• 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?

  • Post-Spring Two-Deep Chart – Rapid Reaction

    Mon, April 5, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force released an updated two-deep chart today. You can see it in the post below.

    Here are some things that stood out to me after my first glance at it:

    -Despite not participating in most of spring practice because he was recovering from surgery on his right knee, Tim Jefferson is listed as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Connor Dietz, who took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense in the spring, is listed as his backup.

    I think Jefferson made a strong case to cement possession of the starting job with his play late last season, particularly in the bowl game. Still, expect this to be an open competition in the fall.

    -Calhoun did some shuffling with the starting offensive line on the chart, placing A.J. Wallerstein at left tackle and Jason Kons at left guard (I saw them at right tackle and left tackle, respectively, most of the spring) and Tyler Schonsheck at right tackle (I’d seen him mostly at left guard).

    I know they moved those guys around, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they shuffled a bit more in early August.

    -Calhoun went with some generic position listings. As he did last year, he just listed two “WR” spots, instead of a WR-X (for the outside receiver) and WR-Z (for the slot receiver). If he had been more specific, Kyle Halderman would have been listed behind Jonathan Warzeka at the Z spot, while Mikel Hunter would have been listed behind Kevin Fogler at the X spot.

    Also, there are two “RB” spots, instead of “FB” and “TB,” and on defense there are simply three “DL” spots, four “LB” spots and four “DB” spots. Kind of strange.

    -Air Force will have an inexperienced offensive line in 2010, but if these players stay healthy and gain experience, it’ll pay big dividends down the road. Only three of the 10 offensive line starters and backups listed are seniors. Four are sophomores and three are juniors.

    -Interesting to see sophomore Daniel Compton listed as the backup place kicker behind Erik Soderberg. I would think Soderberg is pretty much entrenched as the starting kicker after an outstanding debut season as a sophomore in 2009. But Compton has a powerful leg and could be utilized on kickoffs.

    -The position that seems most in flux is linebacker. So much depends on how guys heal – and how they’re able to work in the weight room and on the track after they heal. Specifically, Air Force needs seniors Ken Lamendola and Patrick Hennessey to be healthy come Aug. 1.

  • Clearing out the Football Notebook – Part 1

    Thu, March 18, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Wanted to get a few things into the blog that I had left over in my notebook from Air Force’s spring football sessions, which ended on Tuesday. I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow.

    Wallerstein to lead way: Air Force coaches are expecting big things from sophomore right guard A.J. Wallerstein, the lone offensive lineman with considerable game experience.

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun noted Wallerstein (at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds) has “a body that often we don’t have here at the academy.

    “But what he has to go with it is he’s a really, really smart football player who enjoys the heck out of being out there. … He’s just got such a good work ethic, and he’s a guy that loves playing football so much that he’s going to make improvement continually. … He’s got a chance to be a really, really good player.”

    Wallerstein is well on his way. Offensive line coach Clay Hendrix said he revisited the grades linemen were given last year after games and Wallerstein “might have played as well as any of those other guys when he played last year.

    “There were quite a few weeks when he graded the highest. And that’s where we got to the point where he played a third of the time (at guard).”

    Lamendola misses spring: Junior inside linebacker Ken Lamendola, whose 2009 season was cut short by a knee injury suffered against Navy, missed all of spring practice after having another surgery on the knee.

    Calhoun said this week that Lamendola has “still got a ways to go.

    “And it can’t be one of those where, all of a sudden on Aug. 20, it’s abra cadabra and, boy, now I feel perfect. He’s got an awful lot of work ahead of him. Now, he’s a guy that’s dedicated and loves football and knows what has to be done in terms of rehab, but not just in terms of rehab but in terms of physically getting himself fit and ready to crunch noggins.”

    There’s no question Lamendola can play through pain. He played nearly the entire 2008 season – from the second week on – with a separated shoulder and a hernia. Despite those injuries he started every game and made a team-high 118 tackles.

    TJ update: Sophomore quarterback Tim Jefferson was held out of most of spring drills as he was recovering from knee surgery. But he participated in some drills the last few practices, including seven-on-seven passing.

