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  • Jake’s Preseason MWC Ballots

    Tue, July 20, 2010 by admin with 9 comments

    I’ve got only a couple more weeks left on the Air Force beat (more on that in a later post), but I plan to sprint hard toward the finish line.

    So I’ll be with Frank in Vegas next week to play blackja – I mean, provide you with all the information that comes out of the Mountain West Conference media days.

    Along with the commissioner’s State of the Conference address, one of the most anticipated aspects of the media days is the release of the preseason MWC poll and preseason All-MWC squad.

    I submitted my ballots today, which you can find below. As I’ve said in the past, preseason squads are kinda tricky. They’re part reward for past performance and part anticipation of future performance. Some value one more than the other. I try to go 50-50.

    Anyhow, without further ado, here’s what I submitted:

    Preseason MWC Poll
    1. TCU
    2. Utah
    3. Air Force
    4. BYU
    5. Wyoming
    6. San Diego State
    7. Colorado State
    8. UNLV
    9. New Mexico

    Preseason All-MWC

    WR – Vincent Brown (San Diego State, Sr.)
    WR – Phillip Payne (UNLV, Jr.)
    OL – Matt Reynolds (BYU, Jr.)
    OL – Marcus Cannon (TCU, Sr.)
    OL – Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU, Sr.)
    OL – Caleb Schlauderaff (Utah, Sr.)
    OL – Zane Taylor (Utah, Sr.)
    TE – Alston Umuolo (San Diego State, Sr.)
    QB – Andy Dalton (TCU, Sr.)
    RB – Eddie Wide (Utah, Sr.)
    RB – Jared Tew (Air Force, Sr.)

    DL – Wayne Daniels (TCU, Sr.)
    DL – Dave Kruger (Utah, So.)
    DL – Johnathan Rainey (New Mexico, Jr.)
    LB – Tank Carder (TCU, Jr.)
    LB – Mychal Sisson (Colorado State, Jr.)
    LB – Carmen Messina (New Mexico, Jr.)
    LB – Brian Hendricks (Wyoming, Jr.)
    DB – Anthony Wright Jr. (Air Force, Jr.)
    DB – Reggie Rembert (Air Force, Sr.)
    DB – Tejay Johnson (TCU, Sr.)
    DB – Andrew Rich (BYU, Sr.)

    P – Brian Stahovich (San Diego State, Jr.)
    K – Ross Evans (TCU, Jr.)
    KR – Jeremy Kerley (TCU, Sr.)

    Offensive Player of the Year: QB Andy Dalton (TCU, Sr.)
    Defensive Player of the Year: LB Tank Carder (TCU, Jr.)
    Special Teams Player of the Year: KR Jeremy Kerley (TCU, Sr.)

    As you can see, I went with three Air Force players on the first team.

    Rembert was a first-team all-conference selection last season, but it could be argued that Wright – who led the Falcons with seven picks – had the better season. I went with both of them, which might be a stretch, but it’s hard to pick one over the other. And I think they’ll form the MWC’s best corner tandem.

    I went with Tew because of how he ended the 2009 season, his potential (I think he can be both a workhorse and a big-play threat) and the fact there aren’t so many obvious standout tailbacks in the league that I thought I needed to select two of them.

    Here are some other Air Force players who could make a push for all-conference honors by the end of the season.

    Strong Contenders:
    -FS Jon Davis. Coaches have always raved about Davis’ potential, and he started to show what he could do last year. Look no further than his ridiculous pick-six against New Mexico (where he weaved through Lobos, absorbed a huge hit at the goal line and still managed to get into the end zone). He might be the best athlete on the team (he played a few basketball games for the prep school a few years ago), he has great instincts and he loves to hit. I predict a breakout year for him in 2010.

    -TB Asher Clark. After struggling in the middle of last season (he gained just 142 yards on 46 carries – 3.1 yards per carry – in games four through eightt), he finished strong (he had 481 on 67 carries – 7.2 yards per carry – and all seven of his touchdowns in the final five games of the campaign. With a healthy knee and the fact he’s not starting the year with thoughts of playing quarterback, he should get off to a better start in 2010.

    K Erik Soderberg. In 2009, his first year as a starter, Soderberg made 38-of-40 extra points and 22-of-30 field goals, including a long of 50 yards, en route to second-team all-league honors. He should be even better this season.

    Other Contenders:
    -G A.J. Wallerstein. If the Falcons’ brand new offensive line comes together and Air Force’s ground game continues to be strong, it likely will have a lot to do with Wallerstein. He got his feet wet in 2008 and last season played considerable snaps as part of a rotation at guard. Big, athletic and very, very smart, he could be a good one for the Falcons.

