Preview 2008 - Offense
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2008 Air Force
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What you need to know: The
team's top six runners, top two pass catchers, and the four-year
starting quarterback are all gone, so this is a total rebuilding
year, right? Maybe not. The system under Troy Calhoun is sound
enough to plug the pieces in to the right holes and get the same
productions. At least that's the hope. As always, there are
loads of small, quick backs to choose from, with Ty Paffett the
likely heir apparent to Mountain West Offensive Player of the
Year, Chad Hall, but the big concern is at quarterback where
several players will battle to take over for Shaun Carney with
two likely to rotate. Which two will remain a bit of a question
mark until the season gets rolling. The offensive line should be
one of the team's early strengths with a good starting five to
Passing: Shea Smith
4-12, 45 yds,
Rushing: Savier Stephens
36 carries, 148 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Travis Dekker
25 catches, 382 yds, 2 TD
Star of the offense: Senior WR/RB Ty Paffett
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Eric Herbort (or any of the other QB options)
Unsung star on the rise: Paffett
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Travis Dekker
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Paffett, 2) Dekker, 3)
OG Nick Charles
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, quick tailbacks
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback experience, wide
Projected Starter: While 5-11, 180-pound
junior Eric Herbort
looks like the typical Air Force running quarterback, and he
can turn out to be just that, he could take over the starting
job early on because of his passing skills. He has yet to see
any game action, but he's been a good passer in practices and
could become, at the very least, a situational option.
Projected Top Reserves: Replacing a four-year starter like Shaun Carney is never easy,
but the offense has a veteran in the system to potentially rely
senior Shea Smith. He got a little bit of playing time
last year completing four of 12 passes for 45 yards and running
for 39 yards, but that might not mean much with more talented
players behind him. He'll get the early starting nod to use his
experience to bridge the overall offensive gap with so many new
starters in the mix, but he could eventually get move to running
back to use his tremendous quickness in a different role. While
he's fast with fantastic running skills, he's not a passer.
A trio of sophomores Will McAngus, Ryan Campbell
and Ben Cochran will all get an equal shot at the
starting job. The 6-1, 190-pound McAngus is a tall speedster who
spent last year as the No. 3 quarterback in the mix, Cochran and
Campbell are each around 6-0 and 200 pounds with the requisite
running skills, and if either of the two can separate from the
pack and become a passer, the job is his.
Also an option for the near future, if not sooner, will be
Nick Green, a real, live pro-style passer who can also run a
little bit. While he'll have to run like all Air Force
quarterbacks do, his job, when he gets in, will be to throw and
provide a different look.
Watch Out For ... A two-quarterback system. With
little or no experience to rely on and with so many young options to
choose from, the coaching staff will likely take the best
qualities from each of the players and use them as needed. The
question is which quarterbacks will get the work.
Strength: Potential. This could be one of the best
batches of quarterbacks the program has ever had. While there
have been some terrific players throughout the years, there
haven't been so many who could be developed into starting
Weakness: Experience. There isn't any. Yeah, Smith has seen
a little bit of time, but not enough to be comfortable. There's
going to be a bit of a learning curve for all the quarterbacks
as a pecking order get developed.
Outlook: In time, the quarterback situation will
be excellent. There are six players to choose from with everyone
getting a shot at the starting gig. However, there isn't a
sure-thing reliable No. 1 leader to work around this off-season,
and that's a big problem going into the fall.
It'll be a work in progress as the coaching staff will likely
rotate a few options depending on the situation, but the job is
wide-open for someone to swoop in and grab it.
Taking over for do-it-all running back and receiver Chad Hall at
the Z position is Ty Paffett, a 5-11, 180-pound senior
who ran for 123 yards and four touchdowns, highlighted by a
73-yard dash against San Diego State, and caught three passes
for 12 yards. The one-time corner made 20 tackles as a sophomore
before moving over to the offensive side in 2006. Injuries cut
short his season, but he was given the equivalent of a medical
redshirt and an extra year. Now he has to take advantage of the
shot and he has the skill to do it. He might not be Hall, but he
has a lot of the same skills and quickness.
5-11, 190-pound sophomore Savier Stephens, when he's back
from a hernia problem, will take over
for second leading rusher Jim Ollis at tailback after rushing
for 148 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role. Unlike Ollis,
Stephens can be used a bit as a receiver, even though he has yet
to catch a pass, and he has even more home run potential.