    Calhoun said Jefferson didn’t fall behind significantly because of the time he missed.

    Kons Ahead at Left Tackle: Freshman Jason Kons has established himself as the starter at left tackle heading out of the spring.

    Kons, who attended the prep school, began to get time in practice last season.

    “He’s going to be a really, really good player for us,” Hendrix said. “He just needs to continue to develop. … He has a great work ethic and does well in school.”

  • Air Force 59, Wyoming 40 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, March 10, 2010 by admin with no comments

    So where was this team all season?

    The Falcons played with energy and emotion and – gasp – actually seemed to be having fun out there today.

    You could tell by the body language of the players that they were not going to lose this game. Even the guys on the bench – they were on their feet and cheering and celebrating. It was nice to see.

    An obvious reason the Falcons won was they actually hit some shots – something they did rarely in Mountain West Conference regular season play.

    But a bigger reason was defense. Air Force players were flying out to the perimeter to contest Wyoming’s 3-point shots. They were attacking passing lanes and going after errant passes. They were sliding their feet and making it tough for the Cowboys to get into the lane.

    In short, they were just playing nasty defense. The kind of defense Air Force used to play on a night-in, night-out basis.

    “We were really well prepared,” senior forward/center Grant Parker said. “We knew what they were going to do pretty much every single play. We knew their options and what they could possibly run. … I thought energy was a big thing tonight.”

    I asked Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds if his team had its best defensive performance of the season against the Cowboys.

    “I think there were stretches that we were very solid,” he said. “You know, (Wyoming freshman guard) Desmar (Jackson) is so good at getting into the lane. I thought (Air Force senior guard) Avery Merriex came off the bench and did an outstanding job of forcing him to go side to side versus to the basket. I thought Mike McLain did a really good job, as well as Grant.”

    Other Notes:
    -The Cowboys had a lot to do with their demise.

    Playing without starting point guard JayDee Luster, the Cowboys made 13 turnovers and hit just 2-of-16 3-pointers and just 8-of-19 shots from the foul line. Ouch.

    On Wyoming’s second possession of the second half, Desmar Jackson tossed a pass to Ryan Dermody on the right wing. Dermody reached for it with one hand, but it slipped off the hand and out of bounds. It just wasn’t the Cowboys’ day.

    -Speaking of Jackson, he is a talented kid. Especially as a scorer. So smooth and deceptively quick. He just has a knack for getting through traffic, contorting his body and finding a way to force in shots. He’ll be fun to watch in the coming seasons.

    -Play of the day, by far: Freshman guard Todd Fletcher’s drive to the hoop with about 3:26 to play. Wyoming was pressing, but the Falcons beat it, and Fletcher got the ball and took it across halfcourt. Instead of pulling it out and running clock, however, Fletcher saw a lane and exploited it. He went all the way to the rim and scored as he was fouled. He then hit the ensuing free throw to complete a 3-point play that finished off the Cowboys.

    “I made my diagonal cut. I just hear Evan in the background saying, ‘Go, go, attack,’” Fletcher said. “Their big guy was backing up. I had to make a layup. I went in, got hit. Coach says always keep your eyes on the rim and I did and it went in.”

    -I mentioned this in my notebook that will appear in tomorrow’s paper, but I wanted to send give props here on the blog. How ‘bout Ryan Gonzales – senior offensive tackle on the Air Force football team – winning the fan shootout during a break in the action in the first half?

    Gonzales hit a free throw, a 3-pointer and a halfcourt shot to win the competition. And he needed just two tries on the free throw and 3 and four on the halfcourt shot.

    There apparently are some ballers on the football team, including free safety Jon Davis (who played some for the prep school hoops team a few years ago), receiver Kevin Fogler, quarterback Tim Jefferson, receiver Kyle Halderman, outside linebackers Patrick Hennessey and Andre Morris Jr. and some others.

    -Quick, quick, quick turnaround for Air Force. The Falcons will have about 21 hours from the end of their game against Wyoming to tip-off of tomorrow’s game against New Mexico. Until then.