    -DE Rick Ricketts. He’ll be the leader up front as the Falcons’ lone returning starter on the defensive line. He’s undersized, but he plays with a relentless intensity and has a bit of crazy in him on the field (in a good way). He also always seems to be around the ball and has shown an ability to make plays. Working against him – there are a bunch of quality defensive linemen in the league and Ricketts isn’t a big name in the league heading into the season.

    -OLB Andre Morris Jr. Morris has talent, size and experience. This could be the year he puts it all together and goes from good to great.

    Keep an Eye on:
    -TE Chaz Demerath. Made just five catches for 25 yards last season, and Air Force tight ends had just 11 catches total. But I feel like the tight end will become a bigger part of the offense. It has to, right? And having a more experienced quarterback delivering the ball should help. Demerath’s an athletic kid and there aren’t a whole lot of touted tight ends in the MWC.

    -WR-Z/Ret Jonathan Warzeka. Showed his ability as a returner with the kickoff return for a touchdown in the Armed Forces Bowl. Always has had potential. Now that he’s a junior, he should make a substantial leap.

    -WR-Z Kyle Halderman. Missed more than half of last season with a broken collarbone. But he showed big-play potential as a sophomore.

    -All the LBs coming off injury. Among them are senior inside linebacker Ken Lamendola, senior outside linebacker Pat Hennessey and sophomore outside linebacker Alex Means. All could have big seasons … if they’re healthy.

    Long Shots:
    -WR-X Kevin Fogler. A long shot because Fogler won’t get the opportunity to catch nearly as many passes as the talented receivers at San Diego State, BYU and UNLV. But he’s become a bona fide big-play receiver. Last season he grabbed 25 passes for 567 yards and five touchdowns.

    -QB Tim Jefferson. So many good QBs in the league this year. And Jefferson probably won’t have the stats. But if he runs like he did as a freshman and passes like he did in the Armed Forces Bowl, he could force his way into contention.

    -NG Ryan Gardner. Coaches gave him high marks for his work during spring practices attempting to fill the shoes of Ben Garland.

    With that, I want to hear what readers think. Who should have been on the first team that I left off my ballot? Which Air Force players do you think will make their way onto all-conference? What do you think of the preseason poll? Is Air Force too high, too low or just about right?

  • Post-Spring Two-Deep Chart – Rapid Reaction

    Mon, April 5, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force released an updated two-deep chart today. You can see it in the post below.

    Here are some things that stood out to me after my first glance at it:

    -Despite not participating in most of spring practice because he was recovering from surgery on his right knee, Tim Jefferson is listed as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Connor Dietz, who took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense in the spring, is listed as his backup.

    I think Jefferson made a strong case to cement possession of the starting job with his play late last season, particularly in the bowl game. Still, expect this to be an open competition in the fall.

    -Calhoun did some shuffling with the starting offensive line on the chart, placing A.J. Wallerstein at left tackle and Jason Kons at left guard (I saw them at right tackle and left tackle, respectively, most of the spring) and Tyler Schonsheck at right tackle (I’d seen him mostly at left guard).

    I know they moved those guys around, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they shuffled a bit more in early August.

    -Calhoun went with some generic position listings. As he did last year, he just listed two “WR” spots, instead of a WR-X (for the outside receiver) and WR-Z (for the slot receiver). If he had been more specific, Kyle Halderman would have been listed behind Jonathan Warzeka at the Z spot, while Mikel Hunter would have been listed behind Kevin Fogler at the X spot.

    Also, there are two “RB” spots, instead of “FB” and “TB,” and on defense there are simply three “DL” spots, four “LB” spots and four “DB” spots. Kind of strange.

    -Air Force will have an inexperienced offensive line in 2010, but if these players stay healthy and gain experience, it’ll pay big dividends down the road. Only three of the 10 offensive line starters and backups listed are seniors. Four are sophomores and three are juniors.

    -Interesting to see sophomore Daniel Compton listed as the backup place kicker behind Erik Soderberg. I would think Soderberg is pretty much entrenched as the starting kicker after an outstanding debut season as a sophomore in 2009. But Compton has a powerful leg and could be utilized on kickoffs.

    -The position that seems most in flux is linebacker. So much depends on how guys heal – and how they’re able to work in the weight room and on the track after they heal. Specifically, Air Force needs seniors Ken Lamendola and Patrick Hennessey to be healthy come Aug. 1.

  • Clearing out the Football Notebook – Part 1

    Thu, March 18, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Wanted to get a few things into the blog that I had left over in my notebook from Air Force’s spring football sessions, which ended on Tuesday. I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow.

    Wallerstein to lead way: Air Force coaches are expecting big things from sophomore right guard A.J. Wallerstein, the lone offensive lineman with considerable game experience.

