Air Force Football: Five Story Lines for 2020

Air Force Football: Five Story Lines for 2020

Air Force

Air Force Football: Five Story Lines for 2020

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Depth-fensive Line

Technically, the Falcons only lose one bonafide starter from the defensive line. But man do they lose a big one. Big in stature. Big in production.

Hopefully Mosese Fifita finds himself on an NFL roster while Air Force sorts out his replacement this offseason. A first team All-Conference performer, Fifita was the perfect nose-guard for the defenses 3-4 scheme.

Seniors to be Kolby Barker and Daniel Woodring ended last season as the depth behind Fifita. Nakoa Pauole saw action in his freshman and sophomore season and could find himself in the mix for playing time on the inside or at end, opposite Jordan Jackson.

Speaking of complimenting their standout Jackson, we saw multiple players start and rotate last year, but no one really took hold of the top of the depth chart. By seasons end, then sophomore Christopher Herrera earned a majority of the snaps. Kaleb Nunez and Michael Purcell also saw the field last year, and should figure in the equation for 2020.

And even though freshman aren’t supposed to crack the starting lineup at the Academies, unless you are Jordan Jackson, the Falcons have some intriguing prospects inbound. In a recruiting class for the ages, especially at defensive line, Air Force added five 3-Star prospects according to 247 sports; Ryan Ives, Blake Burris, Jayden Thiergood, Matthew Aribisala and Sam Peterson.

Frankly, Air Force has never hedged their success on the ratings of their prospects. This is a program that has a very specific fit, and does an excellent job of developing commonly under-recruited athletes who fit their culture. But one can’t help but wonder, what can Troy Calhoun and company do with this infusion of prospect talent?

Make Specials Teams Great Again

The Falcons bring back their primary return specialists from last year, but the cupboards are bare as it relates to legs.

Jake Koehnke was as reliable as they come in the kicking game. Replacing him will be a tall order, and there are no proven commodities waiting in the wings. The Falcons did land the 11th ranked kicking prospect in the country as part of their 2020 class. But don’t expect them to place all their eggs in Fabrizion Pinton’s basket just yet.

Junior to be Brice Honaker is back, but is far from proven. Then again, he never really had an opportunity behind Koehnke, who was perfect on field goals, and even notched a 57 yarder. Tevye Schuepelz-Rohl did get the opportunity for a point after try, and will also be a junior.

At punter, they also graduated last years starter, Charlie Scott. Unless one of the contending place kickers hones their punting game, similar to Koehnke who also shared some punting duties, junior Jacob Goldberg is the only other name carrying over from last season.

What to Expect when there’s Expectations

The final narrative that I would like to introduce is the weight of expectations. The last time Air Force eclipsed double-digit wins, they followed it up with consecutive five win campaigns and spent the bowl season at home.

That post 2016 dip aside, the Falcons have acquitted themselves quite well as it relates to expectations following successful years like we witnessed a few short months ago.

I think you can attribute this kind of consistency to the fact that Air Force doesn’t really “sneak up” on anybody. Because of the character and mentality of young men that comprise their roster, and the type of scheme they run in the triple option, teams do not dismiss them on the calendar. They are typically going to get their opponents best shot because their opponent can take it straight to Vegas, Air Force is never going to run out of effort or leave it on the bus.

Yes, there are some unknowns due to the departure of a lot of talent and experience. But there are enough known commodities coming back, as well as an earned confidence by the coaching staff to believe they will compete again.

Aspirations of a Mountain West Championship are not a reach. And the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy should be an expectation.

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