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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?

  • All-MWC Football Teams Awards

    Tue, December 1, 2009 by admin with 3 comments

    The All-Mountain West Conference football teams were announced this afternoon, and just one Air Force player – junior cornerback Reggie Rembert – earned first-team honors.

    Six Falcons were named to the second team: Junior fullback Jared Tew, senior guards Nick Charles and Peter Lusk, sophomore kicker Erik Soderberg, senior nose guard Ben Garland and sophomore cornerback Anthony Wright Jr.

    Teams and award-winners are below:

    Offensive Player of the Year: QB Andy Dalton (TCJ, Jr.)

    Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jerry Hughes (TCU, Sr.)

    Special Teams Player of the Year: Ret. Jeremy Kerley (TCU, Jr.)

    Freshman of the Year: QB Austyn Carta-Samuels (Wyoming)

    Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson (TCU)

    First-Team Offense
    QB: Andy Dalton (TCU, Jr.)
    WR: David Reed (Utah, Sr.)
    WR: Ryan Wolfe (UNLV, Sr.)
    RB: Harvey Unga (BYU, Jr.)
    RB: Eddie Wide (Utah, Jr.)
    TE: Dennis Pitta (BYU, Sr.)
    OL: Matt Reynolds (BYU, So.)
    OL: Erik Cook (New Mexico, Sr.)
    OL: Marshall Newhouse (TCU, Sr.)
    OL: Marcus Cannon (TCU, Jr.)
    OL: Zane Beadles (Utah, Sr.)
    PK: Ross Evans (TCU, So.)
    PR/KR: Jeremy Kerley (TCU, Jr.)

    First-Team Defense
    DL: Jan Jorgensen (BYU, Sr.)
    DL: Jerry Hughes (TCU, Sr.)
    DL: Koa Misi (Utah, Sr.)
    DL: John Fletcher (Wyoming, Sr.)
    LB: Carmen Messina (New Mexico, So.)
    LB: Daryl Washington (TCU, Sr.)
    LB: Stevenson Sylvester (Utah, Sr.)
    DB: Reggie Rembert (Air Force, Jr.)
    DB: Rafael Priest (TCU, Sr.)
    DB: Nick Sanders (TCU, Sr.)
    DB: Robert Johnson (Utah, Sr.)
    P: Adam Miller (New Mexico, Sr.)

    Second-Team Offense
    QB: Max Hall (BYU, Sr.)
    WR: Vincent Brown (San Diego State, Jr.)
    WR: DeMarco Sampson (San Diego State, Sr.)
    RB: Joseph Turner (TCU, Sr.)
    RB: Jared Tew (Air Force, Jr.)
    TE: Andrew George (BYU, Sr.)
    OL: Nick Charles (Air Force, Sr.)
    OL: Peter Lusk (Air Force, Sr.)

    OL: Caleb Schlauderaff (Utah, Jr.)
    OL: Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU, Jr.)
    OL: Zane Taylor (Utah, Jr.)
    PK: Erik Soderberg (Air Force, So.)
    PR/KR: Dion Morton (Colorado State, So.)

    Second-Team Defense
    DL: Wayne Daniels (TCU, Jr.)
    DL: Ben Garland (Air Force, Sr.)
    DL: Johnathan Rainey (New Mexico, So.)
    DL: Cory Grant (TCU, Jr.)
    LB: Tank Carder (TCU, So.)
    LB: Mychal Sisson (Colorado State, So.)
    LB: Brian Hendricks (Wyoming, So.)
    DB: Andrew Rich (BYU, Jr.)
    DB: Anthony Wright Jr. (Air Force, So.)
    DB: Tejay Johnson (TCU, Jr.)
    DB: Chris Prosinski (Wyoming, Jr.)
    P: Brian Stahovich (San Diego State, So.)