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun noted Wallerstein (at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds) has “a body that often we don’t have here at the academy.

    “But what he has to go with it is he’s a really, really smart football player who enjoys the heck out of being out there. … He’s just got such a good work ethic, and he’s a guy that loves playing football so much that he’s going to make improvement continually. … He’s got a chance to be a really, really good player.”

    Wallerstein is well on his way. Offensive line coach Clay Hendrix said he revisited the grades linemen were given last year after games and Wallerstein “might have played as well as any of those other guys when he played last year.

    “There were quite a few weeks when he graded the highest. And that’s where we got to the point where he played a third of the time (at guard).”

    Lamendola misses spring: Junior inside linebacker Ken Lamendola, whose 2009 season was cut short by a knee injury suffered against Navy, missed all of spring practice after having another surgery on the knee.

    Calhoun said this week that Lamendola has “still got a ways to go.

    “And it can’t be one of those where, all of a sudden on Aug. 20, it’s abra cadabra and, boy, now I feel perfect. He’s got an awful lot of work ahead of him. Now, he’s a guy that’s dedicated and loves football and knows what has to be done in terms of rehab, but not just in terms of rehab but in terms of physically getting himself fit and ready to crunch noggins.”

    There’s no question Lamendola can play through pain. He played nearly the entire 2008 season – from the second week on – with a separated shoulder and a hernia. Despite those injuries he started every game and made a team-high 118 tackles.

    TJ update: Sophomore quarterback Tim Jefferson was held out of most of spring drills as he was recovering from knee surgery. But he participated in some drills the last few practices, including seven-on-seven passing.

    Calhoun said Jefferson didn’t fall behind significantly because of the time he missed.

    Kons Ahead at Left Tackle: Freshman Jason Kons has established himself as the starter at left tackle heading out of the spring.

    Kons, who attended the prep school, began to get time in practice last season.

    “He’s going to be a really, really good player for us,” Hendrix said. “He just needs to continue to develop. … He has a great work ethic and does well in school.”

  • Football Completes ‘Spring’ Practice

    Tue, March 16, 2010 by admin with 2 comments

    Air Force wrapped up its spring football practices this afternoon at Falcon Stadium.

    The Falcons – as they have throughout the spring sessions – ran a bunch of full-contact, live-action, scrimmage-situation plays with the backups getting most of the work.

    Despite all the live action in the spring, the Falcons didn’t sustain too many injuries in their 15 practices.

    Sophomore inside linebacker Brady Amack sprained an MCL and, today, sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Waiwaiole “might have broken a small bone in his hand,” Calhoun said.

    “But other than that we got through it, physically,” Calhoun said. “We had a ton of contact this spring. We probably ran as many scrimmage snaps this spring as probably we have since I got here – but we had to. Just because we had so many new bodies – especially in the offensive line and in the defensive front seven.”

    Among the highlights of the final practice were an on-the-money deep ball from sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz to sophomore receiver Mikel Hunter and a touchdown run of about 70 yards by freshman Wesley Cobb. The lowlights were a bevy of fumbles. …

    Looks like four linemen are emerging on the rebuilt offensive line – freshman left tackle Jason Kons, sophomore center Michael Hester, sophomore right guard A.J. Wallerstein and junior right tackle Chase Darden. …

    Freshman strong safety Brian Lindsay began to emerge in the second half of the spring sessions.

    “I thought Brian Lindsay really made some improvement this spring,” Calhoun said. “Just a little bit better feel for the defense. Playing with some force, physically. And just looking like he was a little more sure of the way he played too.” ….

    Much more from the Falcons’ spring sessions in my spring recap, which will appear on-line tomorrow and in Thursday’s Gazette.

  • Football Odds and Ends

    Wed, March 3, 2010 by admin with 2 comments

    After tomorrow’s practice (at Falcon Stadium at 3 p.m.), Air Force will be two-thirds of the way through its spring football sessions.

    Among the Falcons’ biggest concerns heading into the spring was how they would replace the five seniors who started on the offensive line in 2009. So far it seems the Falcons have made reasonable progress.

    “The thing that you do notice is they play a little bit quicker,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said of his linemen. “They’re a bit more sudden off the ball than they were during the first two or three practices, but they should be too.”

    The Falcons on Wednesday used the same five players as their first-team offensive line as they have throughout spring. From left tackle to right tackle: Freshman Jason Kons, junior Tyler Schonsheck, sophomore Michael Hester, sophomore A.J. Wallerstein and junior Chase Darden.

    Still, Calhoun said “you can foresee that that might not be the same five as you go, day in and day out.”