Stephens is a running back; Ollis was a former
Stepping in for Ryan Williams at fullback is Todd Newell,
who's a near mirror-image size-wise. The 5-10, 210-pound senior
played in every game and became more of a factor late in the
year, mostly as a blocker, He made a catch for six yards against
Notre Dame and ran for 63 yards, but his role will mostly by as
a blocker. Williams only ran for 220 yards and caught just two
Projected Top Reserves: Working along with Paffett
at the Z will be sophomore Kyle Halderman, another
smallish, lightning quick player who'll do a little of
everything for the offense. He'll be groomed to be the main man
for next year as he tries to keep Paffett fresh.
5-10, 190-pound junior
Brenton Byrd, who ran for 39 yards on 13 carries, will
see some time as a backup running back, but will likely spend
most of his time in the defensive secondary. While he didn't get
a whole bunch of work, that was mainly because he was lost in
In the backup mix at fullback is Ryan Southworth, a
bigger option at 225 pounds. With his size, he could quickly
find a niche as a short-yardage runner, but he'll only be used
as a blocker when he get in.
The most interesting X factor could be cornerback Reggie
Rembert, the team's best athlete and top kick returner.
While he won't give up any of his defensive duties, the coaching
staff will try to find the speedster a few offensive plays just
to get his wheels on the field more. Watch for him to be used as
an occasional runner and receiver.
Watch Out For ... Paffett. To call him a wide
receiver is a little like calling the Air Force quarterback a
passer. The Z position is about running as much as catching the
ball out of the backfield, and considering the ridiculous
workload Chad Hall took on last year with 280 touches, Paffett
could be in for a big year.
Strength: The system. Lose a slew of quick 5-10, 190
pound runners, replace them with more 5-10, 190-pound runners,
give or take an inch and a few pounds. Few programs are able to
plug-and-chug players to a specific position like Air Force
does. The players make the engine go, but the system gives them
a chance to succeed.
Weakness: Experience. The top six runners including QB Shaun
Carney are gone. yes, Air Force is able to quickly fill in the
holes, but there's bound to be a bit of an adjustment period
with so much turnover.
Outlook: It'll be interesting to see just how much
the coaching staff sticks with what works. Paffett is
supposed to be an inside receiver, but he'll be a running back
who happens to catch passes in Hall's old role. Ollis
was a good tailback who wasn't used enough, but Stephens
could turn out to be much better after getting a little while to
learn the job. The key this year will be to spread things out a
bit and not just pound the Z position (Paffett) into the ground.
It's a miracle Hall survived after getting 230 yards and
catching 50 passes. The rating is based on how the players will
produce in the system and not on talent.
Projected Starters: The passing game has a key piece
back in 6-4, 245-pound senior tight end Travis Dekker, an
honorable mention All-Mountain West performer who would be a
much bigger factor in any offense that threw the ball more than
214 times a year. Hurt all of 2005, he returned to catch four
passes for 40 yards and a score. With the coaching change came
the move to make him more of a featured target, and it worked as
he made 25 grabs for 382 yards and two touchdowns. Now he
offense has to find ways to get the ball in his handed even more
after underutilizing him during the middle of the season.
There's no reason for him to get only one catch in five games
The hope is for 6-1,
195-pound senior Spencer Armstrong to be healthy enough
to be a key part of the rotation at the X after missing a big
chunk of last year with a hamstring injury. A fantastic deep
threat when healthy, he averaged 22.7 yards per catch on three
grabs including a 48-yard touchdown against Army.
Projected Top Reserves: Returning to the outside X
position is Sean Quintana, a
6-2, 205-pound senior who finished fourth on the team with eight
catches for 67 yards and a touchdowns. It took him most of the
season, but he ended up starting late in the year and now needs
to be a field stretcher for the few times a game the offense
puts the ball deep.
6-3, 230-pound senior Keith Madsen was mostly a blocker,
and then he had to fill in for a few games getting three tight
end starts and making five catches for 49 yards and two
touchdowns. A 23-game veteran, he can step in for Travis Dekker
and and be more than just serviceable, but he's not the same
type of receiver.
An interesting option at the X is sophomore Kevin Fogler,
a 6-6, 200-pound leaper who gives the offense another dimension.
While he's not polished and he isn't going to be a No. 1 target
quite yet, he has the potential to grow into a major producer,
and the measurables to be hard to match up against.
Watch Out For ... Fogler. The coaching staff
really does want to get the passing game going on a regular
basis, and Mark Root showed that a wide receiver can produce in
the attack with 28 catches for 385 yards and two touchdowns.
