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  • Couple more Air Force previews before MWC media days

    Mon, July 26, 2010 by admin with 3 comments

    Saw through a heads up from Militarytimes.com (and the Gazette’s Angie DiSalvo) that the New York Times ranked Air Force at No. 48 on its blog, The Quad – although that preview was done by Pre-Snap Read, who also had Air Force at the same spot. Still, if the New York Times puts its stamp on it, we’ll go with it. And prepare to shake your head at this one: The Orlando Sentinel has Army 44th overall, and MilitaryTimes.com says that’s higher than Tennessee, Michigan, Clemson and Notre Dame. The Black Knights return a lot of starters, but that still seems high.

    Just picked up Phil Steele’s annual work of art, his 328-page college football preview (if you’ve never read it, you’re missing out. Only Blue Ribbon does more extensive work … and lucky for you, Blue Ribbon’s Air Force preview is free on ESPN.com). Steele watches an insane amount of games and has great statistical models, which make his work compelling and authentic. He has Air Force as the 47th best team in the nation (Navy is 48th … Army not in the top 52, although Steele rights they have a great shot at a bowl). Steele’s top four in the Mountain West conference are TCU, Utah, BYU and Air Force. Cornerback Anthony Wright is the only Falcon on his All-MWC first team, with fullback Jared Tew (ranked 7th nationally by Steele among all fullbacks in the nation), defensive lineman Rick Ricketts, cornerback Reggie Rembert and kicker Erik Soderberg on the second team.

    Can’t wait for the Mountain West to release its preseason poll and preseason All-MWC teams this week at the media days. As a reminder, Jake and I will be filling up the blog on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’ll be tweeting live (Twitter @GazetteAirForce) any bit of information from Troy Calhoun, the conference’s other coaches and the players there. Should be plenty to talk about.

  • First Look: Army

    Fri, June 25, 2010 by admin with 2 comments

    This is Part 10 of my “First Look” series, in which I take a quick peek at each of the Air Force football team’s 2010 opponents. We move this week to the Falcons’ Week 10 opponent – service academy rival Army.

    Here are links to the First Looks at the Falcons’ first nine opponents: Northwestern State, BYU, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Navy, Colorado State, San Diego State, TCU and Utah.

    ARMY
    Coach:
    Rich Ellerson
    2009 Record: 5-7
    2009 vs. AF: Air Force 35, Army 7
    2009 in a Sentence: The Black Knights just missed becoming bowl eligible under first-year coach Ellerson, but their return to the triple-option offense and performance during the season provided hope that the struggling program might eventually rise.
    Off/Def Starters Back: 8/8
    Roster Report: Army’s defense was fairly stingy in 2009, ranking 16th in the country in total defense (304.7 yards allowed per game) and 35th in scoring defense (21.9 points allowed per game).

    The Black Knights will have to replace a pair of defensive linemen, including tackle Victor Ugenyi, but they should be strong up front with the return of senior defensive end Josh McNary and senior defensive tackle Mike Gann.

    Undersized (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) but speedy, McNary is on watch lists for several awards heading into 2010 after compiling 22.5 tackles for losses, including an Army-record 12.5 sacks, last season. According to the Times Herald-Record, McNary missed spring drills following shoulder surgery.

    As for Gann, Sal Interdonato, the Army beat writer for the Times Herald-Record, wrote on his Black Knights blog that the tackle “is the defense’s heart and soul and will be the key if Army’s defense is going to better its No. 16 national ranking from last year. Right now, he’s the only player on the roster that can create havoc in the backfield as well as engage with two or sometimes three offensive linemen.”

    Army also returns three starting defensive backs and its entire starting linebacker corps from the 2009 squad, including leading tackler Andrew Rodriguez (85 tackles) and senior Stephen Anderson, who had 83 tackles despite missing the last three games of the year with a knee injury he suffered at Air Force. Also look for contributions from senior Kingsley Ehie, who moved to linebacker from fullback.

    Eight starters return from an offense that ranked 16th in the country in rushing in 2009 (203.6 yards per game) but last (120th) in passing (71.8 yards per game).

    One huge plus for the Black Knights is experience under center. Quarterback Trent Steelman became the first West Point freshman to start every game of a season in 2009, leading the team with 202 rushes, 706 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. He also completed 54-of-110 passes for 637 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The experience he banked in 2009 showed in the spring.

    “Trent is much more comfortable in a leadership role and much more comfortable running the offense,” Ellerson said in the Black Knights’ post-spring release. “The reactions and decisions that go along with that position are all so much more intuitive for him.”

    Army didn’t get much from its fullbacks in 2009 (two rushing touchdowns and no runs of more than 26 yards), but that could change with sophomore Jared Hassin expected to jump in as the starter. If the name rings a bell, there’s a reason. Hassin initially came to Air Force, but he left in August of 2008 (barely into his freshman year) after practicing some with the varsity that month. He sat out last year.

    “We have been waiting to get Jared into the mix,” Ellerson said.

