Preview 2009 - Offense
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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
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
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,
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, veterans
Weakness of the offense:
Backup linemen, tight end
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:
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
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
6-3, 270-pound senior
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.