Watch for Quintana and Armstrong to start being used as decoys
and occasional home run hitters, while Fogler is used more and
more as the year goes on.
Strength: Tight end. The Air Force passing game is about
two things: 1) stretching the field once in a while so the
running game has more room, and 2) surprising defenses with a
short pass to keep the chains moving. Dekker is good
enough to be featured as more of a weapon, and not just a
change-of-pace target, while Madsen is a decent veteran
who can play.
Weakness: Wide receiver. For what the offense needs,
Quintana and Armstrong are functional. They have just
enough speed to make one big play a game to open things up for
the rest of the offense, but it would've been nice to have a
true weapon to add more variety to the attack.
Outlook: No, Air Force doesn't just want to run
the option attack, but it doesn't have the receivers to do much
else. Mark Root and Chad Hall got the bulk of the catches last
year, and now Dekker and Quintana need to be used more. Paffett will fill in the Hall role as a
do-everything playmaker, but he might be needed more as a
Projected Starters: The first order of business is replacing
all-conference center Blaine Guenther, the rock of last year's fantastic
line. First up to try will be Andrew Pipes, a 6-1, 265-pound
senior who saw action in ten games last year and grew into more of a
role as the season went on. While Pipes isn't going to be the dominant
run blocker Guenther was, he's a good athlete who should be strong on
The other big hole to fill is at right tackle where Chris Monson is
gone. While he was a strong blocker, the line might get a big of an
upgrade if Chris Campbell turns into a consistent all-around
player. At 270 pounds, the junior brings more bulk to the line than
Monson, and he has a little bit of starting experience getting the call
against Navy and New Mexico.
Back at right guard is Peter Lusk, a 6-3, 275-pound junior who
stepped in and started late in the regular season for three games. He
showed promise last year in his spot starting role, but the offense
needs a huge season out of him to be efficient. His move into the
starting lineup on a full-time basis allows 6-6, 285-pound senior
Nick Charles to move from right to left guard to take over for Caleb
Morris. One of the biggest players on the line, Charles is also the best
returning blocker after earning second-team All-Mountain West honors.
While he's a natural guard, versatile enough to play either spot, he's
also able to see time at tackle if needed, like he did against Army when
he got the call on the left side.
Starting again at left tackle will be Keith Williams, a 6-6,
275-pound senior who started every game with one move to the left side
against Army. A strong, physical player, he started out his career
seeing time on both the offense and defensive side before injuries
limited his sophomore year. Now he has settled into a spot as one of the
team's key offensive cogs.
Projected Top Reserves: Backing somewhere will be Tyler Weeks, a big 270-pound senior who saw
time at both guard spots last year. With his experience, he'll likely be
the first man in at either guard position if injuries hit.
Three sophomores come off the junior varsity team to become key players
in the rotation. 6-6, 270-pound Matt Markling will back up Keith
Williams at left tackle, 6-4, 245-pound Ben Marshall is a
smallish, but quick option at right tackle behind Chris Campbell, and
6-3, 280-pound Jake Morrow will see time at both guard spots but
will start out behind Nick Charles on the left side.
On the way is top recruit Evan Epstein, a big, athletic prospect
from Texas who had offers from several bigger schools. He's a crushing
run blocker who might be too good to keep on the sidelines for a few
years. Also coming in is 6-4, 274-pound A.J. Wallerstein, an
almost sure-thing all-star once he gets a little time in the Air Force
system. He has the tools to become dominant.
Watch Out For ... Campbell. The coaching staff has
called him out to become one of the leaders on the line. With his
combination of size and upside, he could be an All-Mountain West tackle
if it all comes together, and a star for the next two years.
Strength: The starting five. Losing an all-star like
Blaine Guenther isn't a positive, but the projected from five should
quickly turn into a typical tight Air Force unit that should keep the
momentum rolling. As always, veteran depth is an issue, but the backups
fit the mold.
Weakness: Time. Even though there's plenty of experience
returning, this group will need a few games to jell. While it's like
that for all lines, it's different at Air Force where so much relies on
precision and timing, as opposed to being able to line up and blow teams
off the ball. With a new backfield to block for, this group has to be
Outlook: Air Force always seems to have to make
wholesale changes on the line and things always turn out fine, but there
aren't as many issues this season even after some key losses. Charles is a good one to work around and tackles Williams and
Campbell will be fine. The key will be for Pipes to take
the center job by the horns. If he can do that, the Falcon offensive
line will hum.