The Impact of the 2019 and 2020 Class of Commits
Youth Movement at the Air Force Academy
In a football season like no other, 2020 has placed hurdles before every program in the country. Some more than others. But universally, the ramifications felt by everything that has come with the Coronavirus have forced schools, players and coaches do things differently.
Personally, I try to reconcile how challenges can manifest into something positive. And I truly believe that trials and tribulations bring us to a better providence, provided we allow for it.
For Air Force, a Covid shortened season caused a lot of players to opt out, preserving a year of eligibility for a presumable full or “normal” year at the Academy to follow. Just as devastating has been the constant shuffling of players in and out of the lineup due to Covid regulations, most commonly contact tracing.
The medley above has been the catalyst to the Falcons learning just what they have in the youth on their roster. There have been plenty of ups and downs as you’d expect with so many underclassmen and first time starters, but if you consider the circumstance of playing nearly 30 first-time starters already, there is a lot more positive than negative.
Because of this seismic shift to underclassmen in 2020, I want to shine a light on the freshman and sophomores in particular. Specifically, I’ll be focusing on the past two recruiting cycles top prospects, relative to where they are, or are not showing up on the field and depth chart.
As a matter of note: all player commit ratings referenced are in accordance with 247sports.com prospect ratings. Also, players who attended the Academies Prep School in 2018 or 2019 would have a current class year of Freshman or Sophomore respectively. For example, Chris Kane was a 3-star commit in 2018 and attended the Prep School, therefore he’s currently only a sophomore despite being three years removed from his recruiting class.
THE 2019 CLASS OF COMMITS
The 2019 Recruiting class saw the most highly rated prospect to ever commit to attend the Air Force Academy in Defensive Back, Nate Polk. Ironically, in spite of all the young players to see action this season, Polk has not been listed on the depth chart or even roster yet.
Compare that to Michael Mack II (CB), Camby Goff (DB), T.J. Love (DL), Ben Brittain (QB), Jensen Jones (QB), Jordan Gidrey (RB), Caden Blum (TE), Nasir Rashid (LB), Jadon Pearson (DB), Charles Bein (P) and Zion Kelly (CB) just to name a few. All of who have shown up on the two-deep depth chart and seen playing time.
Goff and Love have been starters this season, while tight Caden Blum saw the field early in their most recent game against Utah State and Pearson has been contributing on special teams this season. All these guys bring needed and meaningful depth to a depleted roster.
Taking things a step further, the teams three top offensive producers are all from that 2019 recruiting class. Starting Quarterback Haaziq Daniels has gotten better seemingly with each quarter he plays this season. Most noticeable has been his growth in the passing game.
Johnathan Youngblood who came to the Academy as a fullback has transitioned to linebacker nicely. A year removed from the Prep School, Youngblood is starting as a freshman in the middle of a resurgent Falcons defense, and is one of the teams top tacklers.
Prize recruit Kyle Patterson has already paid dividends at tight end as a top target in the pass game. While he was not available to play against the Aggies last week, he should be expected to be an impact player against Army.
Lastly, and probably the biggest surprise of the group is Brad Roberts. Still listed as a ‘Running Back; in the media guide, he’s lined up in the fullback spot, and been an absolute stud this season. He’s only played in three games this season, but in those games he has amassed nearly 400 yards on the ground. We all expected a lot of rush yards to come from the fullback this year, but by way of Timothy Jackson.
The thing that stands out the most to me as I look at what players have found their way on the field is the absence of top prospects from the class. With as many freshman and sophomores to play significant roles this year, eight of the top nine commits from this class, all of the 3-star variety, have yet to see the field.
— Air Force Falcons (@AF_Falcons) December 11, 2020
THE 2020 FRESHMAN CLASS
Normally freshman don’t see the field for Air Force a year after graduating high school. Unless, of course something really bad has happened to the depth at a particular position. Heck, they don’t even usually get rostered or travel with the team for that matter. But again, 2020 has been a very different year.
The Falcons have been relying on multiple players from this years 2020 recruiting class to not only contribute, but start regularly. Some of the primary depth contributors have been Jayden Thiergood (DL), Micah Davis (WR) and Seth Meador (WR). Meador, another 3-star recruit was used on a deep shot that didn’t connect against Utah State. Perhaps that is something we will see a lot more of in the next four years.
Alec Mock (LB) and Matthew Malloy (LB) have been key pieces to the Falcons defense who also come courtesy of this 2020 recruiting class. Mock has been a starter in all the games he’s dressed for (3) and Malloy has emerged recently as a starter, and cashed in with an interception last week.
Jayden Goodwin (DB) is the last freshman from this class that were going to cover, and he’s just taken over as a starter in the secondary in recent weeks. He’s acquitted himself very well in his short time, and he should only get better. One of many bright young players that we otherwise may not have gotten to see were it not for the crazy 2020 circumstances.
WHATS IT ALL MEAN?
Keeping in mind, Air Force has very large recruiting classes due to the way the Academy Operates, so there are a lot of players who enroll each year that fly under the radar until they have their opportunity. It happens every year.
But what we are seeing this year is unprecedented as Troy Calhoun and staff have counted on so many young players each week. There is a wealth of talent at home right now, waiting to get back to the Academy next semester and primed to really fortify the 2021 roster- especially on defense.
Multiple all-conference players like Jordan Jackson, Dermonte Meeks and Tre Bugg should return to mesh with a cast of 2020 players next season to comprise what could be a very special defense. Admittedly, we will be saying goodbye to some of the best players in the conference and Academy on the offensive side of the ball.
Air Force can’t just replace talent like Nolan Laufenberg, Parker Ferguson and Kadin Remsberg. But as they do every year, the Falcons will find the right players to deploy, and in the case of offensive line play; in Coach Steed Lobotzke we trust. Plus, isn’t there a younger Remsberg who is pretty good still in high school?
Either way, this 2020 team has given us plenty of excitement this year as we close out the season. To think, these young men are going to have the opportunity to play for the prize of all prizes in one week, the Commander-in-Cheif’s trophy. Some of them could be doing this three more times! Let’s secure number 21 first though.