2010 Air Force Preview - Offense
Air Force FB Jared Tew
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Air Force Falcon Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense didn't quite blow up like it was supposed to considering all the talented veteran on last year's attack, but it was plenty good finishing third in the nation in rushing and averaging just under 30 points per game. This year, the ground game has veterans with the top 13 rushers from last year returning, including quarterbacks Tim Jefferson and Connor Dietz and the running back tandem of Jared Tew and Asher Clark. The receiving corps has talent, too, with Kevin Fogler, Jonathan Warzeka, and Kyle Halderman giving the offense some real, live weapons to work with. And then there's the line. The talent might be there, but all five starters have to be replaced and there's little or no experience, or size, to count on.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Jared Tew
Passing: Tim Jefferson
53-93, 848 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jared Tew
238 carries, 970 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Kevin Fogler
25 catches, 567 yds, 5 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior OT A.J. Wallerstein
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Darius Jones
Best pro prospect: Junior RB Asher Clark
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Tew, 2) QB Tim Jefferson, 3) Clark
Strength of the offense: Veteran Runners, Ground Game
Weakness of the offense: Line Experience, Passing Efficiency
Projected Starter: Junior Tim Jefferson has been a stead, solid leader from the start of his career, and he progressed last year completing 57% of his throws for 848 yards and five scores, and he ran for 254 yards and two scores. At 6-0 and 200 pounds he's not tall, but he's solid and he tends to come through when he absolutely has to. He's not going to give the ball away in the passing game, but he's more likely to get it into the hands of his backs rather than take off, like past Air Force quarterbacks, who were really running backs, tended to do. The speed is there and his decision-making ability has improved, but he has to keep working to stay on the field as he has had issues with his schoolwork in the past and a minor knee injury that got cleaned up this offseason.
Projected Top Reserves: With Jefferson healing from a knee injury, junior Connor Dietz got almost all the work this spring and it was a great time to improve his passing. A runner in the classic Air Force mold, the 6-0, 185-pounder finished fourth on the team with 369 yards and a score, and he filled in for Jefferson when needed throwing for 197 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. However, he only complete 47% of his passes and he can't drive throws down the field like Jefferson can. Just when he seemed like he was coming into his own with a 7-of-10, 64-yard passing, 98-yard rushing day in a 23-16 loss to Utah, he was knocked out for the season with a broken hand. He's fine now and gives the Falcons a strong second option.
Watch Out For … Jefferson and Dietz to rotate a wee bit depending on the situation. Each of them got work last season because of injuries, but this year the offense might go with the hot hand when needed. Jefferson is the better option, but Dietz is turning into starter No. 1A.
Strength: Experience. Jefferson has two years of time logged in, while Dietz, who was considered a possible kick returner and receiver early in his career, and he's a speedster who got his feet wet last year and most of the reps this offseason.
Weakness: Passing. It's always going to be a function of the Air Force offense, finishing 117th in the nation averaging just 88 yards per game, but total yards are immaterial. Air Force needs more the passers to be efficient.
Outlook: The coaching staff played around with the quarterbacks last season, sending messages in the offseason by putting RB Asher Clark under center and challenging Jefferson and Dietz to step up. They did. They might not be like past Air Force quarterbacks and they might not be the focal point of the offense, but they'll be allowed to do more this year.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: Senior Jared Tew set the school record for the most rushing yards in a bowl game with 149 in a loss to Houston in the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl, and then he bettered it with 173 yards and a score in a win over the Cougars in the 2009 Armed Forces Bowl to set the tone for this year. The 6-0, 210-pounder spent the first part of his career as a blocker and last year got more work with a team-leading 970 yards and nine touchdowns, and he was used a bit as a receiver with ten catches for 79 yards. While he's not huge, he's shifty and tough both inside the tackles and out.
Junior Asher Clark came up with a big year finishing second on the team with 865 yards and seven touchdowns, and while he finished behind Tew in total yards, he showed far better consistent pop averaging 5.7 yards per carry to Tew's 4.1. He only had two 100-yard games, but they came in the final three with 160 yards and three scores in a win over UNLV and 129 yards and two touchdowns against Houston in the bowl game. Even though he's not all that big at 5-8 and 185 pounds, he's extremely quick and can be used if needed at quarterback to add more flash to the ground game.
