Memorial Day Special
Ranking the Opposite QB’s on the Schedule
As we enter this Memorial Day weekend, while so many of us will be celebrating in various fashions, we should all first and foremost find the time to express our sincerest regard and thanks to all the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for this great country. Sacrifices we will never be able to repay, but should also never be taken for granted.
To all you veterans past and present, thank you.
After such thanks and gratitude, and in between figuring out how we commemorate holidays in the post COVID-19 world, I invite you to a little distraction and hopefully even some insight. I’d like to examine the Air Force schedule for 2020 and rank the opposing quarterbacks that the Falcon defense will be trying to shut down.
A few things to note; for the purposes of “ranking” we will group in ‘Tiers’, starting with Tier IV being the least difficult, all the way down to Tier I, which I believe will prove to be the most challenging. That said, I am also taking into consideration the supporting cast around the quarterbacks, but predominantly the level of anticipated play from the respective position on the opposition. Lastly, I’ve only included FBS schools on the analysis.
We will just call this the New Mexico tier. Unfortunately for the Lobos, ever since they went away from their variety of a triple-option offense, the results haven’t really even been mixed, they’ve been bad.
Tevaka Tuioti looks to be the probable starter, and he’s had a lot of game experience over the past few seasons. Unfortunately, none of those years have been filled with a lot of success. He’s also had the misfortune of injuries as well. The Lobos also sport 2019 JUCO transfer, Brandt Hughes who could push for the QB1 nod as well.
I have no doubt that Rocky Long can improve the defense, but the offense is going to have to make serious strides to get New Mexico out of the basement of the Mountain West, and competing again.
This tier is widely comprised of transitional quarterback situations, with little to no known commodities coming into the season. I fully expect to look at this list in December and enjoy how humbled I’ll be by someone(s) in this tier.
UTAH STATE: After a lot of attention on the quarterback position for the last year, which culminated with first round draft pick in Jordan Love, the Aggies find themselves searching for the next in line. Henry Colombi looks to be next QB1 for Utah State. With little experience of consequence, Colombi is taking over a team that by most accounts underwhelmed in 2019. Colombi, like Love was a 3-star recruit according to 247sports, and actually had a slightly higher composite score. He is not inheriting a team depleted of talent or playmakers, but experience is the only thing that will accelerate the learning process for a new starter.
NAVY: Thankfully Malcom Perry is not traveling with the Mids to Colorado Springs in 2020. At least if he does, he’s not going to eligible to play as a now NFL player. As is commonly the case in military schools, succession at quarterback can be a complete unknown until the season gets rolling. Navy, like most in this tier will be breaking in someone new under center, and my bets would be on Perry Olsen. While there are more experienced quarterbacks on the roster, none of them have substantive game experience, and even as a true freshman last year, Olsen spelled Malcolm Perry. I’ll take it a step further and say, I believe the long term prospect of Perry Olsen is very bright, I would not be surprised to see him put a nice career together over in Annapolis.
FRESNO STATE: The first of two schools in this tier who are looking to Power5 transfers to take over the quarterback, the Bulldogs are hoping Jake Haener by way of Washington provides a spark under center in 2020. Aside from the fact that Haener was another 3-star recruit, and a sought commodity by a very well respected coach in Chris Petersen, and program in Washington. This is a team that could really incluence their divisions landscape with strong, or more importantly, consistent quarterback play. For the sake of our good friend Matt, I’m hoping Haener yields good dividends in Fresno.
SAN JOSE STATE: The Spartans were the benefactors of one of the most pleasant surprise stories in the conference last year, quarterback Josh Love. Not to be confused with Jordan Love, Josh Love of San Jose State significantly exceeded expectations last season, and shined bright when competing against an SEC school. There is a large chasm left at quarterback in San Jose, the incumbents to take over are likely Nick Starkel, ironically, by ways of the transfer portal from Arkansas, who lost to the Spartans last season, and Nick Nash, who established himself as a nice situational runner for the offense. Either way, there should be a Nick under center this year, and he will have a nice compliment of weapons to work with, especially at receiver.
ARMY WEST POINT: Like their bitter rivals at Navy, Army too will be breaking in a new full-time starter at quarterback this season. They do however, have the luxury of succession plans that all have game experience due to injuries at the position. That said, neither Jabari Laws or Christian Anderson experienced a great deal of success by way of wins last year, but Laws played very well against Air Force, throwing for over 200 yards and rushing for another 50. The offense looks to be in good hands if Laws can stay healthy. The other option remains Anderson, who started in the heralded Army-Navy game.
PURDUE: I could be throwing for an offense that features Rondale Moore and make it to at least Tier III on this list. Ok, maybe thats a stretch, but this guys talent cannot be understated. Overall Purdue has continued to recruit talent, surrounding the engineer of their offense with options. Ironically, between injuries, inexperience and then inconsistency (all of which are interdependent in this case) it was the quarterback play that probably limited the Boilermakers potential last year. Elijah Sindelar had been the on and off starter for parts of the last three seasons, but even with another year of eligibility remaining, has opted not to finish out his playing career. That will open the door for Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell to build on their experience from last year and try to improve on what was very much a lackluster campaign. They will be getting some extra competition, courtesy of the UCLA transfer, Austin Burton. Another offseason in coach Brohms offense can only Plummer and O’Connel, and Burton brings experience of his own from the West Coast. The potential is there for a very formidable offense.
