Air Force Preview 2006
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Does Air Force have one more quirky run left to be had under Fisher DeBerry?

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

DeBerry has long been among the most respected head coaches for what he's been able to do at Air Force. Despite all the recruiting restrictions and the lack of all-around D-I talent that just about everyone else can get, DeBerry has always fielded competitive teams that have occasionally flirted with greatness when all the parts were humming. Unfortunately, things are starting to slide for a variety of reasons.

DeBerry's legacy has taken a sudden turn with controversial comments last season about the need to get more black players and with other issues concerning religion and its place in the football program. On the field, the rest of the Mountain West has gotten so much better that Air Force will find itself having a harder and harder time battling to be in the conference title race. Racial undertones aside, DeBerry was right that his team just can't run with the elite Mountain West teams like last year's TCU squad.

Head coach: Fisher DeBerry
23rd year: 165-101-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 15, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Falcon Players
1. QB Shaun Carney, Jr.
2, FS Bobby Giannini, Jr.
3. DT Gilberto Perez, Sr.
4. LB Drew Fowler, Jr.
5. CB Chris Sutton, Sr.
6. OG Curtis Grantham, Sr.
7. OT Robert Kraay, Sr.
8. FB Jacobe Kendrick, Sr.
9. CB Carson Bird, Jr.
10. RB Chad Hall, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/9 at Tennessee
9/23 at Wyoming
9/30 New Mexico
10/7 Navy
10/12 Colorado State
10/21 at San Diego State
10/28 BYU
11/3 at Army
11/11 Notre Dame
11/18 Utah
11/24 at UNLV
12/2 at TCU

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 4-7

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Wash (Seattle) W 20-17
9/10 San Diego St W 41-29
9/17 Wyoming L 29-28
9/22 at Utah L 38-35
10/1 at Colorado St L 41-23
10/8 at Navy L 27-24
10/15 UNLV W 42-7
10/22 TCU L 48-10
10/29 at BYU L 62-41
11/5 Army :L 27-24
11/19 at New Mexico W 42-24

However, it's not all doom and gloom. As bad as last season's 4-7 campaign might have been, Air Force lost to Wyoming by one, at Utah by three, at Navy by three, and against Army by three. A right bounce or big play here or there, and the Falcons could've just as easily have been 7-4. The hope is for things to tighten up all the way around and force those one or two positive plays that Air Force used to make when it was winning on a consistent basis.

The defense has to stop giving up so many game-changing big plays, the turnover margin (Air Force finished 95th in the nation) has to become a positive, and the offense has to be much sharper. Quarterback Shaun Carney is well on his way to being the greatest passer in the DeBerry era, but he has to get the ground game back to the point where it can hang 300 yards a game on anyone. It only hit the 300-yard mark once last year.

Talent-wise, this isn't DeBerry's best team, but there aren't any problems he hasn't dealt with before. If Carney can take the next step up in his ability to run the attack, and if some reliable receivers and game-breaking running backs can emerge, and if Bobby Giannini and the veteran secondary can slow down the better passing teams just a little bit, then a winning season is more than possible.

The Schedule: It's not horrible even with non-conference games against Tennessee and Notre Dame to go along with the normal games against the other service academies. In conference play, three of the road games are against 2005 bottom feeders Wyoming, San Diego State and UNLV to go along with the regular-season ending rough one at TCU. Utah, New Mexico, Colorado State and BYU all have to come to Colorado Springs; you can't ask for much more than that.

Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Shaun Carney. His passing numbers are likely to take a tumble with the graduation of top receivers Jason Brown and Greg Kirkwood, but he has two years of experience and should be able to run the ground attack more efficiently with a veteran backfield to get the ball to.

Best Defensive Player: Junior FS Bobby Giannini. One of the Mountain West's best all-around defenders, Giannini is a sure tackler and a cornerback-like coverman. He'll have to be a rock early on with two new Falcon Backs (safeties) taking over.

Key player to a successful season: Senior WR Victor Thompson. How can an Air Force wide receiver be the key to anything? With a good passer like Shaun Carney under center, there has to be some threat of the deep ball to open things up for the ground game. With top receivers Jason Brown and Greg Kirkwood gone, Thompson has to fill the void.

The season will be a success if ... Air Force has a winning season. This is probably no better than the sixth or seventh best team in the conference, but the schedule works out nicely with only three games (at Tennessee, Notre Dame and at TCU) that it likely has little chance of winning. Seven wins is a very attainable goal.

Key game: Sept. 23 at Wyoming. The Falcons lost a heartbreaker last year to the Cowboys and could use a little revenge to get off to a positive start in conference play. With two weeks off after the road trip to Tennessee, there will be time to prepare.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Air Force third quarter scoring: 51 - Air Force fourth quarter scoring: 132
- Rushing touchdowns: Air Force 28 - Opponents 28
- Fourth down conversions: Air Force 78% (18 of 23) - Opponents 63% (12 of 19)

The Last Time Air Force…
…played in a bowl game…2002 (San Francisco vs. Virginia Tech)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2003 (Wofford)
…was shutout…1992 (Ole Miss)
…scored 50 points…2002 (BYU)
…went undefeated…1958
…won a conference title…1998 (WAC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2002 (Chance Harridge)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1970 (Ernie Jennings)
…had a first-round draft choice…never

Related Stories
Air Force Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 7, 2006
Air Force Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 7, 2006
Air Force Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 7, 2006

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