The Falcons are Deep and Experienced
Who Will Be 2022’s Surprise Performers?
Air Force will have the benefit of returning a lot of experience and equal parts production in 2022. This isn’t always the case in Colorado Springs, so they will take it.
There certainly were some key departures from last years squad between the NFL and graduation, so there will inevitably be holes to fill. However, those gaps are opportunities for some of the Falcon’s returning members. While maybe not previous starters, there are plenty of experienced contributors returning to the fold.
A lot of these players who were counted on last year due to injuries, depth or change of pace, are going to be counted on to fill larger roles this year. These are probably names most Falcon fans are familiar with. Think Dane Kinamon, Bo Richter or Eian Castonguay.
What we want to do today, is take a look at some guys that may be under the radar now, only to surface as contributors or more in the coming season. Let’s call them wildcards.
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) May 3, 2022
WILDCARDS: SKILLED POSITIONS
The Falcons saw their gamebreaker, Brandon Lewis head to Tennessee to continue his career in the NFL this spring. Historically, Air Force has had a big play threat like Lewis during some of their more memorable seasons. Replacing Lewis will be tough. But the near 30 yards-a-pop that he brought to the table doesn’t have to be matched, for yard. The threat of a capable playmaker does though.
This is where track star Zach Larrier should find a considerable workload increase in 2022. With the quarterback position on lock, Larrier is too skilled, with such explosive speed to keep off the field. Look for a position switch, special packages to feature him under center and a litany of other attempts to get the ball in his hands.
With the Mountain West’s rushing champion, Brad Roberts gutting teams inside at fullback, Air Force gets more opportunities on the edge for slotbacks (wide receivers) like Micah Davis to do damage on the ground. But what about the more conventional “Halfback/Tailback” to compliment Roberts in the backfield?
John Lee Eldgridge III is likely to be a consumer of carriers this fall. The deep rotation of fullbacks will demand a lot of carries, but there will be more to go around, and Eldridge should find himself in the thick of competing for carries.
A couple other names to keep an eye on as the season draws near might be Ben Jefferson (WR), Jacob Trach (RB), Conner Carey (WR) or Owen Burke (RB).
WILDCARDS: THE FRONT SEVEN
Jordan Jackson was a staple on the Falcon’s defensive front for years, but the time to execute their succession plan is now. Jackson was drafted by the New Orleans Saints this spring, leaving a vacancy. Plenty of players rotated along the line gaining experience, and even started along side the recent NFL draftee.
A couple players who didn’t necessarily emerge last year that could factor in this fall are Alesandro Maxwell and Andrew Bois D’Enghien. There will be plenty of competition along the line, thankfully there are a lot of experienced bodies to rotate through.
The linebacker position is a group that is probably the deepest on the team, if not the entire Mountain West Conference. Replacing someone in an NFL mini camp as well as a former All-Conference performer isn’t supposed to be easy.
However, in addition to a handful of proven commodities, players like Mathew Malloy, Nasir Rashid and Jace Waters could also factor into the equation, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Air Force should be quite comfortably two to three deep at their linebacker spots.
Congratulations to the Class of 2023 on hitting another milestone!
The rising seniors celebrated Ring Dance over the weekend. The weather may not have been ideal, but that didn't dampen the mood as the cadets received their class rings.
Congrats #USAFA2023! pic.twitter.com/MaJoVCPacC
— U.S. Air Force Academy (@AF_Academy) May 23, 2022
WILDCARDS: THE SECONDARY
While returning one of the Mountain West’s premiere safeties in Trey Taylor, they are replacing a very experienced one in Corvan Taylor. Similarly, another NFL talent in Tre Bugg III leaves a spot open at corner. While there are a lot of guys who have gotten reps throughout the secondary that are left on the roster, the group as a whole will look a little different.
One of the players that should be in the mix at safety would be Jalen Mergerson. After a spot fill in for Trey Taylor early in the season, Mergerson didn’t see regular playing time after. That could certainly change in 2022.
Mason Bugg is in his third year now with Air Force, and that’s equal to the amount of time he’s been playing defensive back since transitioning from a high school quarterback. Don’t be surprised to see his jersey dirty come this fall.
Both Mergerson and Bugg are going to be Juniors, and it’s not uncommon for Falcon upperclassmen to make their move, and their mark during Junior year. Another Junior, Patrick Dahlen has been listed at Corner and Safety may also find his way onto the field as well.
Similar to the linebackers, there are a lot of experienced guys in the secondary, both starters and contributors. This should make for some very interesting jockeying as we move into fall camp.
There are going to be players that surface who were inevitably missed here, just as they were probably overlooked in the recruiting process. It’s hard to really anticipate what an Air Force roster will comprehensively look like week to week during the season, much less so far ahead of fall camp. Add the truest of wildcards, Prep School players coming to the Academy, and it makes for some exciting speculation around a team that should be competing for a Conference title.