2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Notes from the Last Football Practice of 2009 at AFA

    Wed, December 16, 2009 by admin with 3 comments

    A few odds and ends from today’s football practice …

    -After about six months, Savier Stephens finally has lifted his self-imposed media ban.

    The junior running back decided last spring to refrain from talking to the press because “he hadn’t done anything yet.” And, despite some fairly good outings during the regular season, he continued to decline interview requests from reporters.

    But today after practice, Stephens waited until I’d finished an interview so he could tell me he was ready to start talking again.

    I, of course, joked that I was now not talking to him, which got a laugh from him. But I was curious what brought on the change of heart. It wasn’t that Stephens felt he’d “done anything,” he said, but he did say he felt like he’d “changed some things.”

    “I feel like last year I was playing for the wrong reasons – as far as the center-of-attention-type things,” he said. “I don’t want to say playing selfish, but it affected my performance. This year I don’t feel like I did much better, but my head was in the right place, so I felt like I was out here for the right reasons.

    “I just wanted to feel like I’m not just dead weight,” he continued. “I expected more. I felt I had potential but I wasn’t producing. This year, if you look just blocking-wise and whatnot, and I did have some carries – I didn’t get as many as I would have liked – but I feel like I did better on the whole, mentally and physically.”

    So is Stephens ready for a big senior year?

    “Yes,” he said. “I’m gonna try to keep the same mindset, so hopefully I won’t not talk to y’all (reporters) and just play for the right reasons. I’m just out here for my brothers. I’m going to be a fighter pilot that serves my country, not an NFL player, realistically, so I just have to be out here for the right reasons.”

    Pretty cool to hear that.

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said Stephens had “a solid year,” and added that “just as a young man, it’s been awesome to see how much he’s been able to grow as a person.”

    -Senior strong safety Chris Thomas will play in the East-West Shrine Game, a postseason all-star game, on Jan. 23 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orland, Fla. (See the rosters here).

    The Shrine Game is the oldest of such games, having been played since 1925.

    Thomas was the lone Air Force senior selected to play in a postseason all-star game. Thought the Falcons should have had more guys picked. Ben Garland should have been a no-brainer.

    -One other thing on Thomas – he walked off the practice field today with blood running down his face.

    Not an uncommon sight. So I asked Calhoun if Thomas ever has left a practice without blood on his face.

    “Only a few,” Calhoun said. “That’s when you know the world is in the right kind of balance – whenever Thomas is bleeding.”

    -Today’s practice was the Falcons’ last until Dec. 26, when they reconvene in Fort Worth. Calhoun said his players needed some time off, especially after final exams and a full semester of work. But while a few days off “will be healthy for them,” Calhoun said players have to continue to work out.

    “They’ve got to lift, they’ve got to get out and do some aerobic activity and then be ready to work when we get there,” Calhoun said.

    -Sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz and junior slot receiver Kyle Halderman both practiced in red jerseys today.

    “They’ve been able to move physically,” Calhoun said. “Dietz has been able to throw, and he should be completely cleared when we go down there (to Fort Worth). What I think will be important for all those guys, but certainly those two, will be what they do here in the next 10 days.”

  • Halderman Out

    Sun, November 15, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force junior slot receiver Kyle Halderman will miss at least four weeks with a knee sprain, Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said tonight.

    “We’re going to see exactly what it is here in the next couple of days,” Calhoun said. “I think it’s just a PCL. But right now it’s just a little too early to tell.”

    With Halderman out for Saturday’s game at BYU, Calhoun said he’d have to decide this week who will back up starter Jonathan Warzeka at slot receiver. Calhoun said possibilities include sophomore Jon Escamilla, who played against UNLV, freshman tailback Cody Getz and junior tailback Savier Stephens.

    Getz played some slot receiver earlier in the year before moving to tailback, his high school position.

  • 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.

  • More on the Tailbacks

    Thu, October 29, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    I wrote a bit today on the Falcons’ tailbacks, specifically sophomore Asher Clark and junior Savier Stephens.