    -I wrote for tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette about the Falcons’ tailbacks. And while Asher Clark has established himself as the starter, freshmen Cody Getz and Darius Jones both have emerged as potential contributors. Both are tiny guys, however, who need to put on muscle in the weight room.

    “I think after spring will be huge for them, weight-wise, because they’ve got a lot of time from when we finish until we get into the fall,” running backs coach Jemal Singleton said. “So they’ve gotta get stronger.”

    -Getting stronger always is an offseason initiative. But Calhoun said it’s especially important for this group of Falcons.

    “I think the number one area that you see, and it’s probably not just offensive line but across our entire football team is physically, we have to get stronger,” he said. “If you’re going to play guys a little bit early, then what they’re going to have to do is they’re really, really going to have to make some gains in the weight room. And I think that’s one of the things, as soon as we conclude spring ball, you’ve got right around five-and-a-half, six months, where we’ve got to see our guys in their legs or in their back sides where they really, really gain some strength, and then their upper bodies, obviously, too.”

    -Erik Soderberg looked sharp today kicking field goals. Calhoun said he wants the Falcons to make better than 80 percent of their field goals and that he’d ask kickers to do more as far as placing the ball on kickoffs.

    As for whether Soderberg will kick off, Calhoun said: “I think that’s too early to say. (Freshman) Danny Compton’s been pretty good on kickoffs too. And kickoffs might be where he might break through. But we’ll see. Could be a freshman too.”

  • Falcons Open Spring Practices

    Fri, February 19, 2010 by admin with 2 comments

    Sure didn’t feel like spring out at Falcon Stadium this afternoon.

    It was cold and, near the end of practice, some snow began to fall.

    But that’s how Air Force coach Troy Calhoun likes it.

    I wrote for tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette about the Falcons’ offensive line. Though Calhoun noted that the starting spots are written in pencil, here was the group that worked with the first-team offense, from left tackle to right tackle:

    Freshman Jason Kons, junior Tyler Schonsheck, sophomore Michael Hester, sophomore A.J. Wallerstein and junior Chase Darden.

    As I noted in the article, Calhoun would like to find eight players who he can use on a rotating basis (two centers, three guards and three tackles). But I think it will be important for the Falcons to decide on starters and their backups soon. Because one of the reasons the 2009 line was so good was their familiarity with each other. They knew each other’s tendencies and how to play with one another.

    “Yeah, they did,” Calhoun said.

    Calhoun said he isn’t in a hurry to name a starting five. However, he acknowledged that it would be good to establish the rotation “just because there’s so many calls that change as the defense alters, and you’ve got to be able to communicate it instantly.”

    Odds and Ends
    -Sophomore running back Paul Weatheroy, who blew out his left knee in the fall of his freshman season (2008) and then again last spring, was not at practice Monday. Calhoun said Weatheroy still is rehabbing the knee.

    -A real strength of this team could be the secondary. Both starting corners (Anthony Wright Jr. and Reggie Rembert) are back, along with their backups (P.J. Adeji-Paul and Josh Hall). Starting free safety Jon Davis also returns. It appears as if sophomore Phil Ofili will get first crack at replacing Chris Thomas at strong safety.

    -Air Force has cancelled its March 11 practice and instead will practice tomorrow (Friday) at 4 p.m. at the stadium.

  • Football Team Puts 13 on Academic All-MWC Squad

    Thu, February 11, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Thirteen Air Force football players earned academic All-Mountain West Conference honors today.

    The 13 selections tie for the second-most in program history. The 1999 squad set a record with 18 academic all-conference selections. The 2000 and 2006 teams each had 13 selections.

    The Fall 2009 Academic All-MWC team includes 384 student-athletes from football, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country. To be eligible for selection, student-athletes must have completed at least one academic term at the member institution while maintaining a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better, and be a starter or significant contributor on their athletic team.

    Here are the Air Force football players on the team with their majors and, in parentheses, their grade-point averages:

    Senior Nick Charles, Management (3.13)
    Senior Ben Garland, Systems Engineering Management (3.15)
    Senior Justin Moore, Management (3.00)
    Senior Chris Thomas, Management (3.22)
    Junior Keil Bartholomew, Systems Engineering Management (3.20)
    Junior Kevin Fogler, Management (3.60)
    Junior Kyle Halderman, Economics (3.04)
    Junior Tyler Schonsheck, Aeronautical Engineering (3.21)
    Junior Nathan Walker, Systems Engineering Management (3.03)
    Sophomore Jeffrey Benson, Systems Engineering Management (3.38)
    Sophomore Josh Hall, Legal Studies (3.01)
    Sophomore A.J. Wallerstein, Physics (3.26)
    Freshman Olawale Lawal, Undeclared (3.36)