• Utah not focusing on Pac-10 but not ignoring it

    Tue, July 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Representatives of the Utah football program are making what will be their last appearance at the Mountain West Conference football media days.

    Next year, Utah will leave the league and join the Pac-10. It was an obvious topic of discussion Tuesday at the league’s media days at Red Rock Resort. Coach Kyle Whittingham said the Utes couldn’t dwell on the conference switch but couldn’t ignore it either.

    “Our focus right now is right here,” he said. “But it’s looming and you’ve got to prepare for it, starting with recruiting. This class we’re signing right now, we’re getting commitments from right now, is the class that’s going to be competing in that league. So you’ve got to address it. You can’t just completely shut it out.”

  • 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?

  • Willis’ Trouble Adds to MWC’s Difficult Summer

    Wed, June 30, 2010 by admin with 3 comments

    UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis – the second-leading scorer in the Mountain West Conference during the 2009-10 season and the Runnin’ Rebels’ best player – was arrested on Tuesday on multiple charges, including domestic battery by strangulation. Here’s the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s story.

    If Willis is guilty, he could be suspended or kicked off the team at UNLV, adding to an already rough offseason for the MWC.

    New Mexico’s Darington Hobson, the league’s 2009-10 Player of the Year, decided to skip his senior year to enter the NBA Draft (he was chosen in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks), and the Lobos decided not to renew 6-foot-9 forward Will Brown’s scholarship; BYU guard Michael Loyd Jr. left the school; four underclassmen left Utah, including their top two scorers from last season – Carlon Brown, who transferred to Colorado, and talented shooter Marshall Henderson; and Willis’ teammate, 6-8 forward Matt Shaw, was given a one-year suspension for failing a drug test.

    But while the loss of all that talent is bad news for the MWC, it’s good news for a struggling Air Force program trying to become relevant again in the league.

  • Utah Bound for Pac-10?

    Tue, June 15, 2010 by admin with no comments

    With the Big 12 staying together, the Pac-10 now won’t be able to add Texas and Co. and become a mega-conference. And it’s now stuck at 11 teams (with Colorado).

    So it seems extremely likely the Pac-10/11 will try to add one more team. And most folks think that team will be Utah of the Mountain West Conference.

    Here’s The Salt Lake Tribune’s report on Utah’s possible move.

    And here’s The Deseret Morning News’ report.

  • More Football Notes

    Thu, April 22, 2010 by admin with no comments

    The Mountain West Conference’s nine football coaches spoke on a teleconference Wednesday, and I have a monster article with notes from Air Force (specifically concerning the Falcons’ offensive line and linebackers) and other schools (including BYU, Utah, UNLV and Wyoming) that you can find at this link.

    Some additional notes that I didn’t include in the story:

    -Speaking of the Falcons’ offensive, it likely will be even smaller than it appears on paper.

    “They’re not a big group,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “Last year we had four of our five were less than 255 pounds, and I don’t think this group will be bigger.”

    -I wrote earlier this week about Oklahoma, Air Force’s Week Three opponent, in my “First Look” series. You can see the post by scrolling down. I asked Calhoun Wednesday for his initial thoughts on the Sooners.

    “Incredibly talented program,” he said. “And really, if you looked in history of college football over the last, golly, 70 years – national championships, I mean the whole bit. Great, great football program. And yet we know that’s a long ways off. At least for our players.”

    -I thought this comment from Calhoun succinctly captures his philosophy for his program:

    “When you look at it in general, our approach has always been to commit to recruiting, developing and placing very capable guys on defense, while seeking to become a plus-turnover team with a strong running attack and yet at the same time doing a good job in the kicking game too.”

    -Air Force will play host to BYU on Sept. 11 in the second game – and first league contest – for both squads. And BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall isn’t too excited about where the Falcons fall on his team’s schedule.

    “I don’t like it,” Mendenhall said. “Air Force is a very, very good football team, and the way they execute, the way they compete and the nature of their young men, it’s just a formidable challenge. And normally I like to have an idea of who our team is first to try to tailor our schemes and strategies to try to defend probably what is one of the most difficult opponents in college football. And so to have to play Air Force so early and on the road with some of the questions we have remaining at key positions on our team, it will probably the most difficult task we will have had in playing Air Force maybe in the six years now that I’ve been head coach.”

  • Air Force Mostly Absent from All-MWC

    Mon, March 8, 2010 by admin with no comments

    For the second season in a row, Air Force was the only program in the nine-team Mountain West Conference not to have a player make first-, second- or third-team All-MWC.

    Evan Washington was the only Falcon to earn any recognition. The junior guard, who ranked second in the league in minutes per game (33.9) and averaged 10.4 points and a team-high 4.7 rebounds this season, was an honorable mention selection.

    The league’s coaches and selected members of the media vote for the teams and submit ballots with 15 players (five on each team).

    Prior to last season, Air Force had placed at least one player on the first, second or third teams for seven consecutive seasons.

    First Team
    G Jimmer Fredette (BYU, Jr.)
    G Tre’Von Willis (UNLV, Jr.)
    G Dairese Gary (New Mexico, Jr.)
    G/F Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)
    F Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State, Fr.)

    Second Team
    G Ronnie Moss (TCU, Soph.)
    G Jackson Emery (BYU, Jr.)
    F Andy Ogide (Colorado State, Jr.)
    F Roman Martinez (New Mexico, Sr.)
    F Malcolm Thomas (San Diego State, Jr.)