  • TJ Update

    Sat, March 6, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force sophomore quarterback Tim Jefferson has spent most of the Falcons’ first 11 spring practices with strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan and the team’s other injured players.

    Jefferson had surgery in late January to repair the meniscus in his right knee. He tore it in the Falcons’ second game of the season but played the rest of the season with the injury.

    McGettigan puts the injured players through strength- and endurance-building drills with medicine balls while the rest of the team practices.

    “Getting a stronger upper body, at least, with coach Getty, and I think it’s been paying off,” Jefferson said. “He’s been calling me ‘Tebow’ lately because he’s saying my arms have been getting big like his.”

    Jefferson has made a point to join the offense during the “team” portions of practice to get “mental reps.”

    “I come (stand) in the back and get all the plays and watch what everybody’s doing,” he said. “Sometimes I replicate all the steps. So I’m staying mentally involved.”

    Jefferson’s surgery was (relatively) minor for a knee procedure, and his rehabilitation seems to be going well. Jefferson said he started running and has been “feeling pretty good lately.”

    Whether Jefferson will play at all in the spring is uncertain. During the summer he said he wants to work on all parts of his game, including “the mental game,” passing and running.

    “I’ve gotta get my speed back, and I’m going to drop a few pounds and become lighter and quicker on my feet,” Jefferson said.

    Jefferson should be a lot quicker and faster in the fall with a healthy knee.

    “My freshman year, I think I ran the ball pretty well,” Jefferson said. “And I think I ran it much better then than I did last year. So there were glimpses my freshman year of how well I can run. So I think I can be better than that in the future.”

  • No Questioning TJ’s Toughness

    Mon, February 15, 2010 by admin with 2 comments

    Turns out it wasn’t just a gimpy ankle that Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson was playing on for most of last season.

    Jefferson tore the meniscus in his right knee in the second quarter of the Falcons’ season opener but postponed surgery until after the season.

    “It slowed me down a little bit,” Jefferson said Friday. “I wasn’t really running full speed ever since the second quarter of the first game. Other than that, midway through the season I just phased it out and learned how to play with it.”

    Jefferson had a minor procedure to clean up the knee and repair the meniscus on Jan. 27. He has been rehabbing since and said Friday he has “almost gotten full range-of-motion back.”

    Jefferson, who had the same injury in his other knee in high school, likely will be limited in spring practices, which start Thursday. But he said he was excited to be healthy in the fall.

    “Hopefully now I’ll not have any hold backs when I’m running, and I’ll just be able to turn it loose,” he said.

    See my spring preview article (on the offensive line) here and my five story lines to watch (other than the offensive line) here.

  • Football Odds and Ends

    Thu, February 11, 2010 by admin with 8 comments

    Air Force opens spring football practice a week from today, and coming in Monday’s edition of The Gazette will be our spring football preview package.

    But here are some quick notes as the Falcons prepare to hit the field …

    Light at linebacker
    Air Force will be relatively healthy for spring but a trio of potential starting linebackers will miss most to all of the 15 practices.

    Junior inside linebacker Ken Lamendola (knee), junior outside linebacker Patrick Hennessey (shoulder) and freshman outside linebacker Alex Means (foot) all still are rehabbing injuries suffered last season.

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said Lamendola will not participate in spring practice, and that Means and Hennessey could make it back for the end of spring.

    Jefferson limited
    Sophomore quarterback Tim Jefferson “might be a bit limited,” Calhoun said, in spring practice because of his right knee. Jefferson had a minor arthroscopic procedure on the knee to clean it up.

    Position changes
    Junior Bradley Connor has been moved from the defensive line to offensive guard.

    “We felt that was his best chance to get on the field,” Calhoun said.

    In addition, junior Ben Cochran will begin spring practices at safety. Cochran, who was a reserve quarterback last year and took the majority of snaps in the BYU game after Jefferson left with a rib injury, began last fall on defense but was moved back to quarterback early in the season.

    One player who won’t change positions is Asher Clark. The sophomore, who spent last spring and August at quarterback, will be at tailback in the spring.