    Army returns both its starting slot backs from last season – seniors Patrick Mealy (673 yards, three touchdowns, team-high 6.1 yards-per-carry average) and Jameson Carter (238 yards, two touchdowns) – and could get a contribution from sophomore Malcolm Brown. And up front the Black Knights have four linemen back who started in 2009, and all are seniors.

    The biggest question mark for Army offensively is at receiver, where just two players who combined for five catches in 2009 return.

    Like on offense and defense, Army will have experience on special teams – the Black Knights’ 2009 starting punter (senior Jonathan Bulls), starting place kicker (junior Alex Carlton), starting long-snapper (senior Carson Homme) and kickoff specialist (senior Matthew Campbell) all are slated to return.

    Fast Fact: Army’s offense scored just 18 touchdowns in 12 games in 2009.

    What Caught My Eye: Only four of the coaches on the Army staff are West Point grads. Juxtapose that with Air Force’s staff, which includes 10 Air Force grads.

    I continue to think having a bunch of grads on staff is the way to go for a service academy. It’s huge especially for recruiting because the guys selling the place actually went through it. I’m not quite sure why some coaches at Air Force haven’t followed Calhoun’s lead on this.

    Jake’s Way Too Early Line vs. Air Force: Air Force, minus-7. The Falcons have owned the Black Knights of late, winning four straight and 12 of 13 in the teams’ series. Army will be better and will play the Falcons at home, but Air Force still should be the favorite.

    Final Thought: Since going 10-2 in 1996, the Black Knights have suffered through 13 losing seasons. During that time they went 35-115. And in 10 of the seasons they won three or fewer games.

    But this could be the year the Black Knights creep above .500 and become bowl eligible. Only four of the teams on their 2010 schedule had winning records in 2009 (Temple, Rutgers, Air Force and Navy).

    When Ellerson was hired, Army athletic director Kevin Anderson told the Associated Press that if Ellerson couldn’t turn the program around, “I don’t know if there is a coach who can.”

    I think Ellerson can. In his first season he re-installed the triple-option and put a focus on defense (and a solid ground game with a stingy defense seems to be the formula for service academies). Army might be a year away from a major breakthrough, but I see the Black Knights as a program on the rise.

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, January 31, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force snapped its 22-game losing streak in Mountain West Conference regular season games yesterday, beating Wyoming, 70-63. Junior guard Evan Washington led the way with a career-high 23 points, seven assists and just one turnover. Freshman guard Michael Lyons also chipped in with a nice game.

    Here is the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle’s account of the game and the Casper Star-Tribune’s account.

    My “Rapid Reaction” to the game is in the post below, and David Ramsey – living up to the nickname I gave him, “Mr. Positive” – writes that yesterday was a day of hope for the men’s hoops program. And not only because of what happened at Clune Arena.

    (The women’s hoops program, meanwhile, experienced yet another day of despair. The Lady Falcons were torched by Wyoming, 98-37, on Saturday. That’s right, 98-37. Ninety-eight to thirty-seven.)

    Switching to ice hockey, Air Force skated to a 3-3 tie at Army Saturday.

  • Saturday Morning Links

    Sat, January 30, 2010 by admin with no comments

    The Air Force men’s basketball team is composed of some really nice guys. But are the Falcons too nice on the court?

    I explore in my article in today’s edition of The Gazette. Also, here are my 3 Things to Watch in this afternoon’s game against Wyoming.

    Switching to ice hockey, Air Force lost at Army last night, 4-2.

    Finally, coming next week is an in-depth look at the members of Air Force’s recruiting class. Looks like the Falcons are putting together another good one.

  • Thursday Morning Links

    Thu, January 28, 2010 by admin with no comments

    In today’s edition of The Gazette, hockey writer Joe Paisley takes a peak at the Air Force ice hockey team’s upcoming series at Army and the Black Knights’ difficult venue.

    Gazette columnist David Ramsey also wrote about the venue (third post down) and the Falcons’ new mascot on his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com.

  • Monday Morning Links

    Mon, November 9, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Good Monday morning.

    In today’s edition of The Gazette, Brian Gomez wrote a follow-up story on the Falcons’ 35-7 victory over Army, which includes some bowl possibilities.

    Big thanks to Brian for pinch-hitting for me for the last few days and hitting a few home runs.

    Here’s the game story he wrote on Saturday’s victory, a sidebar he wrote on the presence of ESPN College GameDay and a notebook he wrote that includes thoughts from the Armed Forces Bowl rep at Saturday’s game. Also, here’s a column written by David Ramsey about receiver Kevin Fogler and his long touchdown and a sidebar written by Ramsey on Anthony Wright Jr.’s punt return. Ramsey wrote more about Fogler’s catch and run today in his blog.

    Also, check out SI.com writer Stewart Mandel’s College Football Overtime column and ESPN.com’s updated bowl projections. Both writers still see the Falcons back in Fort Worth.

    Finally, the new BCS, Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls can be found here. My ballot for the AP poll, and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun’s ballot for the coaches poll are below.

