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The State of Play – Mountain West Conference: Air Force (2013 Preview)

With the hiring and firing of coaches, plus the charade that is National Signing Day, behind us, the never-ending world of college football moves to its next stage – training camp! Yes, with spring been and gone, a new fervor settles over each school as the hope that comes with a new year settles in. The seniors are gone, but a new batch of starters is ready to step in and prove their worth. Or not, whatever the case may be. So read on and find out where each team stands.


Ty MacArthur

2012 Record: 6-7, 5-3 MWC
Offensive MVP: RB Cody Getz – Rushing 198-1248-9, Receiving 2-1-0.
Defensive MVP: LB Alex Means – 101 Tackles, 12 for loss, 4 Sacks, 9 PBUs, 2 Interceptions (1 TD).



What to Expect in 2013:


So which was the real Falcons team last season? The one who played Michigan hard in the Big House and had a 4-1 midseason streak, or the one limped to a 1-4 finish, including a sound beating at the hands of Rice in the Armed Forces Bowl? This was the problem with the team, they were maddeningly inconsistent. This year may not be any better, with only nine starters back, and many of the key performers gone. One offensive star returning is Ty MacArthur, nominally a receiver, but used in a number of different ways. Last season he led the team with 24 receptions for 411 yards and 2 TDs, but also ran for 467 yards and another 2 scores. Fellow receiver Dontae Strickland will take on an increased role after catching 13 passes for 261 yards and 2 TDs. Kale Pearson will be the QB after playing as a reserve last season. He’s already a great runner, but he’s looked good as a passer in camp. Getz will be missed at RB, but Jon Lee (545 yards, 4 TDs) and Anthony LaCoste (15 yards, 1 TD) are better than serviceable. FB Broam Hart (100, 1 TD), looks more like a regular tailback, but he runs hard and should be able to produce in this offense. The offensive line returns only Drew Kerber and Austin Hayes, the unit’s sole returning starters from last season, at left and right guard respectively. Michael Husar started the season at center, but was knocked out for the year in the first game. He should be back in his old role. The new tackles will be Jerry Henry on the left and Matt Rochell opposite him. Even with all the changes, this is Air Force, so the O-line should be solid as usual.


The defense that disappeared at times last season is losing five starters, but cornerstones like Means and leading tackler Austin Niklas will be missed. The line returns three players who saw significant action last season, but none of those played at the all-important nose tackle position. The size similarities amongst the linemen gives the Falcons the ability to switch guys around, but wrestler Dana Luebbe looks to be the starter. He’s strong, but it’s his quickness and athleticism that will make him a factor. At linebacker, only Jared Jones returns of last year’s starters, but he has a ton of potential on the outside. Opposite him should be Reggie Barnes or Steven Sumpter, a pair of fantastic athletes, either of whom could potentially beat out Jones for his spot. The inside will be manned by Joey Nichol, who showed what he could do against SDSU with 7 tackles and 2 TFLs, and Connor Healy, who played mostly on special teams but flashed nice ability when he got the chance. The Falcons secondary got blasted a few times last season, but they’re usually the best unit on the defense. With three starters back, they should be stronger in 2013. Stefon Batts and Chris Miller return on the corners and both are solid against the pass and willing run defenders. SS Christian Spears isn’t big, but he hits like a ton of bricks and does his best work against the run. The new addition will be Jamal Byrd, who has all the hallmarks of a decent FS, but hasn’t had the opportunity to strut his stuff.
A replacement will be needed for kicker Parker Herrington, who hit just 4 of 10 FGs after an all-conference season the year before. Punter David Baska is accurate but lacks a big leg, and will get a battle from occasional kickoff specialist Zach Hoffman, who can boom the ball. MacArthur will return punts again, although he was merely average, while LaCoste was a very effective kick returner, despite a long of just 42 yards. The coverage units should continue to be very good.


Has the Falcons light begun to wane? After knocking heads with the big boys in the Mountain West (and beyond) in previous years, AF have looked less than impressive the last couple of seasons, including their first losing record since 2006. This year’s squad has a lot of potential, but lacks experience, and the season could be a learning one for the Falcons. The offense will continue to roll, while the speed on defense will be more of a factor against lesser teams, thanks to the overall lack of size, but the big plays that make AF so dangerous may be hard to come by as nearly everyone learns the ropes. The schedule, too, is a nightmare. After a brush with Colgate, the Falcons play – Utah State, @Boise State, Wyoming, @ Nevada, @Navy, San Diego State, Notre Dame and improving Army. The easiest part of the schedule is the closing three games, but Air Force may not survive the first nine. Part of me is hoping they’ll win seven or eight again, but I’m leaning more towards four. Watch out for the Falcons in 2014 though.