When news broke on Tuesday that Air Force was near a deal to bring former assistant Brian Knorr back to the academy, the initial reaction from fans likely was that the Falcons were sticking with the same ol’, same ol’ by bringing in yet another AFA grad to the staff.
This would miss the point.
Yes, Troy Calhoun – himself an Air Force grad – has built a staff of 12 that includes nine graduates. But the knock on the staff isn’t the education or military background, it’s a lack of coaching experience elsewhere. Knorr breaks that mold.
Knorr spent his first three coaching years at Air Force. He then left for Ohio, where he climbed the assistant ladder for several years before becoming the first AFA graduate to become a head coach at a Division I football program there. He then returned as an assistant at Air Force before going to Wake Forest, where he has been for the past six seasons – including the past three years as a co-defensive coordinator.
The rest of Air Force’s staff has relatively little major college experience elsewhere. The 12-person staff of assistants, as it currently stands, has a combined 125 years of experience.
Here’s the breakdown of those 125 years:
- 75 at Air Force and/or USAFA Prep. Half of the staff has coached and played only in the Air Force system.
- 24 at other FBS schools. Steve Russ and Jake Moreland account for 18 of those years, with Moreland spending seven years at Western Michigan and Russ at Ohio (under Knorr), Syracuse and Wake Forest. No other Air Force assistant had a full-time coaching position at a major program, as the others were graduate assistants. Matt Weikert spent one year at Wake Forest in football operations and video.
- 26 at lower levels of football. The bulk of those 26 years belongs to offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Clay Hendrix, who spent 19 years at Furman.
Calhoun’s background includes stops at Ohio, Wake Forest and in the NFL with the Broncos and Texans.
There’s clearly an advantage to having graduates on staff, as no one is better at explaining the mission and expectations of the academy to a recruit than a former player. A salesman job wouldn’t be worth much if athletes were ill-prepared for what awaited them and they did not stick with the program.
In Knorr, Calhoun may have found a coach with both the academy background and experience elsewhere that could bring new ideas and energy to the staff.
Knorr’s defense at Wake Forest ranked No. 33 in the nation in 2013 despite a 4-8 record. Only Florida State and Clemson scored more than 28 points against it, as the rest of the schedule averaged 17.4 points. Army did not score a touchdown against the Demon Deacons.