CFN Preview 2013 - Air Force Falcons
Air Force QB Kale Pearson
Air Force QB Kale Pearson
Posted Jun 24, 2013 2013 Preview - Air Force Falcons

Air Force Falcons

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Troy Calhoun
7th year: 47-31
Returning Lettermen: 50
Off. 24, Def. 22, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Air Force Players
1. S Christian Spears, Jr.
2. CB Steffon Batts, Sr.
3. QB Kale Pearson, Jr.
4. DE Alex Hansen, Soph.
5. C Austin Hayes, Sr.
6. WR/RB Ty MacArthur, Sr.
7. CB Chris Miller, Sr.
8. RB Anthony LaCoste, Sr.
9. RB Broam Hart, Jr.
10. DE Joseph Champaign, Jr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Colgate
9/7 Utah State
9/13 at Boise State
9/21 Wyoming
9/28 at Nevada
10/5 at Navy
10/10 San Diego State
10/26 Notre Dame
11/2 Army
11/8 at New Mexico
11/21 UNLV
11/30 at Colorado State
They say that the best way to lose weight and/or get in shape in a hurry is to always change up your routine and shock your body. If you're doing the same exercise over and over and over again, your body supposedly adapts and you don't make any progress, which is why you're supposed to constantly put yourself in slightly uncomfortable workouts to make your muscles work that much harder.

Air Force has been stuck on a treadmill and isn't thinking much about the TRX class.

Consistency is what every program strives for – at least positive consistency - but there comes a point when things start to go a little stale to the point of predictability. It's at those times when the veteran coaching staff can go one of two ways. Either it can keep cranking out decent seasons and hope to catch lightning in the bottle at just the right time, or it can shake things up a bit in an attempt to go from good to great.

Of course, Air Force is always going to be hamstrung by being Air Force. There's just no way the program can ever recruit well enough to play it straight and battle toe-to-toe with the big boys, so it has to work its fantastic rushing offense to throw curveballs week after week. Teams hate to prepare for the option, but the problem has become that the consistency just isn't there because the talent isn't in place. The Falcon defense is always woefully undersized and outmanned, and the offense is painful with the ground game isn't doing what the Air Force ground game is supposed to do. But that's life for a service academy playing major college football. But is it really enough to go to bowl games on a regular basis without really being in the hunt for a conference title?

Unlike Army and Navy – at least for a few more years – Air Force actually has a league trophy to shoot for, but the carrot is getting further and further out at the end of the stick after the Mountain West upgraded and Boise State and San Diego State decided not to go to the American Athletic Conference. Just getting to six or seven wins isn't going to be the lock it usually is.

But even with the concerns, you know what you're about to get – Air Force is going to be Air Force.

The running game is going to average over 300 yards per game as one smallish, quick, smart quarterback graduates and another fills his place. The coaching staff will throw out a slew of 5-9 fast guys to try running behind a line that's built more like an SEC linebacking corps than a big-time offensive front, and the passing game will average about 16 yards per completion on the few times per contest that it throws.

The defense won't get into the backfield and will barely breathe on a quarterback. Meanwhile, the secondary will struggle because of the lack of pressure and the linebacking corps will have to clean up a slew of messes left by the smallish front three.

And why is this all such a sure thing? It's because this is Air Force football year after year.

Head coach Troy Calhoun is fantastic, and there's no question that he's doing a great job with all the constraints, but it would be really, really nice if the team could do everything just a wee bit better and shake things up by challenging for the Mountain West title.

But, again, you know what you're about to get.

What to watch for on offense: The tight ends. Yeah, the Falcons will be all about the running game, but the tight ends can open things up a little bit, too. Air Force utilizes its passing game to take advantage of napping defenses fully loaded to try shutting down the ground game, and even though hitting on the long ball now and then is great, it would be good if there were more midrange targets to play around with. That's where the tight ends come in, and new starting quarterback Kale Pearson will probably love his options. 6-6, 235-pound junior Marcus Hendricks has prototype tools and receiving ability, while Garrett Griffin is like a big receiver and a matchup problem.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. There's a problem when all four linebackers in a 3-4 have to be replaced. The line has enough experience to potentially get by, and the secondary will be a plus if there's any sort of pressure on the quarterback, but the linebacking corps has to come up with four new starting linebackers and the depth to keep everyone fresh. Fortunately, the future is bright and the corps should be outstanding in 2014, but it'll take some growing pains to get there. Considering the line is full of 240 pound defenders, the linebackers have to hold up as well as be more disruptive.