    Calhoun’s Ballot
    1. Florida
    2. Texas
    3. Alabama
    4. TCU
    5. Cincinnati
    6. Boise State
    7. Georgia Tech
    8. Pittsburgh
    9. USC
    10. LSU
    11. Ohio State
    12. Iowa
    13. Houston
    14. Utah
    15. Oregon
    16. Oklahoma State
    17. Penn State
    18. Miami
    19. Clemson
    20. Arizona
    21. Virginia Tech
    22. Wisconsin
    23. BYU
    24. Rutgers
    25. Auburn

    Jake’s Ballot
    1. Alabama
    2. Florida
    3. Texas
    4. TCU
    5. Cincinnati
    6. Boise State
    7. Georgia Tech
    8. LSU
    9. Pittsburgh
    10. Miami
    11. Houston
    12. Oregon
    13. USC
    14. Utah
    15. Ohio State
    16. Iowa
    17. Oklahoma State
    18. Penn State
    19. Arizona
    20. Wisconsin
    21. Virginia Tech
    22. Clemson
    23. Auburn
    24. South Florida
    25. Navy

  • BlogDog Takes Air Force – Taking Notes, Corso?

    Sat, November 7, 2009 by admin with 6 comments

    The BlogDog has been dealing with a family issue this week, so he didn’t have time to unleash any more trash talk to ESPN College GameDay’s Lee Corso, who will be unveiling his Air Force-Army pick shortly on TV.

    However, I did speak to Corso yesterday. He gave the BlogDog some props, saying his overall record of 22-13 is “terrific.”

    “That makes him a special picker,” Corso said. “That’s great.”

    However, Corso said he didn’t feel any pressure going head-to-head with Norm.

    “No. No pressure,” he said. “You think it’s pressure? You ought to be at Ohio State and pick Southern Cal. That’s real pressure.”

    Of course, Lee hasn’t come face-to-face with Norm. If he saw this photo, he’d feel pressure.

    dscf4357

    Norm’s Pick: Air Force 20, Army 6
    Norm’s 2009 Season Record: 5-4
    Norm’s Overall Record: 22-13

  • Army Has the Right Guy

    Wed, November 4, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Had a chance today to speak with first-year Army coach Rich Ellerson for a story that will appear in Saturday’s special preview section.

    Enjoyed talking to Ellerson, who really seems like a good fit for West Point.

    He’s a triple-option guru (he worked with Paul Johnson at Hawaii and then ran the offense during a super-successful stint at Cal-Poly), and he’s got Army focused on that scheme.

    He said he’s talked to former Army coach Jim Young, who had a 51-39-1 record from 1983 through 1990, and he’s studied the successes of Fisher DeBerry at Air Force and Paul Johnson at Navy.

    And he’s an old-school guy who won’t make excuses (like Air Force’s Troy Calhoun). Here was his response when asked about playing at altitude this Saturday in The Springs:

    “It’s going to be uncomfortable. Get over it. There’s going to be a lot of talk this week about the trip, the crowd noise, and the altitude. None of those are the challenge. The challenge is Air Force’s football team, and that’s where our focus is. Any of those other things are just a distraction and we are not going to spend 30 seconds on those things. We are going to focus on the challenge, and the challenge is absolutely Air Force’s football team.”

    (Gotta love that. Actually, I enjoyed reading the transcript of his entire press conference this week).

    Moreover, this is Ellerson’s dream job. His father and two of his brothers are West Point graduates, and he told me it’s “an honor” to be the coach there.

    “Obviously it’s a great challenge, but it’s also a special group of young men who have taken on a tremendous opportunity and chosen a different and demanding path, and I get to get my fingerprints on it,” he said. “Professionally, I can’t imagine a greater compliment than to be given the opportunity to participate in the execution of the mission of West Point and develop leaders of character. … If you’re a college football coach and you understand and value what the United States Military Academy is, this has got to be the best job in the world.”

    He’s got a tough task ahead of him, as Army has been woeful for a while. The Black Knights have had 12 straight losing seasons and haven’t won more than four games in any of them.

    But Army – which messed around with some wide-open passing offenses earlier this decade – thinks it has the right guy to revive the program. At the time he was hired, athletic director Kevin Anderson was quoted as saying that if Ellerson can’t turn the program around, “I don’t know if there is a coach who can.”

  • Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, November 4, 2009 by admin with no comments

    I wrote for today’s edition of The Gazette about Army, and how its team this year shares some strengths with Air Force.

    Also, on-line only is my Around the Mounain West Conference notebook, which talks about a game that’s more intriguing than it first appears, how the conference will fill its bowls and more.

    Finally, I always enjoy Pat Forde’s Forde-Yard Dash column.

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, November 3, 2009 by admin with no comments

    I wrote for today’s edition of The Gazette about sophomore tailback Asher Clark, who seems to be rounding into form and might be ready for a breakout performance.

    Also, check out Times Herald-Record writer Sal Interdonato’s Army blog.