• TCU’s Dalton is older, wiser still

    Tue, July 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, the 2009 Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, was selected by the media as the 2010 Preseason MWC Offensive Player of the Year.

    To which some Air Force fans might say, “That guy’s still at TCU?”

    Yep. When Air Force plays TCU this fall, the Falcons will face Dalton for the fourth time.

    And he’s a far different player than he was in his first clash with Air Force in 2007 – when he threw a critical interception late. Dalton said all his experience has made him better and more mature.

    “I’ve played in a lot of games – I’ve seen it all, basically,” Dalton said. “I’ve played in big games, I’ve played in front of big crowds.

    Dalton said he’s taken on more of a leadership role as he’s gotten older.

    “It’s hard to come in as a freshman and play early and be in the huddle with guys that have played for three or four years and get their respect,” Dalton said. “I definitely tried at that point, but now that I’ll be a four-year starter, I’m more demanding things than telling them.”

  • Aztecs’ Brown ready to roll

    Tue, July 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    San Diego State senior receiver Vincent Brown said Tuesday he has no lingering effects from the thumb injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season.

    “I’m back, 100 percent, ready to go,” Brown said.

    Brown, who was named to the preseason All-Mountain West Conference team, grabbed 45 passes for 778 yards and six touchdowns in the first half of last season.

    A healthy Brown should be part of one of the league’s top passing units. He’ll be joined by receiver DeMarco Sampson (who caught 62 passes for 851 yards and eight touchdowns last season), tight end Alston Umuolo (also a preseason All-MWC selection) and quarterback Ryan Lindley (3,054 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes last season).

    Brown had to sit and watch the Aztecs collapse late last season. They split their first eight games and, at 4-4, were in position to reach a bowl game. Instead, they lost their last four games of the season.

    “The way we finished last year was unacceptable,” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke said.

  • The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Football Team

    Sat, July 24, 2010 by admin with 5 comments

    With great excitement, we present … The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Football Team.

    It’s the best 25 players in academy history, as selected by the Gazette with fabulous input from a panel of former and current Air Force sports information personnel, coaches and players.

    Please check out:

    -At this link, a list of the 25 players on the team, along with an explanation of how the idea for the team came about, an explanation of how the team was chosen and a list of the toughest omissions (the guys we felt worst about leaving off the squad).

    -Capsules for each of the 25 players at this link.

    -A column by David Ramsey on arguably the best player in academy history.

    -If we’ve got an All-Time Air Force Team, who’s going to coach it? Find out here.

    I think we’ve put together a great team. But let us know what you think. You can give us your All-Time Air Force Football Team by following the directions at the end of this link.

    Enjoy.

  • COMING SUNDAY: The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Football Team

    Fri, July 23, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Just a reminder that The Gazette will publish its All-Time Air Force Football team on Sunday.

    The team will consist of 25 players – 11 on offense, 11 on defense and three specialists – chosen by a group of current and former Air Force sports information personnel, coaches, players and observers.

    We’re working on an on-line companion for the team so readers can submit their own picks. More details on that to come.

  • TSN’s Air Force Preview

    Fri, July 23, 2010 by admin with no comments

    The Sporting News Ranks Air Force No. 42 in the nation. Here’s more from the publication about the Falcons.

  • 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?

  • Coming July 25: The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Football Team

    Sun, July 18, 2010 by admin with 9 comments

    Next Sunday, The Gazette will reveal its All-Time Air Force Football Team.

    The team will consist of 25 players – 11 on offense, 11 on defense and three specialists – from throughout the program’s history.

  • First Look: New Mexico

    Fri, July 2, 2010 by admin with no comments

    This is Part 11 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 11 opponent – New Mexico.

    Here are links to the First Looks at the Falcons’ first 10 opponents: Northwestern State, BYU, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Navy, Colorado State, San Diego State, TCU, Utah and Army.

