Freshman no more- its time to Compete!
We started this series focusing on the 2020 Air Force roster by evaluating the Seniors to be. As documented, the senior class is not void of talent, and the team can expect to have a lot of critical contributors out of that year-four group of cadets. If you missed this piece, you can read it here. For a review of this years junior class, look no further.
In today’s edition we are going to focus in on this seasons sophomores. By the 2019 Cheez-It Bowl Game versus Wazzu, five sophomores on last years team populated the two-deep on depth chart, and all of which played meaningful snaps during the season. There were an additional two that cracked the three-deep. Most notable though, would be the two who became starters through the season, and Timothy Jackson in particular was a major contributor.
I hearken back to last years sophomores because that is not the norm historically at Air Force. That’s not to say that a second year player never starts or contributes, but if you look at the composition of an Air Force roster as it turns over each year, a vast majority of the experience sits with juniors and senior. But we are starting to see a shift. And in recent cases where a sophomore becomes a regular starter for the Falcons, they become a name to remember.
Jeremy Fejedelem, Jordan Jackson, Donald Hammond, Garrett Kaupilla, Tre Bugg III, Kade Remsberg, Nolan Laufenberg, Parker Ferguson, Christopher Herrera, Lakota Wills and the aforementioned Duval (Timothy) Jackson were all starters for last years 11-win team. They share something else in common; they were starters in their various sophomore seasons as well. All starters, and all significant contributors.
The 2020 crop of sophomores may yield some starters of its own. And the depth chart will certainly get fortified with some support from this cast also.
The exodus of talented starters from last years team, leaving starting positions up for grabs has been well documented. Of all the vacancies on depth chart, I don’t think there are any more likely to be filled with a second year cadet than at tight end. This is a position group that graduated its top three from last seasons depth chart.
Enter Kyle Patterson.
With prototypical size as a true freshman, Patterson was the prize of the 2019 recruiting class. Grading out as a 3-star recruit by 247sports, he held offers from a lot of major programs, including that school in Tuscaloosa. Though he didn’t start as a freshman, he did get a jersey for a few games, which is saying something. The starting job isn’t going to be handed to him, but this is not a position group with returning known commodities.
Speaking of how impressive it was to see a freshman earn a jersey, how about wide receiver Dane Kinamon? His rise up the depth chart reminded me of Brandon Lewis in his freshman season. Kinamon saw the field at various times throughout the 2019 campaign, and could very well factor in to the division of labor at the wide receiver position in 2020.
Another sophomore to watch for is Trey Taylor. Like Patterson, Taylor came in as a 3-star prospect, and similarly he finds himself competing at a position that appears wide open. Air Force enjoyed nice depth at the safety spot last year, but three of the regulars at the last line of defense have graduated.
Kinamon certainly has the steepest hill to climb of these three to become a starter, as the receiver position has more returning production and proven talent. The fact that he earned playing as a true freshman cannot be overlooked though.
Not only are Taylor and Patterson vying for time and what appear to be positions up for grabs, but by all accounts they have acquitted themselves very well in this years spring camp.
Spring football, a luxury most programs didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy this year thanks to the current pandemic that is COVID-19.
From the Recruiting Class of 2019
I’ve mentioned it many times now, a prospect rating is not a right to passage at the Air Force Academy. The bottom line is the talent that they are gaining commitments from is continually getting better. This is not a school that historically gathered 3-star prospects with any kind of regularity. We are starting to see a shift.
The 2019 recruiting class landed commitments from ten prospects that earned a 3-star grade. The most highly rated prospect of the class was Nate Polk, a safety out of Scottsdale. In fact, Polk earned the highest prospect rating of any player to commit to the academy according to 247sports. With the safety position seemingly open for competition, Polk could be competing with Trey Taylor and others for a spot.
One of the more highly rated prospects of the class, Joe Quillin has left the Academy and transferred to Oregon State. Nathan Peterson (OL), Kaymen St. Junious (DB), Malik Scurlock (DL), Collin Sutton (QB), Desmond (DL) and Demetris Dorceus (DL) round out the 3-star prospects from this class.
If you want to take a look at the 2019 class, you can do so at 247sports right here. .