Jon Davis.