    Honorable Mention
    Air Force:
    John Falgout (Sr. LB), Brandon Geyer (Sr. P), Ryan Gonzales (Sr. OL), Chris Thomas (Sr. DB).
    BYU: Coleby Clawson (Sr. LB), Brett Denney (Sr. DL), Scott Johnson (Sr. DB), Brian Logan (Jr. DB), Riley Stephenson (Fr. P), R.J. Willing (Sr. OL).
    Colorado State: Adrian Martinez (Sr. OL), Nick Oppenneer (Sr. DB), Cole Pemberton (Sr. OL), Shelley Smith (Sr. OL), Tim Walter (Sr. OL).
    New Mexico: Kendall Briscoe (Sr. DL).
    San Diego State: Davion Mauldin (Sr. KR), Jerry Milling (Sr. LB).
    TCU: Evan Frosch (Jr. TE), Antoine Hicks (So. WR), Jeremy Kerley (Jr. WR), Ed Wesley (Fr. RB), Jimmy Young (Jr. WR).
    UNLV: Jason Beauchamp (Sr. LB), Joe Hawley (Sr. OL), Matt Murphy (Jr. OL).
    Utah: Joe Phillips (Jr. K), Sean Sellwood (Fr. P), Sealver Siliga (So. DL), Mike Wright (Sr. LB).
    Wyoming: David Leonard (Jr. WR), Austin McCoy (So. P), Mitch Unrein (Sr. DL).

  • BYU Wrap

    Sat, November 21, 2009 by admin with no comments

    For the second season in a row, Air Force showed signs that it’s close to breaking into the Mountain West Conference’s elite.

    And for the second season in a row, the final game of the regular season showed how far the Falcons still have to go.

    In 2008, it was a humbling 44-10 drubbing at TCU.

    This season, it was Saturday’s 38-21 drubbing at BYU.

    Don’t let the final score fool you. The Cougars were up 24-0 in the first half and 31-7 early in the third quarter. This one wasn’t close.

    And that was surprising. Yes, BYU has owned Air Force historically (The Cougars have a 24-6 all-time record against Air Force) and especially lately (Saturday’s loss was the Falcons’ sixth in a row to BYU – and all have come by at least two touchdowns).

    But Air Force seemed to match up better with the Cougars because of its standout defense and secondary (the Falcons led the nation in pass defense heading into the game). Not only that, players seemed to be ready to beat the Cougars. And it didn’t seem like bluster. I could be wrong, but I usually can tell when players are just saying they can compete with a heavily favored team and when they actually believe they can compete with a heavily favored team. I really think the Falcons believed.

    That’s what made it surprising – again, not that Air Force lost, but the manner in which they were dominated.

    “I was very surprised,” junior fullback Jared Tew said. “I thought we were going to come out strong and right off the bat it seemed like they had our number and we pretty much weren’t playing our game.”

    “We’re a lot better than we played today,” junior cornerback Reggie Rembert said. “So, yeah, I’m definitely kind of shocked.”

    The one upside of a loss like this is the Falcons still are a relatively young team. Players can learn from mistakes, and they should remember the sting of this blowout. And maybe in the future they can find a way to compete with the Cougars.

    “It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be hard,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said of catching up to the top teams in the conference. “But it’s doable, and it should be doable. That is to be a program that gets up and (will) go play in a game like this and be able to take a game like this right down to the wire and find a way to win it.”

    Other thoughts:
    -It looks to me like either the Armed Forces or New Mexico Bowls for the Falcons.

    Barring a shocking upset loss by TCU in its regular season finale next weekend (at home against woeful New Mexico), the Horned Frogs are heading to a Bowl Championship Series bowl game. Utah and BYU, which will finish second and third in the conference in some order, likely will go to the Las Vegas and Poinsettia Bowls.

    So the Armed Forces and New Mexico Bowls, which share the third pick, will fight over Air Force. I know the New Mexico Bowl badly wants the Falcons (it has for the last couple years). But Armed Forces Bowl reps aren’t opposed to taking them for the third straight year.

