Rivals.com Preview: Air Force #88

This year is key for Coach Troy Calhoun, last year he made Air Force the surprise team of the year and will look to rekindle that magic again but this second year will be tough. Again here is another outlet and their view on the Falcons.

88. AIR FORCE

COACH: Troy Calhoun (9-4 in one season).
LAST SEASON: 9-4 overall, 6-2 in Mountain West (second in league).
FINAL 2007 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 43rd.

Calhoun

KEEP AN EYE ON: Junior strong safety Chris Thomas was second on the Falcons with 110 tackles. He added nine tackles for loss, an interception and 10 pass breakups. Thomas is the only returning starter in the secondary. Senior defensive end Ryan Kemp is the best player on a line that returns all three starters (the Falcons use a 3-4 scheme). Kemp had 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked kick last season.
STAR POWER: Junior guard Nick Charles not only is one of the best interior linemen in the MWC, he also is a dean’s list student. He started at three line spots for the Falcons last season and was a big reason they averaged 299.5 rushing yards per game.
STRENGTHS: The defensive line is a good one. Thing is, it had better be because the back eight on the defense will have six new starters. Charles is a good building block for an offensive line that will have three new starters. Senior tight end Travis Dekker is a threat.
WEAKNESSES: The offense is a huge concern. Air Force lost its top six rushers. The Falcons have led their league in rushing for 10 consecutive seasons, but that could change. New quarterback Shea Smith, a senior, has eight rushing attempts and 12 passing attempts in his career. Only one receiver who caught more than eight passes is back. The linebackers were the key to a surprisingly good defense last season, and three starters there are gone. The secondary struggled at times last season, and there will be three new starters in that unit, too.
THE BUZZ: Air Force was one of the nation’s biggest surprises last season under Calhoun, a first-year coach who guided the Falcons to a five-victory improvement over 2006. But the Falcons lost 15 starters, and there will be an all-new offensive backfield this season – as well as three new starters on the offensive line. Given Air Force’s reliance on the run – the Falcons have averaged at least 200 rushing yards per game every season since 1981 – that has to be at least a bit worrisome. Calhoun was the league’s coach of the year last season. If he can coax the Falcons into another upper-division finish, he would deserve to be coach of the year again.

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