First Look At Air Force Quarterback’s
Who will be starting for the Falcons?
Is it Donald Hammond’s job to lose?
Troy Calhoun’s offense isn’t going to be mistaken for Mike Leach’s Air Raid approach anytime soon. None of the players under center that engineer the Falcon’s triple option system are under the illusion that is or ever was going to be the case. However, if you were able to sequester a moment of transparency from Coach Calhoun, I believe he would endorse the necessity of threat from the air.
Even with the recent departure of Beau English, the quarterback room has more than adequate experience. I would go as far as to say that the personnel in that room are cause for plenty of optimism this season.
Specifically, for the QB1 designation, it is a two-man race. Senior to be Isaiah Sanders has the most experience of the players jockeying the QB depth chart. Sanders has shined in moments over his career, and it all started with a 44 carry for nearly 200 yards and a 3 touchdown performance in his debut as a starter against Colorado State in 2017.
Since then he has shown flashes but has not been able to hold onto the starting quarterback job. Be it due to injury, which has been a common factor in the Falcon quarterback equation, or otherwise, solidifying a place atop the depth chart has eluded him. Sanders is a local product that actually ran a very pass friendly offense in high school.
Despite that, he has acquitted himself very well in the option, at times making good reads and being an effective distributor of the ball behind the line of scrimmage which is a critical piece of the triple option. There is tape of that version of Sanders operating the Falcon offense out there. Both he and offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen are hoping to create a lot more of it this season.
The probable front-runner that is expected to garner significant consideration as the starter is Donald Hammond (junior). When healthy, Hammond exhibited an ability to drive the ball and locate passes that should make every Air Force fan excited and Mountain West defensive coordinators nauseated.
The confidence in Hammond’s ability to throw the ball is seemingly what opened the door for him early last season. That and a lack of consistency by the offense to distribute the ball in the run game, specifically at the pitch. But the more you saw of him, the more you saw what appeared to be a true dual threat in the triple option offense.
He exhibited the confidence to distribute pitches as he read the defense, which is only one part of that aspect, but they were distributed accurately and on time as well. In spite of his elusive nature when toting the rock, he too could not avoid the most relentless pursuer of Falcon quarterbacks: injury.
With Arion Worthman now graduated, it really seems destined to be a Sanders or Hammonds led offense this coming season. If you were to simply read the 2018 statistics, it would seem to suggest that Sanders is the suited passer and Hammonds the ground general.
But it’s just not that simple. With the situations the Falcons found themselves in: playing from behind and shuffling personnel out of necessity, there is much more to it. Both have shown they are more than capable of excelling as a passer, runner or distributor; but neither was able to stay on the field. Hopefully playing time is very unequally yoked, because it would lend to a healthy quarterback situation. But as previously mentioned, history would strongly suggest if not guarantee, they both will play meaningful snaps this season.
With the history of the Falcon depth chart being challenged at quarterback nearly every year, it’s worth looking at some of the other names you should watch out for this season. After all, three or more quarterbacks have taken a meaningful snap each of the past two seasons.
Mike Schmidt (senior), Warren Bryan (sophomore) and Chance Stevenson (sophomore) all got reps in Air Force’s variety of a spring game this past March. Both Bryan and Stevenson, along with Wayne Overman, were recognized as two-star recruits by various publications from the 2018 recruiting class. Overman has since transitioned to tailback. As it stands the Falcons have both experience and youth in the quarterback room, and if you are an Air Force fan, you hope the youth has to wait its turn.
Air Force has released its 2019 spring prospectus, and on the depth chart, it lists Isaiah Sanders OR Donald Hammond as the starter. I would not go running to Vegas based on a Troy Calhoun endorsed depth chart though.
Depth charts have left something to be desired as it relates to predictability at the Academy. In fact, true clarity on a settled starter may not reveal itself until their first real test by way of the road opener in Boulder against the Colorado Buffaloes.