Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know: For
what seems like the 19th year in a row, Air Force is going to
make an attempt to be more diversified and add some passing to
the mix. This time, under new offensive coordinator Tim Horton,
it might actually happen. Slowly. Running the ball will still be
the team's bread-and-butter, but there will be some shotgun,
some spread, and a mish-mosh of other offenses to try to get
thing moving. Shaun Carney is a good, veteran quarterback to
handle all the changes, but he doesn't have much to work with.
The receiving corps needs work before it can become a threat,
the backfield will be fine in the triple-option, but could
struggle in a traditional set, and the offensive line needs to
undergo major changes.
Passing: Shaun Carney
83-137, 1,192 yds, 12 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Chad Hall
155 carries, 784 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Mark Root
16 catches, 314 yds, 0 TD
Star of the offense: Senior QB Shaun Carney
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior WR
Unsung star on the rise: Senior RB Chad Smith
Best pro prospect: Carney (as a defensive back or running
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carney, 2) WR/RB Chad
Hall, 3) Smith
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, quick tailbacks
Weakness of the offense:
Wide receiver, experienced offensive line
While the entire team will undergo a remodeling job, and the
pieces might not be there to properly run a passing offense the
way the coaching staff might like, at least there's a decent
veteran under center to revolve around. Senior Shaun Carney
has been a better passer than he gets credit for completing
60% of his passes last year with 12 touchdowns and only three
interceptions while finishing second in rushing with 618 yards
and eight scores. He's smart and knows what he's doing, but
he'll have even more pressure on his shoulders with the variety
of things the offense will try to do. Only 5-10 and 190 yards,
he'll make most of his big plays outside of the pocket.
Projected Top Reserves: The backups are designed
to run the option, but 5-11, 180-pound sophomore Eric Herbert
showed a little bit of passing ability in spring ball and
will be groomed to take over next year when Carney is done.
It'll take a year to learn everything the next coaching staff
wants to do, but it won't be a shock if Herbert gets plenty of
time to see some work for the future.
Junior Shea Smith
is yet another quick, smallish quarterback who needs to improve
his passing skills to have a better shot at the number two job.
He hasn't seen any time yet.
Watch Out For ... Carney to have his down moments,
but overall become a better overall fit than expected. He's been
around long enough to be ready to roll in the shotgun or in the
Strength: Quickness. As expected, all the Air Force
quarterbacks can move and all can make plays on the run. There's
more versatility among the three quarterbacks than there might
appear to be as long as they're not asked to throw the ball 55
times a game.
Weakness: Backup experience. Hold your breath every time Carney
takes a shot. Backup running back Jim Ollis is the most
experienced quarterback behind Carney.
Outlook: Carney is a good, efficient passer who'll
tuck and run rather than force something that's not there. As
long as the coaching staff doesn't make him something he isn't,
he'll be more than fine. The backups have to get meaningful
work, even at the expense of disrupting the offensive flow.
Things will be interesting with several different players
getting meaningful work. Senior Chad Hall, last year's
leading rusher, will be in a hybrid role at a Z receiver where
he'll be a pass catcher as well as a runner. Expect him to do
more running than catching. The 5-8-180-pound senior is a
big-play back who can carry the ball 20 times if needed or be
used as a quick third-down back when he lines up in the
The main tailback will be senior Chad Smith, a
career backup who's not going to hit any home runs, but always
gains positive yards and is great at getting around the corner.
The more running he can do between the tackles, the better.
215-pound senior Ryan Williams will handle the fullback
duties after starting five times last year and finishing with
442yards and four touchdowns. He beat up Tennessee for 98 yards
and a score and can be a featured back if needed. He hasn't been
used much as a receiver, but that'll change.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Jim Ollis
was the main backup quarterback option seeing a little bit of
time throughout last year. While he's a good runner, he can't
throw and now will move back to the halfback spot he played as a
sophomore. He's a smart runner who'll know exactly what he needs
Senior Kip McCarthy ran for 60 yards seeing a
little bit of time. He's a good athlete who can carry it a few
times here and there, but he's not a featured back.
senior Scott Peeples is the biggest back in the mix and a
good blocking fullback. While not the runner Ryan Williams is,
he can pound away for a few yards here and there running for 88
last season. He's a true fullback, unlike Williams who could be
used as a big tailback.
Watch Out For ... Chad Smith to be a solid runner,
but not a spectacular one. The coaching staff will be tempted to
make Chad Hall more of a tailback than a receiver, but will need
him outside to run the overall offense it wants to.
Strength: Options. All the Air Force runners are a
variation of the same theme with quick, smallish backs who fight
for hard yards. There are different degrees of quickness and
athleticism, while Williams has to be used more for his power.
Weakness: Anyone who'll scare a defense. Look for defensive
coordinators to be secretly happy that Hall will line up as a
receiver. There's no one else of note in the Falcon backfield.
