2010 Air Force Preview
Air Force CB Anthony Wright
Air Force CB Anthony Wright
Posted May 15, 2010

Air Force has to replace most of the offensive line, has no real passing game, and is too small on defense. So why could this be the year that the Falcons make some huge noise in the Mountain West? Check out the CFN 2010 Air Force Preview.

Air Force Falcons

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Troy Calhoun
4th year: 25-14
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 21, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Air Force Players
1. CB/KR Reggie Rembert, Sr.
2. CB/PR Anthony Wright, Jr.
3. RB Jared Tew, Sr.
4. DE Rick Ricketts, Sr.
5. RB Asher Clark, Jr.
6. QB Tim Jefferson, Jr.
7. LB Andre Morris, Jr.
8. FS Jon Davis, Jr.
9. WR Kevin Fogler, Sr.
10. SS Brian Lindsay, Soph.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Northwestern State
Sept. 11 BYU
Sept. 18 at Oklahoma
Sept. 25 at Wyoming
Oct. 2 Navy
Oct. 9 Colorado State
Oct. 16 at San Diego State
Oct. 23 at TCU
Oct. 30 Utah
Nov. 6 at Army
Nov. 13 New Mexico
Nov. 18 at UNLV

Air Force has come up with two terrific 8-5 seasons in a row, has been fantastic in the three years under head coach Troy Calhoun, and now it's time to try to get one more big win to get over the Mountain West hump.

The Falcons went 5-3 in conference play last year with the three losses coming against BYU, TCU, and Utah. In 2008, they went 5-3 in conference play with the three losses coming against BYU, TCU, and Utah. It's not like Air Force can't compete with these programs, there were wins over Utah and TCU in 2007 along with a loss to BYU, but over the last two seasons the Utes and Horned Frogs have gotten far stronger and have turned into mega-programs who can compete on the highest of BCS levels, while BYU has become even better under Bronco Mendenhall. Air Force is trying to shoehorn its way into the upper-echelon, but it might be harder than ever.

Last year, the program was close to being special with four of the five losses by seven points or fewer. Before the loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, TCU's lone rough spot came against a stingy Falcon team in a 20-17 battle, and the potential is there for these Falcons to be just good enough to get one of those wins over a big boy and finally get out of the rut in the league's No. 4 spot.

The running game gets everyone back from an attack that finished third in the nation on the ground. The secondary might be the best in the Mountain West, considering three great starters return on one of the nation's top pass defenses, the special teams are fantastic, the linebackers are good, and there are real, live, wide receiver weapons for opposing defenses to worry about.

However, the lines are light, there's not enough of a passing game to offset the ground attack, and it still might take one more year before the young recruits turn into top-shelf players. But this is a very good team that should make even more noise than it did over the last few years if there aren't any major injuries.

Calhoun and his staff know how to get the most out of their players, and while Air Force has no prayer of competing with the best teams on the slate talent-wise, the discipline, the feistiness, and the service academy execution are good enough to keep on winning. Calhoun has taken the groundwork set by the Fisher DeBerry reign and has done something more. Now his goal is to upgrade the talent level to match all the positive intangibles the program has.

There's been more of a focus on getting a few great players rather than trolling the nets and hoping to catch someone who might qualify to be Air Force material. It's still early in Calhoun's tenure, and it always takes a few years for the underclassmen to be a part of the show in Colorado Springs, but very soon, this might not be a nice story; Air Force might be seriously strong. The Falcons are close, and this year should be another big step forward.

What to watch for on offense: More from the wide receivers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's a yearly thought coming from the Air Force coaching staff that always preaches about the idea of a more balanced attack. This year, however, it really and truly might come true thanks to, arguably, the best set of receivers the program has had in a long, long, long time. 6-5, 205-pound senior Kevin Fogler is a real, live target who can stretch the field, Jonathan Warzeka and Mikel Hunter are quick speedsters who can make things happen both as runners and receivers, and Kyle Halderman is back after being hurt last year. No, the Falcons aren't going to have a high-octane air show, but they are going to be better … until the ground game becomes so good that it rips everyone up.