    For Air Force? Well, I’m not sure heading to the same bowl site for the third straight season is the best situation for fans. But the Falcons played at New Mexico this year, so if they go to the New Mexico Bowl, it will be their second trip to Albuquerque in four months.

    Recruiting-wise, it’s a no-brainer. Of the 44 players listed as offensive and defensive starters and backups heading into Saturday’s game, 14 are from Texas. Zero are from New Mexico.

    -Ben Cochran’s numbers weren’t too pretty (14 carries, 47 yards; 5-for-18 passing for 88 yards, one touchdown and one interception), but I thought he did really well considering how difficult a situation he faced.

    The guy had played only garbage snaps this season – and remember, he was playing safety in the preseason. But he came into the game in a tough environment with his team trailing the 19th-ranked team in the country 17-0 and handled himself well.

    “I think he played very well,” Tew said. “Coming up in a big situation like that against a Top 25 team, with not that much experience and right when he came in making that big play to (Josh) Cousins, that was huge and definitely gave us a spark. He definitely stepped up and we know we can count on him.”

    -Max Hall was tremendous today. I thought there were times when Air Force had good coverage on receivers, but he put the ball in about the only two foot by two foot space that it could be caught. He completed 19 of his first 22 passes, and one of the incompletions was a drop and another was one he threw away intentionally. That’s astounding.

    I also like the passion with which he plays. He’s fired up, and he loves to play the game and he loves to win – clearly, he’s won more than any BYU quarterback ever. And that’s something.

    So with all that said, he needs to cut out some of the taunting and celebrating and the complaining to the refs that he did after the first touchdown was called back. Plain and simple, he’s too good a player to have to act like that.

    -After writing my article about how Air Force was on pace to set the record for fewest turnovers in a season and that it hadn’t turned the ball over more than twice in a game all season, I wrote in the blog about how nobody believes in jinxes more than me. So, to Air Force fans, I’m sorry.

  • Friday Morning Links

    Fri, November 20, 2009 by admin with no comments

    The Falcons face a huge test Saturday in trying to limit a BYU passing attack that has torched them in recent seasons. But this season’s secondary gives Air Force its best chance in years.

    From the Utah papers: The Provo Daily Herald has a feature on Air Force junior fullback Jared Tew. The Deseret Morning News has an article about the Falcons’ defense. And the Salt Lake Tribune also writes about the Falcons’ defense and how it might serve as an example for BYU’s.

    Shifting to hoops, Air Force’s men’s team kicks off The Reggie Minton Classic tonight at Clune Arena against Dickinson State of the NAIA’s Dakota Athletic Conference. If the Falcons win they’ll play the winner of tonight’s game between Northern Colorado and Texas Southern in the championship game on Saturday. My 3 Things to Watch in the tournament are located at the bottom of my preview story on senior forward Grant Parker.

    Finally, college hockey writer Joe Paisely looks at Air Force ice hockey’s senior assistant captain, Matt Fairchild, in advance of the Falcons’ weekend series at Connecticut.

  • Walker Providing Backup Punch

    Wed, November 18, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Junior fullback Jared Tew leads Air Force in rushing with 715 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns on 193 carries.

    But junior backup Nathan Walker has been giving the Falcons a solid second option at fullback.

    “They’ve been a good combination,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said of Tew and Walker.

    Walker, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound Colorado Springs Christian graduate, has rushed for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 39 carries. Last week he picked up 25 yards and a touchdown on six carries in the Falcons’ 45-17 blowout of UNLV.

    Calhoun said Walker has good running skills but has to become a bit more consistent making catches out of the backfield.

    “He’s a great kid,” Calhoun said. “Hard worker, and next year I think he’ll be even better. He’s only been here two-and-a-half years. We get him into his senior year, and he gets into the weight room, I don’t think he’ll put on a lot of weight, but I could see him putting on six or seven pounds and it all being good strength.”