    Here are some portions of my conversation with running backs coach Jemal Singleton that I couldn’t include in the story:

    Jake: Do you need more production out of your tailbacks?
    Jemal: Yes. And I’d tell you that if they had over 3,000 yards rushing right now too. I think you’ve got to look at what we’re doing with Asher and Sai. Just this last week was the first week that Asher went under five yards a carry (he’s now at 4.6 for the season). Sai’s still over five yards a carry (5.1). And I tell them, ‘You’re my two-headed monster.’ One rushes for 50, another rushes for 56, then we rushed for over 100 yards at the tailback position. So, saying that, I want more production, I want some bigger plays out of those guys, but you look at the numbers, I think they’re not that bad.

    Jake: Are they getting fewer carries this year?
    Jemal: I think a little bit. Obviously with what (fullback Jared Tew has) been able to do and the tough, hard yards that he’s getting, he’s had more carries than most of our fullbacks have gotten in a long time. …. So, obviously, there are only so many carries you get in a game, and if the fullback’s getting more, someone’s getting less carries. So I think so, but a lot of that’s just the result of some of the things defenses are giving us is allowing him to get some of those hard three- and four-yard carries.”

    Jake: I thought we might see more from Clark after how he played late last season.
    Jemal: You’ve got a freshman that does something, and you think, ‘Oh, sophomore year, it’s going to be great, he’s just going to build on that.’ I think this is one of the places where maybe that’s not always the case. It’s tough as a sophomore, and I’m not making excuses for him, but you talk about his academic work load increases as a sophomore and those kinds of things. I think Savier Stephens is a prime example. You saw him as a freshman, and he showed those flashes, and you just thought, ‘Oh, his sophomore year.’ And it wasn’t what you expected. Asher’s done some good things. And, to be honest, he knows this. I don’t think he played early in the season as good as he needed to play. I thought he did some things that were uncharacteristic of him, and I kind of let him have it about that. But even if you look at Saturday’s game – I know you guys aren’t going to look at it this way because all you see is the 1.9 (yards) a carry – but I looked at some of the carries that he had and some of the speed that he showed on some of those. He had a play on the sideline where he catches a pitch and leaves a couple guys, and he has a play on the sideline where there’s nothing there, and he runs over the safety, and the safety’s laying flat on his back and that safety’s going to be playing in the (NFL). And that’s exactly what I told him today. I said, ‘I will take those ugly, tough-nosed, two-yard carries over an easy four-yard carry every day.’ So he’s showing some things to me these past couple weeks that, hmm, that’s showing some old flashes, some old glimpses of what he’s done. But like you said, he hasn’t gotten 30 carries in a game, it’s just not where we’re at this year.

    Jake: Has he felt any lingering affects from his knee injury, or did the time he spent at quarterback hurt his progression?
    Jemal: Obviously not being able to practice in the spring is huge. It’s funny that you bring this up, but Savier Stephens was the same way – didn’t have a spring his sophomore year. And I think that’s huge for development of a player is getting that spring ball. So any injury that forces you to miss practices is huge. As for him playing quarterback, I don’t think it was much of a problem. If anything it probably kept him a little fresher, (kept him from) getting the hits and those types of things.

    Jake: Will any of the freshmen tailbacks find their way in the mix in the final third of the regular season?
    Jemal: It’s kind of like what I told you before – you don’t want those guys to have to play early, you want them to develop, you want them to get a million practice reps before they have to face live bullets. I think (Cody) Getz, obviously, now that he’s transitioned back to tailback, has helped him. I think you’ve seen some of the flashes that you saw earlier from him. I think that’s his true position. His true position is tailback. I think if you asked the young man that, he’d probably tell you the same thing. That he’s a lot more comfortable there. But I think he’s probably the one that here in the next few games might get splashed in there, might get a chance to play a little bit. But, again, it all depends on what he does at practice, shows that mentally he can handle the game plan and physically he can take care of the football.