What to watch for on defense: A few prayers thrown out there for the health of the defensive line. Air Force has always had smallish defensive fronts, but this is ridiculous. Only one player is bigger than 240 pounds on the projected two-deep, and there may not be more ill-fitted noseguards in America than the 6-3, 240-pound Ryan Gardner and the 6-5, 235-pound Ben Kopacka. But a steady rotation and a do-one-thing-and-do-it-well approach (and this doesn't include rushing the passer or getting into the backfield) should work as long as a slew of injuries don't strike.

The team will be far better if … the offense scores a lot and the defense doesn't give up a lot of points. Uhhhhh, right, that falls into the no-duh category, but Air Force doesn't do well in shootouts and isn't usually able to keep up in firefights. In the three years under Troy Calhoun, Air Force is 0-9 when giving up 29 points or more and is just 6-13 when allowing a mere 18 points or more with three of those wins coming in 2007. Meanwhile, the Falcons went 1-5 last season when scoring 21 points or fewer.

The schedule: It's rough early and eases off the gas late. The Falcons have a big test right away with the Mountain West opener coming in week two (after a layup against Northwestern State to start the season) at home against BYU. Follow that up with road trips to Oklahoma and Wyoming, along with the always emotional battle against Navy, and Air Force will likely be ecstatic with a 3-2 start. While there's a stretch of three road games in four weeks starting in mid-October at San Diego State, the Utah game is at home and the three November dates are at Army, New Mexico, and at UNLV; they're all winnable.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Jared Tew. Junior back Asher Clark might turn out to be the best all-around offensive weapon with more flash than Tew, and the hope is for QB Tim Jefferson to be the team's best player, but it's Tew who's the steady, no-nonsense runner who sets the tone. He's not a big bruiser at just 6-0 and 210 pounds, but he's tough inside and can break off the big run from time to time.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Reggie Rembert. If you want to argue that junior corner Anthony Wright is the team's best defender, there's no real fight against it after he came up with seven interceptions and turned into one of the Mountain West's most dangerous cover-corners. Rembert is the veteran all-star who does a little of everything right, and while he's not a big hitter at just 5-8 and 185 pounds, he's a producer who leads one of the nation's top pass defenses.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DT Ryan Gardner. Ben Garland wasn't all that big by FBS nose tackle standards, but he was an active 275-pounder who was the game-changer in the middle of the line. Gardner is 35 pounds lighter, and his backup, Ben Kopacka, is only 235 pounds. Being feisty and trying hard is great, but someone with a big, strong, 300+ pound offensive interior is going to think it can pound away up the middle all game long, and the Falcon tackles have to show otherwise.

The season will be a success if … the Falcons win nine games, a bowl game, and beats one of the Mountain West's big three. With so much experience returning in so many key spots, the hope has to be to make a little bit of an improvement, and that will mean winning at least nine games while coming up with a win against BYU, TCU, and/or Utah. Considering the Cougars and Utes have to come to Colorado Springs, now is the time.

Key game: Sept. 11 vs. BYU. It's the tone-setter of tone-setters. Air Force might be good, but it's not going to beat Oklahoma on the road the week after the battle with the Cougars, and the trip to Laramie to face Wyoming could be a bear-trap. However, when it comes to momentum and confidence, beating BYU at home would mean everything considering the Falcons are 0-3 against big blue since Calhoun took over and have lost five straight in the series.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Third quarter scoring: Air Force 100 – Opponents 31
- Turnovers: Opponents 34 – Air Force 12 (with just three interceptions)
- Fourth down conversions: Air Force 27-of-38 (71%) – Opponents 14-of-23 (61%)

- 2010 Air Force Preview | 2010 Air Force Offense
- 2010 Air Force Defense | 2010 Air Force Depth Chart
- Air Force Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006