  • CSU Wrap

    Sat, October 31, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    It’s kind of funny to talk about a breakout passing performance when a team completes seven passes and gains just more than 100 yards through the air.

    But a breakout performance it was for Air Force’s aerial attack when quarterback Tim Jefferson completed 7-of-12 passes for 111 yards and two scores in today’s 34-16 victory over Colorado State at Hughes Stadium.

    Because remember this: In the Falcons’ previous four games they completed just 24 of 54 passes and averaged 46.4 yards through the air. That’s not good enough. Even for an option team.

    Air Force never will be Texas Tech, or anything close to it. But the Falcons do need to take advantage of the play-action opportunities their running game provides. And they need to do enough through the air to keep opponents honest. They did both today.

    Jefferson, back in the starting lineup, looked the best he has all year. He played like he had something to prove, considering Connor Dietz had seemed to have taken over the starting QB role with his performance last week (before it was found Dietz had broken a bone in his hand and will miss at least three weeks).

    Did Jefferson have something to prove?

    “I don’t know,” Jefferson said. “I know that we’ve been trading the starts, and it kind of hurt us when (Dietz) went down because he’s a great player. I don’t think I had anything to prove, I just wanted to go out there and play, and I got the chance.”

    Jefferson ran the offense with a good tempo and showed off his great feel for the option. Jefferson’s pitches always lead backs so they are full speed when they catch them. And he has an innate ability to hold the ball until the last possible moment, often influencing defenders to come off the pitch man to stop him.

    Still, Jefferson made the key play of the game not with his feet but with his arm, hitting Kevin Fogler for 34 yards down the right sideline on a third-and-18 early in the second half.

    While the throw and the catch both were impressive, I was particularly impressed that Calhoun made the call. So many times this season, we’ve seen Air Force run up the middle in third-and-long situations – especially when it’s backed up in its own territory. More than anything else, simply calling for a pass showed Calhoun had the confidence in Jefferson to make a play. That spoke volumes.

    “It was in the game plan,” Jefferson said of the pass. “Coaches told us we were going to have a chance to hit some shots because their secondary wasn’t that strong.  I was glad that he made the call and glad that he had confidence in us.”

    Other Thoughts:
    -Air Force made two plays of more than 30 yards on Saturday – as many as they’d made in their previous seven games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.

    While Air Force is a grind-it-out squad, it never hurts to pick up some big chunks of yardage.

    “There are times you’ve got to grind and make three and four yards on carries, but you just don’t only have to wear your mudder or your plodder shoes,” Calhoun said. “You can wear your other shoes too, where you get up on your toes and go a little bit.”

    -As I wrote earlier this week, sophomore kicker Erik Soderberg has not let his season be defined by his overtime miss at Navy.

    This afternoon Soderberg drilled a career-long 50-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, giving the Falcons a 17-10 advantage at the break after the Rams had scored 10 straight points.

    “It was a good hit,” Calhoun said. “It was a big play, to send you into the half when you’re up by seven and you’re receiving the kickoff in the second half.”

    Soderberg also nailed a 30-yarder, giving him seven straight made field goals since his miss at Navy.

    But he did miss an extra point for the first time this season.

    -Part of the reason Air Force looked better and was able to pick up 382 yards was because players were making things happen with the ball in their hands.

    There was Jared Tew, breaking out of arm tackles. There was Asher Clark, making a spin move to avoid a defender. There was Jonathan Warzeka, beating defenders to the edge.

    “I think we probably broke some tackles today, which we haven’t done a lot of,” Calhoun said. “I think by and large, you look here over about the last month or so, we’ve basically gained yards that were there and that’s it. And what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to have guys that gain more than what’s there.”

    Today, they did.

    -How about the Mohawk worn by senior safety Luke Hyder? I asked Calhoun who gave him the haircut.

    “He’s got a little work to do on it,” Calhoun said. “I don’t think it was his girlfriend. Nor his mom.”