Karson Roberts will wear No. 16 for Air Force today. Beyond that, we don’t know a great deal of certainties about this player who may be the most unknown Air Force starting quarterback in recent memory.
He was thrust into the role earlier this week when Jaleel Awini was deemed ineligible as he was no longer in good standing as a cadet for unspecified reasons.
A month ago, Roberts was the third-string QB behind Kale Pearson and Awini. Now it’s his offense.
Roberts has never been interviewed by the media during his time at Air Force, so much about him remains a mystery. However, plenty of online tidbits offer at least a glimpse into who this new Falcons leader is as a person. His Air Force bio notes that he was a National Honor Society member while at Houston’s Clear Lake High School, where he graduated summa cum laude and was a finalists for the Touchdown Club of Houston’s Scholar-Athlete Award. At Air Force he is majoring in engineering, made the dean’s list as a sophomore and spent this past summer in part taking a course in space power applications.
He’s clearly as sharp kid and like Pearson came into the academy directly from high school rather than first attending the prep school.
His bio also notes that he’s a fan of Tim Tebow, the Houston Texans and video games. He’s also the oldest of four children in his family.
As a football player, the 6-foot, 180-pounds Roberts has excelled in the little action he has received. He has run for 14 yards on four carries and has completed 3-of-6 passes for 85 yards and a pair of touchdowns – the only two passing touchdowns Air Force has registered as a team this year compared to 11 for its opponents. Part of that explanation is that Roberts has had the good fortune of being paired with the inexplicably buried-on-the-depth-chart freshman Jalen Robinette, who is likely the team’s best receiver and has hauled in both scoring throws.
In early August scrimmages, Roberts showed command of the offense. Air Force play-by-play radio broadcaster Jim Arthur mentioned on more than one occasion how impressed he was with Roberts’ ability to move the offense, albeit against the third-string Air Force defense (and we’ve all seen what the first-string Air Force defense has looked like this year). My own comparisons were to former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite, while putting Awini in the role of Chris Simms – the larger, more “prototypical” and physically gifted alternative to Applewhite.
In high school, Roberts bounced around between offenses. His first three years were spent in a triple-option scheme, then his senior year a new coach brought in a spread offense and Roberts played quarterback for the first few weeks before shifting to running back.
He ran for 2,045 yards over his junior and senior seasons with 14 touchdowns, averaging 5.96 yards per carry.
Clear Lake was not particularly successful during Roberts’ time, going 0-10 his senior season.
At the signing ceremony where he committed to Air Force, Roberts told “The Citizen,” that “to serve my country is a big reason I’m going and to have a job guaranteed after graduating is huge.
“I’m very excited and looking forward to it.”
Roberts went on to talk about his position future at the academy.
“Even though I played a lot of running back this year, I got recruited as a quarterback,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of exciting to go back to that. But running the spread a little bit my senior year…it’s the best of both worlds.
“Air Force does throw the ball so that’s definitely going to help me.”
His coaches, as coaches tend to do at such ceremonies, praised Roberts.
“Air Force is getting a great kid in Karson,” said Tony Aduddell, Roberts’ coach through his junior season told the paper. “He had a great year this year at running back, and he’s just the total package.
“He’ll do what you ask him to do. He’s got a good head for football, and he’d be successful anywhere they run the option.”
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun made it a point to include Roberts every time he spoke about the quarterback position through August. Pearson and Awini were clearly locked in a battle for the top spot, but Calhoun – if he were to mention any of them by name – would talk about all three. The assumption was that Roberts would see time only in mop-up situations, and that’s how things played out over the first four weeks (Air Force hasn’t had a game decided by fewer than 22 points and Roberts has seen action in all four).
Roberts was not eligible to be interviewed by the media during August as freshmen and sophomores are off limits during that time. He also hasn’t been requested during the season, as non seniors and juniors have been available just twice for midweek interviews and the three requested during those times have included primarily starters. No access is granted after Tuesday’s pre-practice press conference, and it was on Tuesday that Awini first missed a practice, signifying that something was happening.
And sorry fans, but if Roberts goes down and is replaced by freshman Nate Romine, the Falcons will have a QB we know even less about.
Here’s Romine’s recruiting bio that we ran this past February, just so you’re not going in entirely blind:
Measurable: 6-0/195, QB, Upland, Calif.
Notable: Led Upland to a 12-1 record as a senior and a 24-2 overall mark as a starter, never losing a game in the regular season. As a senior passed for 2,728 yards with 22 TDs and 10 INT; also ran for 1,039 yards and 13 TDs on 132 carries.
Quotable: “He’s the most dynamic dual threat guy I’ve ever had. I’ve never seen one of my players do what he did in that capacity.” – Upland HS coach Tim Salter to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin