2009 Air Force Preview - Offense
Air Force OG Nick Charles
Air Force OG Nick Charles
Posted Jul 23, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Air Force Falcon Offense

Air Force Falcons

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Air Force Preview | 2009 Air Force Offense
- 2009 Air Force Defense
| 2009 Air Force Depth Chart
2008 Air Force Preview | 2007 Air Force Preview
| 2006 Air Force Preview 

What you need to know: If last year was supposed to be about rebuilding with so many key players gone, then this season should be about blowing up. The Falcons weren’t their normally explosive selves, but they still finished sixth in the nation in rushing, were ultra-efficient, held on to the ball, and showed good pop in the passing game. There’s a ton of experience returning, led by all-stars Nick Charles and Chris Campbell on a veteran line that led the nation in sacks allowed (5). The receiving corps should be terrific, at least for Air Force, with the top three wide receivers back, and the quarterback situation has become interesting with RB Asher Clark being moved over to push the incumbent, Tim Jefferson. There will be rushing production from a variety of sources, but if it’s not Clark, there isn’t any one tailback who’ll likely stand out.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tim Jefferson
44-80, 655 yds, 5 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Asher Clark
132 carries, 588 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Josh Cousins
16 catches, 176 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB/RB Asher Clark
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Savier Stephens
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Kyle Halderman
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Nick Charles
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Charles, 2) OT Chris Campbell, 3) Clark
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, veterans
Weakness of the offense:
Backup linemen, tight end


Projected Starter: All Tim Jefferson did was step in as a freshman and become a steady, solid leader. While he didn’t tear off big rushing yards, finishing with just 387 with three touchdowns, he was a solid passer completing 55% of his throws for 655 yards and five touchdowns with just three interceptions. While he has to do more to get yards on the ground, he showed excellent upside and mature decision making ability. However, he’ll have to earn the job as it’s not being given to him. The 6-0, 200-pounder spent the off-season working on his schoolwork and will have to fight this fall. Very fast and with good size, he’ll be tough to keep off the field.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Asher Clark was a quarterback in high school, switched to running back last year, and finished second on the team with 588 yards and five touchdowns as he took over the starting job. He ran for 190 yards and a score against San Diego State in his first crack at the starting job, and he tore off 136 yards and two scores in the win over San Diego State. At 5-8 and 184 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s really, really quick and will get every chance to win the starting quarterback job. He underwent surgery to repair an injured MCL, but it’s not considered to be that big a deal and it’s certainly not expected to keep him off the field this fall. Even if he’s not the starting quarterback, he’ll get the ball in a variety of ways again.

Adding an even more athletic option to the equation is Connor Dietz, a 6-0, 185-pound sophomore who tore up the JV team last season. Fast enough to be used as a kick returner and possibly a wide receiver. The coaching staff isn’t above using several quarterback options, and Dietz could become an interesting speedster to watch out for.

Watch Out For ... A two-quarterback system. Shea Smith got plenty of work last season before Jefferson took over. Even though Jefferson should take back the starting job once everything settles down. Clark will get more than his share of work and could take the job outright.
Flash-of-lightning quickness. It’s Air Force, so the quarterbacks can cut on a dime and can tear off big runs when they get into the open.
Passing ability. Jefferson is solid, but if Clark really does become a regular under center there won’t be a whole bunch of guesswork for defenses. Everyone knows the fastball will be coming, but can they hit it?
Outlook: The coaching staff is trying to send a message to the rest of the team by pushing Asher Clark into the starting quarterback spot in place of Tim Jefferson, but don’t assume there will be a major change quite yet. Jefferson is still plenty good and could grow into the team’s star over the next three years. Along with Connor Dietz, there are three very quick, very talented sophomores to build around. If it’s possible, the Falcons are both young and experienced.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: For the moment, Asher Clark is penciled in as the starting tailback after running for 58 yards and five scores, but he could end up at quarterback. With his quickness, he’ll get the ball no matter where he ends up playing and he’ll be a big-time home run hitter.

