2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #17, Air Force LB Vince Sanford
The Falcons linebacker broke out in a big way last season and finds himself now on our preseason list of the Mountain West’s best.
From out of nowhere, but here to stay.
More so than any other team in the Mountain West, the Air Force Falcons have a habit of developing standout athletes who come into a season without much buzz and there may be no better example of that in recent memory than Vince Sanford, the next athlete on our annual countdown of the conference’s best.
Sanford began his collegiate career by playing only sparingly throughout 2018 and 2019, appearing in nine total games across those two seasons, before missing the entire 2020 season altogether. That made his rapid ascension in 2021 all the more surprising, as he would make 12 starts in 13 games and establish himself as one of the best edge rushers anywhere in the country, setting the tone with 59 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks.
According to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, Sanford was so productive that he finished 2021 as one of just three players with at least 9.5 sacks and 13 run stuffs among 20 tackles for loss. The other two? San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas, a recent NFL Draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals, and Alabama’s Will Anderson, the consensus top defender in the country. Oh, and he also had three passes defended and four forced fumbles, as well, all of which helped him post an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 80.6 that ranked fourth among edge defenders in the conference.
While Sanford won’t sneak up on anyone in 2022, he won’t have to since playing like you’re unstoppable is probably more fun, anyway.
#AirForce OLB Vince Sanford is having a monster season for the Falcons. 6.5 sacks, 3 FF’s, 8 TFL’s and 31 total tackles. Wins here on the edge against New Mexico.
Just a Junior, but had an excellent game Saturday against Wyoming. 1 man wrecking crew.
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) October 13, 2021
#AirForce OLB Vince Sanford (#26) has some major juice coming off the edge for the Falcons. Quick first step and relies on his initial explosiveness to defeat tackles.
Was in the face of Carson Strong all night Friday night. Now up to 15 TFLs and 8.5 sacks this season. pic.twitter.com/af0U7wq2Fl
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) November 22, 2021