    NEW MEXICO
    Coach: Mike Locksley
    2009 Record: 1-11 (1-7, 8th place in the Mountain West Conference)
    2009 vs. AF: Air Force 37, New Mexico 13
    2009 in a Sentence: A disaster on and off the field for first-year coach Locksley (who was suspended for an altercation with an assistant and accused of sexual harassment, age discrimination and retaliation after firing an administrative assistant) and the Lobos, who edged Colorado State to avoid a winless season.
    Off/Def Starters Back: 6/6
    Roster Report: With the graduation of Donovan Porterie, New Mexico is one of only three MWC teams that won’t have a returning starting quarterback.

    According to The Albuquerque Journal, sophomore B.R. Holbrook emerged during spring practice from a group that also included junior Brad Gruner and senior Tate Smith to become “the clear No. 1 candidate” to replace Porterie.

    But a pair of incoming freshmen, Tarean Austin and Stump Godfrey, should push for playing time. Godfrey was the Texas 3A Offensive Player of the Year last season after throwing for 3,581 yards with 42 touchdowns and six interceptions and rushing for 848 yards and another 22 scores. Austin threw for 2,132 yards with 20 touchdowns and six picks.

    New Mexico has a pair of backs who started games last year in sophomore Demond Dennis and junior James Wright. The explosive Dennis gained a team-high 427 rushing yards and 659 all-purpose yards in 2009. Wright, who is a more powerful runner but still has swiftness, should be familiar to Air Force fans – he had 126 yards and two scores on just five carries in last season’s game against the Falcons.

    New Mexico lost two of its top three receivers but returns sophomore Ty Kirk, who led all MWC freshmen with 427 receiving yards last season. Also back is sophomore tight end Lucas Reed, who caught 17 passes for 212 yards and earned freshman All-American honors.

    There are question marks up front, where the Lobos lost three starters, including Erik Cook, a first-team All-MWC selection last season. Junior Byron Bell, who started every game at left tackle in 2009 and was a freshman All-American in 2010, leads the returners.

    New Mexico should be strong up front on the defensive side of the ball. The Lobos return both starting defensive ends (Jaymar Latchison and Johnathan Rainey, a second-team All-MWC selection in 2009), who combined for 14 sacks last season, and one starting defensive tackle (Peter Gardner). And one of their incoming freshmen, 6-foot-3, 265-pound Calvin Smith, could make an immediate impact.

    Also back is linebacker Carmen Messina, who led the nation in tackles in 2009 with 13.5 per game, and corners Nathan Enriquez and Anthony Hooks.

    Fast Fact: I’ll turn this over to my man Greg Archuleta of The Albuquerque Journal. Here’s a portion of a piece he wrote back in January:

    Locksley points to the team’s improvement over its last five games of the season.

    “We improved in almost every statistical category,” he says.

    The Lobos averaged 14.9 points per game through the first seven weeks, 18.4 in the last five. They averaged 295 yards on offense before, 343.8 after. Defensively they gave up an average of 429.3 yards in games 1-7 and 393 in the final five. Their third-down conversion percentage on offense was just more than 24 in the seven games and 36.8 in the final five.

    Bear in mind, also, that UNM played three ranked teams in the final five weeks and none in the first seven.

    So, yes, that is progress.

    What Caught My Eye: According to the Lobos’ spring practice guide, Locksley “identified several key aspects of Lobo football that he expects to see developed” during the spring. They included the rushing offense and defense, the turnover battle and third-down conversions.

    New Mexico was dreadful in those categories in 2009. And they really are important categories. Below are the Lobos’ stats (and overall ranking among 120 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision squads) in those categories, juxtaposed with Air Force’s.

    Category                    New Mexico                         Air Force
    Rushing offense       100.3 yds/game (110th)       283.5 yds/game (3rd)
    Rushing defense      165.0 yds/game (83rd)         134.0 yds/game (47th)
    Turnover margin      Minus-0.5/game (T-97th)    Plus-1.69/game (1st)
    3rd-down convers    30.1 percent (117th)             44.3 percent (24th)

    Jake’s Way Too Early Line vs. Air Force: Air Force, minus-14.5. New Mexico improved in the final few games of last season and posted its lone victory (29-27 over Colorado State) in its penultimate game. Air Force gets the Lobos late (in the Falcons’ second-to-last regular season game), but even if New Mexico continues to improve, the Falcons should be clear favorites.