Projected Top Reserves: While the Falcons are experienced in the backfield, there's going to be a place for sophomore Darius Jones , a 5-9, 160-pound bolt of lightning who lit up the offseason with several home runs. He's not going to run in between the tackles, but he'll get far more work in a variety of ways after running for 56 yards and a touchdown, with most of the production coming in the 72-0 opener against Nicholls State.
Senior Savier Stephens finished last year third on the team with 417 yards and three touchdowns, but he saw his workload diminish over the second half of the season. At 5-11 and 190 pounds he's one of the bigger backs in the mix and he has been expected to be a major player at times, but a hernia injury early in his career was a problem and he hasn't been able to show off his tremendous speed nearly enough in the open field.
5-11, 215-pound senior Nathan Walker is a between-the-tackles pounder and a bit of a fullback running for 218 yards and two scores in his little bit of work. He's not going to bust off any big dashes, and he's not going to be used as a receiver, but he can add a change of pace to bring some more power.
Watch Out For … Jones. The Falcons have no problems spreading the ball around and get production out of anyone who has the ball in his hands, but Jones could be the most dangerous of the bunch. With his wheels, the coaching staff is going to try to invent ways to get the ball in his hands.
Strength: Production. Everyone is back. Including quarterbacks and receivers, the top 13 rushers from last year return. Now that everyone knows what they're doing and the roles have been defined, this should be an efficient machine if there's production from …
Weakness: … the line. All five starters have to be replaced up front, and while everything should be fine, it would've been nice if the backs had a veteran group to run behind. It would also be nice if the backs did more for the passing game.
Outlook: It's Air Force. The running game will average close to 300 yards per game, a bazillion players will get carries, and this will be among the most effective attacks in America. There isn't a real thumper and there isn't any one back who'll strike fear into a defense, but the veteran backfield should be among the most effective the Falcons have had in years. The rating is based on production over talent.
Unit Rating: 9
Projected Starters: Air Force receivers are mostly running backs who happen to lineup as a wideout once in a while. That's not senior Kevin Fogler, who led the team with 25 catches for 567 yards and five touchdowns averaging 22.7 yards per grab. He's a big 6-5 and 205 pounds with just enough speed to get deep and take advantage of teams that cheat up against the run. The measurable are all there to do even more with great leaping ability to go along with his height, and now he could be used even more. He only caught one touchdown pass over the final seven games, a 73-yarder against Army, and he'll thrive at the outside X as long as Tim Jefferson is the quarterback instead of the better-running Connor Dietz.
Junior Jonathan Warzeka is listed as a wide receiver after starting most of the season at the inside Z position after finishing second on the team with 18 catches for 246 yards and a touchdown, and he got even more work as a runner with 267 yards and two scores seeing a few carries per game. At 5-9 and 175 pounds he's smallish, shifty, and he makes things happen no matter how he gets the ball in his hands.
6-2, 195-pound senior Chaz Demerath isn't really a true tight end, he's not exactly bruising and he's not going to flatten anyone, but he's very fast, athletic, and has good enough hands to be used more after catching five passes for 25 yards. He might not be a featured target, but he should do far more on short to midrange routes as a safety valve.
Projected Top Reserves: After missing the first six games of last year with a shoulder injury, senior Kyle Halderman came back and made four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown and with nine rushes for 38 yards and a score in four games before suffering a knee injury. He's a 5-11, 175-pound veteran who could be used even more as a runner when he's not making things happen on the outside as a backup behind Kevin Fogler. When he's right, he's a home run hitter.
Like most Air Force receivers, sophomore Mikel Hunter is more like a running back who's seeing time as a pass catcher. Only 5-9 and 170 pounds, he fits the smallish, quick mold, but he has to catch his first pass after running the ball seven times for 64 yards, averaging 9.1 yards per carry, in his limited work. If he can get the ball on the move at the Z position, he could be deadly.
6-4, 225-pound junior Daniel Pickett hasn't caught a pass yet and is hardly going to be a featured target, but he's a big, athletic option who moves well and can hit a little bit. He's a smart player who'll only get a few grabs if something happens to Chaz Demerath.
Watch Out For … who's at quarterback. Connor Dietz has improved his passing, but he's nowhere near the thrower that Tim Jefferson is. The passing game will stretch the field more when Jefferson is in, while the production might fall off the map when Dietz is in.