    Third Team
    G Tyler Haws (BYU, Fr.)
    G Desmar Jackson (Wyoming, Fr.)
    G Carlon Brown (Utah, Jr.)
    G/F Chace Stanback (UNLV, So.)
    G/F Jonathan Tavernari (BYU, Sr.)

    Honorable Mention
    Jr. G Evan Washington (Air Force), So. G Phillip McDonald (New Mexico), Jr. G D.J. Gay (San Diego State), Jr. F Billy White (San Diego State), Sr. F/C Zvonko Buljan (TCU), So. G Oscar Bellfield (UNLV), Sr. G Luka Drca (Utah), Fr. G Marshall Henderson (Utah).

    All-Defensive Team
    G Jackson Emery (BYU, Jr.)
    G Dairese Gary (New Mexico, Jr.)
    G Tre’Von Willis (UNLV, Jr.)
    G/F Chace Stanback (UNLV, Soph.)
    C David Foster (Utah, Soph.)

    Player of the Year
    G Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)

    Defensive Player of the Year
    C David Foster (Utah, Soph.)

    Freshman of the Year
    F Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State, Fr.)

    Newcomer of the Year
    G Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)

    Sixth Man of the Year
    F Jonathan Tavernari (BYU, Sr.)

    Coach of the Year
    Steve Alford (New Mexico)

  • Thursday Morning Links

    Thu, February 25, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Coming off a close loss at The Pit, the Air Force men’s basketball team seemed to have a little momentum heading into last night’s home game against struggling Utah.

    That’s gone.

    The Utes beat Air Force, 54-43, at Clune. Senior forward/center Grant Parker took the blame for the loss, even though he scored a game-high 11 points.

    Gazette columnist David Ramsey wrote about a crucial call in the game and Marshall Henderson, Utah’s rising star, in his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/. And I gave my “Rapid Reaction” to the game in the post below.

    Also, here are the game stories from The Deseret Morning News and The Salt Lake Tribune.

    Switching to football, Matt Wallerstedt has replaced Tim DeRuyter as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator. But Wallerstedt, who hasn’t changed the defense, doesn’t look at it as a one-man show. More on the Falcons from yesterday’s practice later today in the blog.

    Finally, hockey writer Joe Paisley gives 3 Things to Watch in Air Force’s weekend series with Sacred Heart.

  • Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, February 24, 2010 by admin with no comments

    So was the Air Force men’s basketball team’s performance in a 59-56 loss at New Mexico on Saturday truly a step in the right direction or just a one-game anomaly?

    We’ll have a lot better idea about the answer to that question after tonight, when the Falcons play host to Utah. The Utes are vulnerable, having lost five of seven, with a rebuilt team that includes one of the most fun players in the league to watch, freshman guard Marshall Henderson.

    Also, here are my 3 Things to Watch in the game.

    Finally, The Deseret Morning News writes that Air Force must be considered a dangerous opponent after its performance at New Mexico. And The Salt Lake Tribune writes that Utah is trying to prepare for the Mountain West Conference Tournament and improve its seed.

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, February 23, 2010 by admin with no comments

    A basketball notebook with a last look at the New Mexico game and updates on Sammy Schafer, Taylor Broekhuis and Tom Fow now is available, on-line only.

    Also, Gazette columnist David Ramsey asked Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds about the people who had criticized the Falcons and, perhaps, inspired them to play well against the Lobos. He has a transcript of their exchange on his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/.

    Air Force faces Utah tomorrow night at Clune Arena. The Utes seem vulnerable, having lost five of their last seven games. Utah coach Jim Boylen, however, believes his team is improving, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

  • Rapid Reaction – Utah 71, Air Force 54

    Sat, January 23, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Grant Parker returned to the Air Force lineup today after missing 10 games.

    That will be helpful to the team.

    It also will be helpful to observers of the team.

    Over the next couple weeks, we’ll start getting a better idea about this Air Force basketball program and what strides – if any – it has made since last season’s debacle.

    It was difficult – and not exactly fair – to judge the Falcons when they had several opening night starters, including their leading scorer, out with injuries.

    With Parker’s return – and, granted, he’s not yet 100 percent – Air Force now is without only center Sammy Schafer and guard/forward Taylor Stewart.

    That’s not ideal, of course, and – granted – it will take a few games for the Falcons to get used to having Parker back in the rotation.

    But the silver lining of the injuries is they’ve allowed some of Air Force’s younger players to get valuable experience. So it’s reasonable to expect the Falcons to improve over the next 11 conference games.

    Other Notes

    -So far, this conference season feels a lot like last conference season. Air Force looks competitive in stretches but eventually loses big.

    The Falcons’ first five conference losses last season came by a total of 77 points. Their first five conference losses this season have come by a total of 89.

    -Utah has quite a player in freshman guard Marshall Henderson. Today he made 6-of-11 shots from the floor (including 4-of-8 3-pointers) en route to a game-high 22 points.

    More than anything, though, I was impressed by his moxie (he didn’t act like a freshman) and his court sense. He just seemed to float to the right place all the time, both on offense and defense.

    -Take away the shooting performances of Michael Lyons (4-of-5) and Evan Washington (3-of-5), and Air Force was 10-of-32 from the floor tonight.

    -A bright spot: Air Force made 17-of-21 free throws. That’s the Falcons’ third-best outing this season and their best when attempting more than 13.