Air Force Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice
The Falcons are flying high heading into spring after a successful 2021, but where might Troy Calhoun focus to put Air Force over the top?
Going from good to great is never easy.
The Air Force Falcons dug in for the start of spring football practices yesterday looking to take their first steps toward securing a Mountain division title for the first time since 2015. While Troy Calhoun’s cadets have been one of the more successful teams anywhere in the conference nearly every year, you can almost set your watch to the certainty he’ll remind them often that five more points could’ve made things much different last fall.
In the pursuit of new heights, what needs to be done on the practice field this spring?
Back to work 💪😤 pic.twitter.com/NgnGIhvgnK
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) February 15, 2022
How will the offensive line replace its most valuable piece this time?
A year ago, much of the early talk about the Falcons regarded how they would replace all-conference offensive linemen Nolan Laufenberg and Parker Ferguson. As it turned out, they accomplished that mission with flying colors thanks in no small part to left guard Hawk Wimmer, who started every single game while the rest of the unit shuffled through ten different combinations and was instrumental to Air Force remaining one of the nation’s most lethal run-blocking teams.
Now, though, Wimmer is moving on himself, so the question of replacing an all-conference lineman presents itself once again. It seems most likely that Isaac Cochran and Wesley Ndago, who combined to start every game at right guard opposite Wimmer in 2021, will get the first crack and entrenching themselves further atop the line rotation, but Ayden McCullough, who saw time in eight games and was listed as Wimmer’s backup by year’s end, could also get a chance to shine. Whatever the answer ends up being, don’t bet against the next man up.
Who could replace Tre Bugg III at cornerback?
Bugg didn’t get the same kind of all-conference recognition as Wimmer but there’s little doubt he was just as important to the Falcons’ success on the other side of the ball, breaking up 12 passes (more than twice as many as any other Air Force defender) and intercepting two passes while also collecting 65 tackles. Now that he’s also moving on, though, the Falcons will have to replace that production somehow, as well.
Thankfully, three other cornerbacks — Eion Castonguay, Zion Kelly, and Michael Mack II — got extensive playing time opposite Bugg in 2021 and figure to make the battle one worth watching into the fall. Considering the rest of the secondary figures to be one of the most experienced anywhere in the Mountain West, whoever emerges could be a key player for Air Force’s title hopes.
What will the QB2 race look like?
Haaziq Daniels is pretty clearly entrenched as the Falcons’ starting quarterback but, given how often the average Air Force QB takes hits, having a reliable “Plan B” has often been an asset. Just ask Arion Worthman, Isaiah Sanders, Karson Roberts, or… well, you get the idea.
Considering that incumbent backup Warren Bryan hit the transfer portal, however, Air Force will begin the search anew with some fascinating options on hand. Some of them won’t get the chance to see the field right away, like Zac Larrier (who ended 2021 behind Bryan on the depth chart but is busy furthering himself as a track and field sprinter), but Jake Smith and Ben Brittain have played sparingly over the last two years — in 2019 and 2020, respectively — while Jensen Jones saw a small bit of action late last season. It’s not the most glamorous role, but it could be a vitally important one for these Falcons.