Strength: Veterans. For Air Force, the receiving corps is loaded. Fogler is a real, live wide receiver who could produce big-time numbers if he was in a real passing offense. Warzeka is growing into a nice target, while the return of Halderman is a big boost.
Weakness: Tight end. This was a problem position going into last year as well, and it was a disappointment two years ago when there was a good talent in Travis Dekker to work with. Demerath and Pickett aren't going to get too many passes their way, even though the have the style to be receivers.
Outlook: For what Air Force does, the receiving corps should be great. There are three excellent options in Fogler, Halderman,and Warzeka, and Hunter is an excellent prospect who could shine when he gets his chances. If the receivers can average over 15 yards per catch, they'll be fantastic. The bar is normally set at around 14 yards per grab, and after averaging 14.9 last year with 77 catches for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns, there has to be hope for even more pop.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: The extent of the starting experience on the line begins and ends with junior A.J. Wallerstein, a 6-4, 285-pound left tackle who started the opener at left guard last year and ended up seeing time in every game. He's the team's biggest blocker and he'll have to be the one the team works behind on key downs. There isn't a lot of power on the line, and he'll have to provide it. One of the program's top recruits a few years ago, he's big, he can move, and he'll be a good one.
Looking to replace second-team all-star guard Nick Charles on the left side is Jason Kons, a 6-4, 250-pound sophomore who moves extremely well and should be terrific once he fills out his frame a little bit. Strong for his size, but a bit rangy, he'll have to work to get leverage and will be more of a wall-off blocker than a pancake producer.
Along with the loss of Charles, the other big problem is the departure of right guard Peter Lusk, a second-team All-Mountain West performer. 6-3, 255-pound senior Chase Darden started out his career as a defensive end before moving over to the offensive line where he started out as a backup tackle and has worked in several spots. He hasn't started and has seen minimal time, but he played in every game last season and he should provide a little bit of veteran know-how to the young front.
Taking over for Michael Hampton at center will be Michael Hester, a 6-3, 240-pound junior who's tremendously athletic and just strong enough to get by. He only saw minimal time in four games last season and he could end up moving around to be used as a quick option somewhere else, but the hope is that he'll be a steady producer in the middle for the next few years.
6-1, 265-pound senior Tyler Schonsheck has waited his turn over the last few years, and now he'll replace Chris Campbell at right tackle. After seeing a little bit of time in five games he has a wee bit of experience, but he's hardly a veteran. However, he has been trained and groomed to produce from the moment he gets to take over the job, he's expected to be a mauler who might be better suited for guard.
Projected Top Reserves: Bringing more size to the equation is Jordan Eason, a 6-3, 275-pound guard who'll work behind Jason Kons on the left side. 25 pounds bigger, he's more of a road grader, as is 6-4, 270-pound sophomore Nick Jackson, who has tackle size but will see action at center in this offense. He's 30 pounds heavier than Michael Hester and has talent, but he needs time in the system.
6-0, 265-pound junior Jeff Benson represents the bulk of the backup experience having seen time in seven games. While not all that athletic, he's a tough phone-booth blocker who could shine on power running plays, but he's not going to move at right guard like Chase Darden is. Even so, he'll be groomed to take over the starting job for next year.
Watch Out For … Wallerstein. He looks the part and he's the one projected who's actually built like a normal D-I offensive lineman. Pass protection isn't going to be that much of a problem considering the offense doesn't throw all that much, and he should grow into a dominant, all-star caliber player.
Strength: Quickness and potential talent. The coaching staff has done a great job in upgrading the skill level of the line over the last few recruiting classes, and the hope is that the payoff comes now with talent to potentially overcome a lack of experience.
Weakness: Experience. There's one start among the group and there's almost no appreciable playing experience to count on. This is also a very, very small group that's built more like a light defensive front or even a big linebacking corps.
Outlook: The party line is that the experience of last year's fantastic front five will be replaced by an upgrade in talent, but even for Air Force, who handles wholesale position changes better than just about everyone, this could be an early problem. Getting on the move won't be an issue as this will be a textbook definition of a finesse line. It's not going to flatten anyone, but it'll be effective for what the offense needs.
Unit Rating: 5.5
- 2010 Air Force Preview |
Air Force Offense
2010 Air Force Defense |
Air Force Depth Chart
- Air Force Previews