Outlook: Of the team's two best runners, one is
now a modified receiver and the other is the quarterback. The
tailbacks will crank out yards be default and function, and
while they'll execute their way to productive games against the
mediocre defenses, they'll be stopped cold by the better ones.
Projected Starters: Chad Hall will play the
hybrid of running back and receiver, but for the offense to work
the right way, he has to shine as a receiver. Not big, he's
going to be a quick, short-range target.
On the outside will be
junior Mark Root, the leading returning receiver who
caught 16 passes for 314 yards averaging 19.6 yards per grab.
That was good for second on the team, and now he'll have to be a
number one receiver with Victor Thompson gone. At 6-2 and 195
pounds, he has the size to pose a few mismatch problems and just
enough speed to stretch the field.
At tight end, Travis
Dekker returned and had a solid season after missing all of
2005 hurt. He only caught four passes for 40 yards and a score,
and now he'll be a featured target in the offense. More than
just a safety valve, he has to prove he can get open on a
regular basis and be more than just a blocker.
Projected Top Reserves: If and when Hall is
playing in the backfield, 5-11, 175-pound junior Matt Davis
will step in at the Z. Also a halfback behind used as a
receiver, Davis will do a little of everything with the
potential to make some big plays with some of the best speed on
5-11, 195-pound junior Mike Moffett will backup
Root on the X after making two catches for 13 yards. He has
tremendous deep speed, and now he has to show it off.
blocker so far, 6-3, 230-pound junior Keith Madsen will
back up Dekker at tight end and he has to become a receiver.
Watch Out For ... this to be a major problem. The
Falcons will have to search all over the place for players who
can catch, and that includes the running backs, defensive backs,
and backup quarterbacks. It'll be a work in progress.
Strength: Everyone can block. Don't dismiss this. In the
right set up and passing offense, short pass plays could turn
into big ones with the downfield blocking these receivers can
Weakness: Catching the football. A fundamental issue for
receivers, the Falcons have a bunch of glorified tailbacks
playing receiver and not true receivers. Can the tight ends
actually catch? We'll see soon enough.
Outlook: It'll take a while for the coaching staff
to find the right receivers who can actually do the things
they're supposed to. There isn't anyone who'll throw a scare
into an opposing defense, at least not yet, and no one who'll
demand a double team if Hall doesn't turn into a star. Wanting
to mix up the attack is nice, but Air Force was 118th in the
nation in passing last year and isn't going to immediately start
Projected Starters: Blaine Guenther is the only returning
starter to the line, but he's a good one. After starting every game at
right tackle, the 6-2, 270-pound senior will move to the middle and take
over at center where he was a backup as a sophomore. He's one of the
team's biggest linemen, and he can move.
Taking over at right tackle for
Guenther will be 6-4, 265-pound senior Ryan Zeman, who saw time
as a backup. He hasn't been a starter and needs to quickly become one of
the team's most dependable blockers. He has the experience and a little
bit of quickness to be solid.
Senior Chris Monson will start on
the left side moving over from the defensive side where he made two
tackles. A former tight end, he's an athletic 6-4 and 255 pounds and
The guards are also a bit green with senior Caleb Morris
the most experienced of the bunch having seen time in eight games
missing a little time hurt. At 275 pounds, he's one of the biggest
blockers in the mix and has to live up to the promise he showed a few
years ago when he appeared to be developing into a top all-around
6-4, 280-pound sophomore Nicholas Charles beefed up
big-time over the last year and should be a force at left guard. He
doesn't have any room to get bigger, and doesn't need to if he can stay
mobile. He started in six games and wasn't bad, but made several first
Projected Top Reserves: 6-6, 280-pound senior
Dan Holder might have an awful name for an offensive lineman, but
he's a decent backup and a big body for the rotation at left tackle. He
can play either tackle spot in the rotation.
6-3, 260-pound sophomore
Peter Lusk is a smaller, more mobile option at left guard behind
Charles. Once he sees a little time, he could turn into a reliable
guard, but he's not going to be a tackle.
6-1, 260-pound junior
Andrew Pipes will be groomed to take over the center job next year,
and he could see time right away if Guenther has to move back to tackle.
Watch Out For ... several depth chart and lineup
changes in an attempt to find the right combination. The idea will be to
get the best five linemen on the field at all times, and find spots for
Strength: Mobility. Designed to pull and make plays on
the move, these are technically sound blockers who get down the field
and make big blocks.
Weakness: Experience. There basically isn't any. Guenther and
Charles are the two with any appreciable starting experience. Forget
about any veterans among the backups. It's hard enough for a new line to
jell, and even harder to do when the entire offense is trying to figure
out what it's doing.
Outlook: Air Force always seems to have to make
wholesale changes on the line and things always turn out fine. There's
no experience to rely on and it's going to take a while before this
becomes the steady group that fought through injuries and had a decent
2006. With the big boys of the Mountain West coming up early on the
slate, it could be uh-oh time.