Working both as a tailback and a fullback will be Jared Tew, a 6-0, 210-pound junior who spent most of last year as a blocker but ended up averaging 6.6 yards per carry with 348 yards and four touchdowns. . With only 23 carries on the year, he became the surprise star in the Armed Forced Bowl ripping off 149 yards and two scores on 27 carries. While he’s not shifty, he’s quick enough to get through the hole in a hurry and delivers a punch once he’s through

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 190-pound junior Savier Stephens was supposed to be back from a hernia problem to become a major factor last season but he only ended up playing in seven games and ran for 236 yards and two scores. Now he’ll get far more work, and he could be the featured back if Asher Clark ends up at quarterback. While he wasn’t used as a receiver, he has good hands and could get the ball in space more to utilize his tremendous speed.   

Working behind Jared Tew at fullback will be Ryan Southworth, a 5-10, 220-pound junior who could see his role increase if Tew plays more tailback. Southworth ran for 40 yards in his limited time spending most of his time on special teams and as a blocker. Very smart and very tough, he’s a bruiser.
Watch Out For ... more Tew. His performance in the Armed Forced Bowl showed why he needs to get the ball more. He adds a power element to the running game and will get his chance to work inside as long as things are working.
The system. If you’re around 5-9ish, 180 pounds and quick, you have a shot to play for Air Force. The players might make the offense shine, but the Falcons will be good enough up front to allow anyone who runs the ball to produce.
Continuity. Is Clark going to be a quarterback or a running back? Which “receiver” will end up being a key ball carrier? Is Tew really ready for more work? There isn’t a sure-thing starting RB going into the fall, mostly because of Clark’s work under center, but that’s fine. Ty Paffett was supposed to be the new star runner last year and he ran for just 73 yards.
Outlook: The running game is the running game at Air Force, but a few more live bodies wouldn’t hurt. Asher Clark will get the ball in some way, while Jared Tew will have a few blow-up games when he dominates. The emergence of Savier Stephens could be one of the biggest keys to the season. If he’s great, the coaching staff can tinker more with the lineup.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters
Air Force might technically call a wide receiver a wide receiver, but that could also mean running back depending on the moment at the Z position. 5-11, 175-pound junior Kyle Halderman caught 12 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns, averaging a whopping 22.2 yards per catch, and he also ran for 350 yards and a score averaging 9.7 yards per play. Used more as a runner early on, and more as a receiver after the first month of the season, he’ll get the ball more and will continue to be one of the team’s biggest home run hitters.

Working as a true receiver is Kevin Fogler, a 6-5, 205-pound junior who can jump out of the stadium with the potential to be a No. 1 target. He caught 11 passes for 214 yards, averaging 19.5 yards per catch, and has the measurables to become a matchup nightmare around the goal line. Staying healthy is a must after missing time last year with a knee injury.

Who’s going to replace Travis Dekker? While the tight end was underutilized last year, that might not be the case this season as WR Sean Quintana will step in and be used as a possession receiver. The 6-2, 200-pound senior has good size and terrific hands, but he only caught three passes for 39 yards after making eight grabs for 67 yards and a score in 2007.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Josh Cousins started in six games last season and ended up leading the team with 16 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns. While he’s not necessarily explosive, he’s a steady producer who’ll be used purely as a receiver. He only had one catch last year, but he lost ten yards. Even so, he’s quick, aggressive, and will be one of the team’s better targets.

Once again used in the Z position will be Luke Hyder, a 5-11, 195-pound senior who ran for 38 yards on seven carries, but he didn’t catch a pass. More than anything else, he’s an ace on special teams leading the team with 11 tackles. The former safety is quick and tough, but he won’t likely do too much for the offense.

