#51 Air Force Football Preview

Air Force Falcons

Overall Rank: #51
#4 Mountain West Conference

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2010 Record: (9-4, 5-3)
2010 Bowl: Independence Bowl vs. Georgia Tech (40-17 W)
Coach: Troy Calhoun (34-17 at Air Force, 34-17 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Clay Hendrix, Blaine Morgan
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Wallerstedt, Charlton Warren

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Asher Clark, HB, 1,031 yards
Passing: Tim Jefferson, QB, 1,459 yards
Receiving: Jonathan Warzeka, WR, 406 yards
Tackles: Jordan Waiwaiole, LB, 96
Sacks: Two players tied with 2
Interceptions: Jon Davis, FS, 3

Other Key Returnees:  LT Jason Kons, RG, A.J. Wallerstein, WR, Zach Kauth, NG Ryan Gardner, DE Zach Payne,

Key Losses:  FB Jared Tew, FB Nathan Walker, OT Chase Darden, OG Tyler Schonsheck, DT Rick Ricketts, CB Reggie Rembert,

The Falcons were razor close to having an eleven win season with near misses at Oklahoma and at San Diego State to go along with a heartbreaking home loss to Utah. Head Coach Troy Calhoun has rebuilt Air Force into a very consistent program that can go toe to toe with any opponent on any given Saturday. The run option offense will also continue to give opposing MWC coaches fits preparing for each week as it is almost impossible to stop.

The running game, led by Tim Jefferson and his ability to orchestrate the option so smoothly, makes 300 yards a game rushing almost a guarantee no matter who the opponent is on any given Saturday. Also, Jefferson’s ability to hit the deep pass in the play action passing game of the Falcons, is also going to be very important this season.  They will need to at least improve a little bit on their 119.3 yards per game passing for this offense to become lethal to try and stop.  The team speed on defense is rather underrated and gives a nice balance to the typically undersized athlete that plays for Air Force.  Senior Ryan Gardner has all the skillsets necessary to replace Rick Ricketts and become a huge force in rushing the quarterback. Also, the shutdown nature of the secondary is a definite strength as two returning starters will look to build on a pass defense that was second in the nation in 2010, only allowing 147.8 yards per game through the air.

The ability to keep teams honest with the passing game is always a potential concern every year for the Falcons. The key will be Jefferson’s ability to really evolve as a threat quarterback. The lack of size on the offensive line is a potential issue with the arrival of another big strong athletic defensive line in Boise State to the Mountain West Conference. Defensively, for Air Force it will boil down to becoming even more consistent on defense.  If Jordan Waiwaiole can figure out how to become an absolute terror on every down then the Falcon defense could  be very special. The lack of consistency at placekicker on special teams is a huge concern. Eric Soderberg needs to return back to 2009 form when he hit 22 for 30 in field goals.

The Bottom Line:
Air Force will know where they stand early as TCU comes to Colorado Springs on September 10th for an early season MWC showdown.  The nonconference schedule is balanced with Notre Dame and the other service academies intermixed with South Dakota and Tennessee State, so a 4-1 record is very attainable in nonconference play. Another key game on the schedule is the road trip to the blue turf of Boise State on October 2, and the challenge of shutting down the vaunted passing attack led by Heisman Trophy candidate Kellen Moore. Air Force’s ability to make teams run oriented offensively will be tested without question in this particular ballgame.
The running game should be electric and if the defense can rise up and play bigger than their stature and the offensive stars can rise up and lead at a high level then look for the Falcons to be in the mix well into November during the conference race. Also, with another big season, look for other schools to come calling for Troy Calhoun to try and take him from Air Force as he has definitely restored a strong sense of pride and tradition to Falcon football.

Projected Bowl:  Independence Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 306.5 (2nd in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 119.3 (118, 9)
Total Offense: 425.9(28, 3)
Scoring Offense: 30.9 (40, 4)
Rushing Defense: 201.5 (103, 6)
Pass Defense: 147.8 (2, 2)
Total Defense: 349.3 (37, 4)
Scoring Defense: 21.1 (28, 3)
Turnover Margin: +0.38 (31, 2)
Sacks: 2.14 (53, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 0.93 (14, 1)

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