The team will be far better if … it owns the turnover margin. It all ties in together. No pass rush means no disruption. No disruption means few takeways. Few takeaways means problems for the D to pick up the slack when the O can't get the job done. In 2009 the Falcons led the nation in turnover margin giving the ball away just 12 times while the D came up with a whopping 34 takeaways. In 2010 the Falcons managed to finish 31st in the nation and second in the Mountain West in turnover margin. In 2011, the Falcons finished a respectable 59th, but last year the production fell off the map with 21 lost fumbles and eight picks a giant problem when the defense came up with a mere 16 takeaways to finish 106th in the nation in turnover margin. The offense didn't turn the ball over in the first two games of the season, and the rest of the way it gave it up two or more times in every game but two. That has to change.

The schedule: The Falcons will know where they stand early on in Mountain West play with two key division battles against Utah State and Boise State after starting out the year with a non-conference tune-up against Colgate. It doesn't stop from there with more league battles against Wyoming and Nevada before going on the road to deal with Navy. Fortunately, there's a nice midseason run of three straight home games and four in five before closing out at Colorado State. Getting San Diego State and Nevada isn't a huge plus in interdivisional play, but missing Fresno State will help.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Kale Pearson – at least that's the hope. The offense only returns three starters and doesn't have any sure-thing firepower beyond – possibly – receiver/running back Ty MacArthur, but Pearson should have the quickness and decision-making ability to make the offense roll as normal. He'll be the typical efficient, effective Falcon leader under center, but several running backs could vie for the honor of being the team's best offensive player and center Austin Hayes should be in for a big senior season.

Best defensive player: Junior S Christian Spears. For a defense in needs of playmakers, Spears fills the hole in the secondary making 91 tackles last season and doing a little bit against the pass. More than anything else, he's a tone-setter who serves as the last line of defense after the smallish front seven starts to break down. He's the steadiest part of a veteran secondary that could be a strength with a little bit of help with from the rest of the defense.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Dana Luebbe. When the lone defensive tackle and supposed anchor for the defense is 6-3 and 245 pounds, everyone else has to help fill in the gaps. However, Luebbe is a tough, feisty defender with the quickness to potentially zip into the backfield, but he has to be a part of a rotation to hold up. If the run defense is going to be a positive, he needs to play larger than he is.

The season will be a success if … the Falcons win eight games and a bowl. It's been three years since the 9-4 2010 season with a stunning victory over Georgia Tech in the Independence Bowl, but after losing a thriller of a 2011 Independence Bowl to Toledo, and getting ripped up by Rice 33-14 in last year's Armed Forces Bowl, it's time to come up with a post-season victory again. Of course, first the team has to get the bowl appearance. There aren't many layups on the schedule, and coming up with a huge year might be out with dates at Boise State and Nevada to go along with home games against Utah State, San Diego State and Notre Dame, but a seven-win regular season and a bowl victory isn't asking for the world.

Key game: Sept. 7 vs. Utah State. The two programs only met once, a 38-13 Air Force win in 1969, but now the excitement should be there as the new-look, newly-changed conference kicks off the league season with a great matchup. The Falcons are welcoming in the new guys to the league, and they have to be rude. With a road game at Boise State to follow, it'll be almost impossible to not be 0-2 in Mountain division play without beating the Aggies.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Field Goals: Opponents 14-of-19 – Air Force 4-of-10
- Penalties: Opponents 63 for 492 yards – Air Force 44 for 341 yards
- 4th Down Conversions: Air Force 25-of-43 (58%) – Opponents 17-of-30 (57%)
- 2013 Air Force Preview | 2013 Air Force Offense
- 2013 Air Force Defense | 2013 Air Force Depth Chart