WYOMING: The Pokes find themselves in a nice situation, where there is a lot of optimism around their quarterback situation. Sean Chambers has proven to be an electric runner in his playing time over the last two seasons. And Craig Bohl likes to run the ball. But maybe not quite so much at quarterback. All of that running is what opened the door in 2019 for freshman, Levi Williams, who performed very well in his own right. Williams is the more esteemed passer, which continues to be the area of developmental focus for Chambers. Wyoming will run the ball, and they will play good defense. If they can get good quarterback play, the Cowboys could push their way to the top of the Mountain Division.
HAWAI’I: The Bows’ are in an interesting position, also replacing an NFL Quarterback. They however, are doing so with an incumbent in Chevan Cordeiro, who on and off again replaced the aforementioned draft pick Cole McDonald. The talent exhibited by McDonald was substantive enough that he left a year of eligibility on the table to enter the draft, and was picked in the 7th round by the Tennessee Titans. With the offense that new head coach, Todd Graham looks to install at Hawai’i, Cordeiro should fit in very well. He saw action in parts of every game in 2019, and has had success when given the opportunity to play in the last two seasons, this includes victories in starts against Conference competition. The bottom line is, a very talented, and now NFL Player struggled to stay atop the quarterback depth chart because of Cordeiro. With the combination of his skillset, the offensive scheme and the talent around him, I believe Chevan Cordeiro and Hawai’i are poised to be problematic for the defenses in the Mountain West.
COLORADO STATE: This may surprise some, and draw a difference opinion from most, but I believe Patrick O’Brien and the Rams offense have the potential to be very good in 2020. With what I saw from O’Brien last season and the returning talent around him, the only thing that worries in regards to their fulfill their potential is the coaching staff and philosophy. That is not to take a shot at new head coach, Steve Addazio, but rather point to his track record as a head coach, and moreover the identify of his teams. These are very run oriented, physical offenses whose success was predicated on winning in the trenches. With the talent around the skill positions, I can’t help but wonder how high the ceiling could be. As for O’Brien, I don’t think he gets the recognition that Colin Hill may have as an impact on the conference, but when all is said and done, I believe Patrick O’Brien will establish himself as a very respectable quarterback. Were it not for my concerns around coaching philosophy, I would have them as a Tier I team.
BOISE STATE: It should be no surprise that the class of the conference, in Boise State lands in the top tier of our rankings. With returning starter in sophomore Hank Bachmeier, the Broncos will be looking to continue rolling. As a 4-star prospect, Bachmeier earned the starting nod as a true freshman last year, and his play showed why. This wasn’t a case of a program rebuild either, the Broncos have Conference Champion expectation each year. Boise had upperclassmen on their roster last year, as they do this year, but Bachmeier seized the opportunity, and barring injury I expect him and the rest of the offense to give the opposition fits all season. Injury is a fair caveat though, as they played three different starting quarterbacks in 2019, something Air Force knows all too well. In the event the Broncos do have to test their depth, there is no lack of talent or experience, with Chase Cord returning and landing once prized prospect Jack Sears from USC, through the transfer portal. They do have to replace a lot of talent on the offensive line, but when you look at the pieces around the quarterback, there is a plenty of playmakers in this supporting cast. The Broncos should be ready to roll in 2020.
There are a lot of question marks at quarterback on the Falcons schedule this season. That doesn’t mean these are all teams who will suffer due to play under center, I think its more of a referendum on the beauty of college football, personnel changes and teams must evolve.
Some of these teams who have a bit of an unknown under center as we sit here in May, will inevitably have answers in a few short months. A handful even, will likely find they are in very capable hands. That’s how college football works.
As for the Air Force defense who will have to prepare for all of these quarterbacks, and the offenses which they engineer; I don’t expect there to be an ounce of concern. The reality is, the Air Force defense practices against the conferences most dynamic quarterback daily. Donald Hammond probably will not get the recognition he deserves as a well rounded signal caller, but when the season concludes, I believe you will be hard pressed to identify a more impactful player under center than Hammond.
Speaking of veterans who make an impact; I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t take a moment to recognize Army Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Hoover of West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.
I competed with Bryan in my youth up through high school, locally in our hockey league. Like a majority of his endeavors, Bryan excelled at hockey. Years past since I had seen him last, unfortunately until I learned he died in Afghanistan, on June 11, 2010, serving in our countries military.
Staff Sgt. Hoover was a former active duty marine, before enlisting in the Army National Guard in March of 2005, to again serve his country. He served three tours of duty, and was very proud to do so. He was also a proud follower of Jesus Christ, and witnessed his faith in the course of duty.
Bryan embodies what it means to place service before self. He represents all that’s greatest in the American Spirit. And I am beyond proud to even say I knew this patriot and hero. This doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the many ways he impacted his community, or even country, but If you would like to learn more about Bryan Hoover, you can look here.
On this Memorial Day, it is my distinct privilege to be able to enjoy the leisure that is writing about the United States Air Force Academy. Simple pleasures and the many other joys of freedom came at price for so many, and I want to convey my deepest and sincerest thanks to all the veterans out there. Be sure to thank a veteran if you see them today, tomorrow and every other day.