Air Force Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice
The Falcons wrapped up another ten-win campaign last fall but doing it again in 2023 may be tougher. What needs to be addressed in spring?
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The Falcons can stay in the hunt by finding answers.
Fresh off of capturing their third ten-win season in four years, the Air Force Falcons hit the practice field to begin spring football today with the aim of continuing to fly as high as ever.
Extending the recent run of success won’t be easy, though, as the cadets will have to replace their starting quarterback, record-setting fullback, arguably their top offensive lineman from last season, and a trio of key defenders. What questions need focus for the Falcons to maintain their status as one of the Mountain West’s models of consistency?
Who will get the most opportunities to replace Haaziq Daniels?
Air Force’s prolonged run of success has come courtesy of some very strong play at quarterback over the last handful of years, first from Donald Hammond III and then Daniels, who decided to hit the transfer portal as an Academy graduate earlier this winter. The Falcons will have multiple roles to fill, but the one under center will deservedly receive the most attention.
At first glance, offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen should have at least three viable options on hand. Jensen Jones and Ben Brittain both ended last year as Daniels’s backups, tied together with an “OR” in the team’s Armed Forces Bowl depth chart, though Jones saw the field slightly more often according to Pro Football Focus with 48 snaps to Brittain’s 25.
Zac Larrier could find himself in the mix, too, though head coach Troy Calhoun has previously expressed interest in deploying his track speed as more of a jack-of-all-trades. Larrier may also need to play catchup after being slowed by injuries in 2022, as he appeared in just six games. Don’t be shocked if this competition ends up playing itself out on the field this September, in Week 1 against Robert Morris.
Who will be the new quarterback’s primary targets?
The Falcons don’t throw very often but, as always, they tended to make those opportunities count last fall with an average of 22.3 yards per reception. A number of last year’s major contributors like David Cormier and Kyle Patterson are gone, though, and while it may not receive as much attention as the quarterback competition, it’s just as important.
If Dane Kinamon’s health is back to 100% after appearing in just three games, that will provide a major boost. Air Force also gave a fair amount of run to Brandon Engel throughout last season, too, but it could also be time to shine for cadets like Kendin Alexander and Cade Harris, both of whom played sparingly as sophomores.
Will the fullback still matter as much?
After a record-smashing senior season, Brad Roberts might be the single toughest player for any Mountain West team to replace heading into the 2023 season. For Air Force, though, there are supplemental questions involved, namely whether they’ll even attempt to do so or whether a shift in the overall workload is imminent.
For as successful as he was over the last three seasons, it’s easy to forget that the Falcons have often been as successful without a huge amount of production from the fullback position: For every Roberts, Jacobi Owens, and Jared Tew, there’s a Kadin Remsberg, Tim McVey, or Cody Getz. Air Force will also need to replace both of Roberts’s primary backups, Emmanuel Michel and Omar Fattah, as well, so while some runners like Owen Burk and Sione Angilau wait in the wings, the pendulum may swing back to the tailbacks, led by John Lee Eldridge III, shouldering more responsibility.