2009 Air Force Falcons Football Preview
2008 Record: (8-5, 5-3)
2008 Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl vs. Houston (L 28-34)
Coach: Troy Calhoun (17-9 at Air Force, 17-9 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Clay Hendrix, Blane Morgan and Mike Thiessen
Defensive Coordinator: Tim DeRuyter
Other Key Returnees: OT Chris Campbell, G Nick Charles, WR Josh Cousins, G Peter Lusk, LB Justin Moore, LB Andre Morris, S Chris Thomas, CB Anthony Wright
Key Losses: LB Hunter Altman, TE Travis Dekker, K/P Ryan Harrison, DE Ryan Kemp, S Aaaron Kirchoff, FB Todd Newell, WR Ty Paffett, DE Jake Paulson, C Andrew Pipes, OT Keith Williams
Air Force has reached two bowl games during Coach Troy Calhoun’s two year tenure at the program. While both of those bowls ended in close and painful losses, the Falcons are still headed in the right direction. Few expected Air Force to compete in the Mountain West Conference last year, especially since the conference was so strong, but the team garnered a winning record in conference play. Now the goal is to get to a bowl game and win it.
Air Force's Strengths:
Few teams in the nation run as well as Air Force and that will again be what this team does. Running back Asher Clark is back after rushing for 588 yards as a freshman and he should be in for a big year. The absence of Todd Newell is a concern, but there are a handful of players, most notably Jared Tew who averaged an impressive 6.6 yards per carry in limited action last year, ready to pick up the slack. Quarterback Tim Jefferson was also just a freshman last year and did an admirable job. Air Force, perhaps a little ironically, will not go to the air too often, but Jefferson proved to be a decent decision maker who could make plays with his legs when the passing attack was not functioning. With three linemen returning who started last year, the rushing attack should be just as strong as it was in 2008.
Air Force's Weaknesses:
The defense was a big surprise last year, but it remains to be seen if they can keep it up. Jake Pauslon came out of nowhere and tallied 9.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss. His consistent pressure into the backfield made the entire unit much more effective. Even fellow end Ryan Kemp is gone and now it will be up to nose guard Ben Garland to be the experienced player on the line and the coaching staff has to find a couple new ends who can get pressure on the quarterback. The back eight return six starters, most notably linebacker Ken Lamendola and defensive backs Reggie Rembert and Chris Thomas, but will they be as effective if the front line cannot get pressure on the opposing quarterback?
The Bottom Line for the Falcons:
The offense was pretty young last year and that year of experience should be huge for players like Clark and Jefferson. The Falcons have the potential to put up quite a few points and they are always tough to stop with their dynamic rushing attack. The difference between a good season and an average season will be the play of the defense. If Paulson and Kemp can be replaced relatively effectively, Air Force will be back for their third straight bowl appearance.
By Joel Welser
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