    Final Thought: New Mexico couldn’t run the ball or stop the run in 2009. If it can’t do either in 2010, it’ll be another long season. Locksley promises a “more physical” team up front. We’ll see.

  • Questionable Spending at Navy

    Fri, July 2, 2010 by admin with no comments

    An article in The Navy Times looks at how an embarrassing financial scandal at the Naval Academy helped hasten the exit of the school’s superintendent, Vice Admiral Jeffrey Fowler.

    Referring to a copy of an investigation report, the Times noted that academy officials working under Fowler “had created a ‘sham’ bank account.” It was set up, according to the article, “in April 2007, using $95,000 of corporate sponsorship money that the academy received for participation in” a 2006 bowl game.

    The article also stated that other questionable spending probed by the report included “annual spending of $400,000 or more for academy-sponsored tailgate events at fooball bowl games over the past five years.”

  • Odds and Ends from Kickoff Luncheon

    Tue, June 29, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    I attended the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation’s Football Kickoff Luncheon today and was able to talk to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun and Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson.

    I wrote an Air Force piece touching on the linebacker corps and the quarterback situation as well as a story about conference realignment now that the dust has settled.

    Here are some other notes I couldn’t fit in either of the above stories.

    -Calhoun, like Thompson, was glad there wasn’t the massive shake-up of conferences that some had predicted.

    “If I’m a fan you are (happy), absolutely, that there wasn’t a tremendous amount of maneuvering,” he said. “Because I think there are some alliances, competitively, that I think are really healthy for the sport, and I think they need time to develop – it’s not something that happens instantly. I don’t think it happens even within five or six years. I think they take sometimes decades to occur.”

    -I asked Calhoun if he was glad Boise State wasn’t joining until 2011 because of what the Broncos have back this year (all but one starter from last year’s 14-0 squad).

    “It’s probably something you really haven’t thought about a tremendous amount, frankly,” Calhoun said. “The reality is that’s something you’re going to do down the road.”

    Calhoun did say, however, that he would watch Boise closer this year because it will be joining the league in 2011.

    -I noted in my realignment story that – at least football-wise – the addition of Boise and the loss of Utah was pretty much a push.

    “I don’t know if it’s a push,” Thompson said. “I’m thrilled to death with Boise State. I hate to lose Utah. They were a great charter member, did wonderful things, set a lot of standards – BCS, Sweet 16, first-round draft picks, etc., etc. But I’m very optimistic about the future.”

    -Thompson – during both his formal remarks at the luncheon and in an interview with me and Pat Graham of the AP after the luncheon – thanked Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn for his help and information during the crazy days earlier this month when conferences were adding, losing and trying to lure schools from other leagues.

    “You didn’t know who was being truthful and who was not, and I really want to single out Mike Bohn, because he was kind of able to tell me some information from both sides without breaking confidences,” Thompson said.

    -Calhoun said nine schools is an ideal size for a conference.

    “When you play eight league games, you give yourself a chance to have some flavor in your schedule that changes from year to year,” he said.

    -I neglected to follow up on Army fullback Jared Hassin (who originally came to Air Force), as a couple people asked after reading my First Look: Army post (scroll down). Sorry about that. Promise I’ll get to it.

    But I did ask Calhoun about the incoming freshmen – as reader Joe Gray requested. Calhoun said “every single one” of the Falcons’ recruits showed up for basic training.

    “They don’t have gigantic smiles on their faces right now,” Calhoun said. “But I love the spirit of the group. That’s going to be a good group.”

    Calhoun said he wouldn’t be surprised if some of the freshmen earned playing time this year – specifically on the punt block and kickoff cover units. Calhoun said the secondary will get a good influx of talent from the incoming freshmen.

    -One more effect of Utah leaving and Boise State joining the MWC: Air Force’s baseball team will make the 2012 MWC Tournament, no matter what. Because Boise State doesn’t have a baseball team, there will be just six teams in the league. And the league holds a six-team tournament. Recently, Air Force has been the lone team left out of the tournament.