• 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
    Offense

    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.)

    Defense
    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.)

    Specialists
    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?

  • Clearing out the Football Notebook – Part 2

    Sun, March 21, 2010 by admin with 3 comments

    Here are the last few tidbits from Air Force’s spring football practices. For Part 1 of this blog, scroll down.

    Demerath Ready: In addition to replacing all five starters on the offensive line, Air Force has to replace its 2009 starter at tight end, Sean Quintana.

    But junior Chaz Demerath appears ready to take over the position. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Demerath is by no means a neophyte. He played in 11 games last season, starting two, and caught five passes for 25 yards.

    “I’ve been waiting for the chance to get the full role for myself,” Demerath said. “Nothing against (Quintana) or anything like that, but I was ready for my turn.”

    Calhoun said Demerath “had a good spring.”

    Gardner Garners Rave Reviews: As I noted in my Five Spring Developments, which appeared in the paper, sophomore Ryan Gardner had a very good spring and seems ready to replace the outstanding Ben Garland.

    Coaches gave Gardner good marks for his performance in the spring, as did junior defensive end Rick Rickets, the lone returning starter on the defensive line.

    “Ryan’s done really well,” Ricketts said. “I think he’s just come into (spring) camp, and he’s really just taken that spot. There’s really no doubt he’ll be the number one guy going into the fall. He’s also helping out the young guys a lot.”

    Asked what Gardner does well, Ricketts said:

    “He’s not a very big guy, but he’s able to use leverage and get under guys even more than Ben did. He wrestled in high school, and you can really tell that helps him out a lot. Even though he’s really small, he’s been able to man-handle people twice as big – even last year and in the spring.

    Jones Impresses: Freshman tailback Darius Jones made one of the most positive impressions in the spring.

    He ran hard and broke a handful of big runs in scrimmage situations. And he got a lot of work.

    “It was welcome,” Jones said. “I was definitely ready to step up and become a part of this team.”

    Jones said the work he did after the 2009 season with strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan has helped his core strength and improved his balance, speed and acceleration.

    He said in the summer he wanted to continue to work on his speed and cutting ability and also put on some more weight. He’s at about 168 pounds and hopes to add about 10 more.

    Jones said he hoped he and fellow freshman tailback Cody Getz can be the change-up for starter Asher Clark.

    “Hope to be that one-two punch,” Jones said. “And if Asher gets tired we won’t skip a beat when they put in either one of us.”

  • Thursday Morning Links

    Thu, March 4, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force sophomore Asher Clark leads a talented group of tailbacks that could allow the Falcons to operate in 2010 like they did in 2007 – when several different tailbacks had 100-plus-yard rushing games.

    Moving to hoops, Air Force faces San Diego State on Saturday in both teams’ regular season finales. The Aztecs, squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, can’t afford a slip. And they didn’t make one last night, beating Colorado State, 68-55.

  • 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.”

  • Monday Odds and Ends

    Mon, November 16, 2009 by admin with no comments

    -Only one tweak on the new two-deep chart released today: Sophomore Jon Escamilla now is listed as a backup receiver, taking the place of injured junior Kyle Halderman (knee).

    “He got a little bit of work the other night” against UNLV, Calhoun said of Escamilla. “He played right around 20 snaps the other night. And he’s got a good body, and he likes the competition.”

    -Speaking of Halderman, one player I didn’t mention as a candidate to back up starting slot receiver Jonathan Warzeka in Halderman’s absence is Drew Coleman. The freshman played in seven of the Falcons’ first nine games, including the first six, but currently is sidelined with a shoulder injury.

    “He hurt his shoulder,” Calhoun said. “He’s going to be out for at least a couple more weeks, maybe longer, depending on what the severity of it is.”

    -Asher Clark credited his offensive line after rushing for a career-high 160 yards and a career-high three touchdowns last Saturday.

    “There were definitely big holes and there were cut-backs and they only could have been there because they were getting off the ball and getting separation,” Clark said. “The holes that were there were all because of them.”

    Senior center Michael Hampton said today that he appreciated the kudos from Clark, who this morning was named the Mountain West Conference’s co-player of the week. But Hampton admitted Clark did much of the work on his own.

    “That last touchdown run, that was all him,” Hampton said of Clark’s tackle-breaking, multiple cut-back 40-yard run to the end zone in the fourth quarter. “We might have opened up some holes here and there, but you look at that one play right there, kind of the big play of the night for me, that was all him.”

  • Clark Named MWC Co-Offensive Player of the Week

    Mon, November 16, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force sophomore tailback Asher Clark was named the Mountain West Conference’s co-offensive player of the week today.

    Clark shares the honor with Wyoming freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.

    Clark rushed for a career-high 160 yards and scored a career-high three touchdowns on Saturday when the Falcons pounded UNLV, 45-17. His 160 yards were the most by a player in the MWC this season and the most by an Air Force player since Chad Hall ran for 275 yards against Army in November of 2007.

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, November 15, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    Air Force woke up to snow and plenty of bowl scenarios today. The way I see it, the Las Vegas, Poinsettia, Armed Forces and New Mexico Bowls all are in play.

    The reps from bowls with Mountain West Conference ties meet with representatives from each bowl-eligible program this week in Vegas. But there are plenty of dominoes that still need to fall – starting with whether TCU gets a BCS bid (looks like the Frogs will). The next biggest domino is how the Falcons finish next weekend at BYU. Like I wrote last night, that game is monstrous for Air Force.

    Some links:

    My game story on Saturday night’s 45-17 victory over UNLV; my sidebar on sophomore tailback Asher Clark’s breakout game and my notebook, which touches on the offensive line, kicker Erik Soderberg and more, both can be found at this link; David Ramsey’s sidebar on quarterback Tim Jefferson; Ramsey’s column about how it’s time for the Falcons to beat a winner; and my 3 Headlines video.

    Also, here’s the take on the game from the Vegas side, where speculation about Mike Sanford’s future increases.

    Finally, Air Force hockey tied Holy Cross Saturday night, 2-2.

  • FINAL: Air Force 45, UNLV 17

    Sat, November 14, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force guaranteed itself a winning record for the third time in Troy Calhoun’s three seasons with a dominating performance against the Rebels.

    The Falcons gained 557 yards and limited the Rebels to 282 to win for the third week in a row and improve to 7-4 and 5-2 in the Mountain West Conference. UNLV fell to 4-7 and 2-5.

    Air Force sophomore tailback Asher Clark rushed for a career-high 180 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, and sophomore Tim Jefferson completed 8-of-13 passes for 126 yards.

    After getting stuffed on a fourth-and-1 near midfield on the game’s first possession, the Falcons scored the next four times they had the ball – three times driving 80 or more yards for touchdowns – and went to halftime with a 24-3 advantage. UNLV scored mid-way through the third quarter to pull within to touchdowns, but Air Force responded with a nine-play, 72-yard drive capped by Nathan Walker’s 2-yard run.

  • 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.

  • Monday Odds and Ends

    Tue, November 3, 2009 by admin with no comments

    -A couple of minor tweaks to the two-deep chart released today:

    Tim Jefferson is listed as the Falcons’ starting quarterback, and Ben Cochran is listed as his backup with Connor Dietz out with a broken bone in his right hand.

    Asher Clark is listed as the Falcons’ starting tailback. He’d been listed as a co-starter with Savier Stephens the previous few weeks.

    -I’ll be on The Mtn.’s Around the Mountain program tomorrow talking football. The show airs at 7 p.m. and then is replayed at 10:30 p.m.