    With Jefferson limited, Clark at tailback and Cochran back on defense, Air Force’s snaps will be split between sophomore Connor Dietz and freshmen Justin Smith and Tucker Tipton.

    Graduate assistants chosen
    Air Force has selected its graduate assistants for the 2010 season.

    Justin Moore and Nick Charles will assist the academy team, while Chris Thomas and Ryan Gonzales will work with the prep school squad.

    Etc.
    Calhoun said there would be some players who missed practice time for academics, but he did not name any.

    “Every year we’re going to have that because we’re going to make sure that’s understood thoroughly that that’s the priority.” …

    The Falcons’ first practice is set for Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

  • Friday Football Odds and Ends

    Fri, December 11, 2009 by admin with 5 comments

    Some football notes for a Friday …

    -Air Force returned to practice today and began installing its game plan for the Armed Forces Bowl.

    The Falcons will face Houston on Dec. 31 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said his team actually started working a bit on Houston last Saturday in anticipation that the Cougars would be their bowl opponent.

    “We thought it was a little bit of a coin flip,” Calhoun said.

    Calhoun said right now the Falcons have “too much” installed at this point and will “pare it down” once the coaches figure out what schemes they think will work best and which ones the Falcons can best execute.

    -Sophomore quarterback Tim Jefferson practiced and, like last weekend, showed no ill effects of the bruised ribs he suffered in the Falcons’ season finale at BYU on Nov. 21.

    -Sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz, who missed the Falcons’ last four regular season games with a broken bone in his right (throwing) hand, was at practice without a cast on the hand. He didn’t participate in full-speed drills but did some throwing on the side.

    “He’s coming along,” Calhoun said.

    When asked what Dietz had to show him in practice to be considered ready to play in the bowl, Calhoun said: “Just practice consistently. Be firm enough in practice and fast enough and be able to handle the ball consistently enough. If he can get to that point, then, yeah, you’d consider it, but he’s got to be to that point. But he’s still got a little time too.”

    -Freshman outside linebacker Alex Means (foot) will not play in the bowl. “We just want to make sure he can do all of his work in the winter in the weight room and then be able to go through spring ball,” Calhoun said. “He’s a guy that really, really needs spring ball.”

    -Junior slot receiver Kyle Halderman (knee) still is questionable for the bowl game.

    -I mean, I guess the No. 1 pass offense vs. No. 1 pass defense matchup makes the Armed Forces Bowl fairly intriguing. But this intriguing? Pete Fiutak of FoxSports.com ranks the bowls from worst to first. And you won’t believe where he has Air Force-Houston. (Note: He does write that Air Force beat Houston last season in the Armed Forces Bowl).

    -Coming tomorrow: My Heisman ballot.

  • Where Does this Year’s Armed Forces Bowl Rank Among the 34 Bowls?

    Tue, December 8, 2009 by admin with 4 comments

    ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach ranked the college football bowl games from 1 to 34, and SI.com’s Stewart Mandel did the same. They have differing opinions on the Armed Forces Bowl.

  • Saturday Morning Links

    Sat, December 5, 2009 by admin with no comments

    One link today about Air Force football, but it touches on a variety of subjects: Coach Troy Calhoun saying he hasn’t had any contact with Virginia about its head coaching opening; the Falcons returning to practice and looking rusty; and quarterbacks Tim Jefferson and Connor Dietz both participating in yesterday’s session.

    I’m heading to practice in a bit and will have an update from there. Air Force again will concentrate on just shaking off the rust and its own plays and schemes rather practicing for a specific team. The Falcons won’t know their bowl opponent until tomorrow.

    One practice schedule note: After today, the Falcons will practice on Friday (Dec. 11) in the morning and then the Tuesday following.

    Also, Air Force hockey played poorly but beat American International, 5-3, last night. And the basketball team has its first road test this evening at Missouri State. Here are my 3 Things to Watch in the game and a story about junior guard Evan Washington, who has taken on a new role this season.

    Finally, as noted in a post below, I’ve taken the plunge and started Tweeting. You can follow me at twitter.com/jakeschaller.