Some notes from the last couple Air Force football practices:
-Linebackers in limbo: Taking a look around the field at Falcon Stadium today, I saw junior outside linebacker Patrick Hennessey in a red jersey and not in pads; junior inside linebacker Ken Lamendola in a wheel chair (he had another knee surgery); freshman outside linebacker Alex Means with his right foot in a protective boot; and Brady Amack with his left knee wrapped and in a brace.
“Yeah,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said after practice. “Did you see that bottle of Pepto-Bismol in my hand?”
Kidding aside, Wallerstedt said all indications are that the injured linebackers will recover “and we’ll have plenty of time in August to get them revved up.”
But there’s always some worry about how players recover from injuries. Lamendola, in particular, is dealing with a rebuilt ACL.
“Those guys gotta get healthy,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “Those guys have played, so at least they’ve had some experiences. But they’re guys that they better get healthy and they better get healthy in a hurry so they can get in the weight room so they’re ready on Aug. 1.”
The silver lining of the injuries has been getting younger, inexperienced players some reps in the spring. Wallerstedt declined to single out any players but said there are about five or six competing for time both at inside and outside linebacker.
“More numbers than we’ve had since I’ve been here the last couple years that should contribute,” Wallerstedt said.
-Jones, DeWitt, Hall impressing: The player who has made the most attention-grabbing plays so far this spring? Perhaps freshman tailback Darius Jones.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound back out of Atlanta, Ga., ripped off about a 70-yard touchdown run this morning. He’s made a bunch of big runs this spring.
“He has,” Calhoun said. “I thought in our scrimmage last Saturday and today he has had a couple of runs. He’s been a guy that’s come on. And I thought he might this spring. He’s definitely made some strides.”
Calhoun also mentioned freshman fullback Mike DeWitt and sophomore cornerback Josh Hall as players who have stood out in the spring.
“Those are some guys who you see are making some improvements,” Calhoun said.
The 6-1, 215-pound DeWitt played on the Falcons’ junior varsity. Hall saw some time last season on the varsity.
Hall was listed last season at 6-0 and 175 pounds, but the long and lean corner looks like he’s about 120. Calhoun said Hall “would be the perfect redshirt kid,” but noted the sophomore has improved his strength.
“You can just tell he’s so much stronger,” Calhoun said. “Before he was built like the center field foul pole. Where now you can see him. Before you couldn’t see him because he was so skinny.”
Calhoun also said Hall is a “bright kid. He’s through-the-roof sharp.”
-D-line developing: Perhaps the biggest graduation loss the Falcons suffered was that of nose guard Ben Garland. But Calhoun said Saturday that Garland’s potential replacement, sophomore Ryan Gardner, has started to “come to the forefront a little bit.”
Calhoun also mentioned the development of sophomore defensive end Zach Payne.
“Those are guys that you kind of notice that, OK, they’re getting ready to head into their third year,” Calhoun said.