Watch Out For ... Halderman. With his 22.2-yard average he was the game-breaking receiver who helped open things up for the rest of the offense. Now he’ll also be used more as a runner, too.
Strength: Wide receiver?! Air Force is never strong at receiver, but it actually has some real, live targets to make the passing game go a bit more than normal. The top three wide receivers are back and while they’re going to combine for a mere 40 catches, they can block, stretch the field, and do what they’re supposed to do for the attack.
Tight end. Travis Dekker was banged up last year and didn’t come up with the star season he was supposed to. Now he’s gone meaning Quintana has to prove he can block as well as catch on the short to medium routes.
Outlook: The Falcons were 117th in the nation in passing, but it’s all about efficiency. Come up with the big play, block, and occasionally run the ball; that’s what the Air Force receiving corps is supposed to do. With several good veterans there are more targets to work with than the past few years, but don’t expect Texas Tech. If the yard-per-catch average is over 14 (it was 14.4 last year), the corps will be doing its job.
Rating: 5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
The star of the veteran line will once again be Nick Charles, a two-time second-team All-Sun Belt performer who has seen time at both guard spots. He moved over to left guard last season where he started every game and was the best run blocker. At 6-4 and 285 pounds, the senior has good size, doesn’t make mistakes, and will once again be the one the team works behind on key plays.

6-3, 255-pound senior Ryan Gonzalez will get the first crack at the starting left tackle job after spending all of last year as a key reserve and special teamer. The former defensive lineman is tough, but he’s not all that big and has to get by on his quickness and athleticism.

Stepping in at center will be Michael Hampton, a decent backup who has seen more than enough time to hit the ground running. He worked his way up the depth chart over the last few years and has worked hard in the weight room to get to this point, and now the senior is 6-2, 260-pounds, and ready for the full-time job.

6-3, 270-pound senior Chris Campbell earned all-star honors last season as a reliable all-around blocker at right tackle. One of the question marks going into last year, he became a rock in pass protection and showed good mobility for the ground game. A bruiser of a run blocker, he’s at his best when he can get to the next level and spring a big play.

Senior Peter Lusk isn’t flashy at right guard, but he’s a good, solid blocker who was a decent spot starter two years ago and steady last year. Playing next to Campbell, the 6-3, 270-pounder doesn’t have to do much more than concentrate on his own work.

Projected Top Reserves: Expected to be a major star for the line sooner than later is A.J. Wallerstein, a 6-4, 285-pound sophomore who’ll bring more size than the 255-pound Ryan Gonzalez at left tackle. One of the team’s best recruits a few years ago, he’s big, can move, and will be groomed to be the eventual anchor of the line.

6-5, 287-pound Jake Morin might not be a part of the offense until next year, but the freshman should be ready to roll right away. He’s big, quick, and used to the Air Force style of play having been the star blocker for a spread offense in Kansas for three years.

Chase Darden started out as a defensive end, playing sparingly last year, and now he’ll work at right tackle behind Chris Campbell. The 6-3, 265-pound junior is quick off the ball, but he needs practice time to be groomed for the starting job in 2010.

Watch Out For ... Lusk. He’s not the guard that Charles is, but he’s just reliable enough and just good enough to become a fringe all-star candidate. He’s the type of player who gets plugged into the line and isn’t worried about all year long.
Veteran blockers. With two all-stars, a third starter, and two others who are more than ready to step in and take over, the line that gave up a mere five sacks last season and paved the way for 267 yards per game and 27 touchdowns will be ultra-efficient again.
Backup experience. This is always an issue at Air Force where it takes a few years for players to wait their turn, but this year’s backup situation is shakier than normal. There’s good promise and potential, Wallerstein will eventually be an all-star, but there’s absolutely no backup experience whatsoever.
Outlook: Unlike last year when there was a slew of major changed needing to be made, this year’s line is experienced and talented with guard Nick Charles and tackle Chris Campbell among the best in the Mountain West. The line that led the nation in sacks allowed and the Mountain West in rushing will be every bit as good unless injuries strike early on. There’s a good group of talents waiting in the wings, but there’s no backup experience.
Rating: 8