2008 Air Force Preview - Offense
Air Force TE Travis Dekker
Air Force TE Travis Dekker
Posted Apr 11, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Air Force Falcon Offense

Air Force Falcons

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Air Force Preview | 2008 Air Force Offense
- 2008 Air Force Defense
| 2008 Air Force Depth Chart
2007 CFN Air Force Preview
| 2006 CFN Air Force Preview 

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 work around.

Returning Leaders
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 receiver


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 on in 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.
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 caliber playmakers.
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.

Running Backs

Projected Starters: 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 quarterback/runner.

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 passes.

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 the shuffle. 

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.
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.
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.
Rating: 7


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 again.

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.
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.
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 runner.
Rating: 4.5

Offensive Linemen

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 move.

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.
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.
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 big early.
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.
Rating: 6


Related Stories
2008 Air Force Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 11, 2008
2008 Air Force Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 11, 2008
College coaches give some back
 -by ArmySports.com  Apr 2, 2008

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