For Troy Calhoun and the Air Force Falcons, the rebuilding of Academy football that started in 2007 has been leading up to this season. Calhoun's first recruiting class has finally reached their senior year (many of the players started out at the prep school before entering the Academy in 2008). That class has been led every year by fourth year starting QB Tim Jefferson. He is making a mark on the Falcon's record book, most impressively ranking second all-time with 21 wins as the starter. He will undoubtedly pass Air Force legend Dee Dowis on that list before the calendar changes to October.
The Falcons return seven starters from last season's 9-4 squad, including all skill position starters with the excepting of fullback. But the word around camp this month is that Calhoun has been giddy about the new crop of recruits fresh out of basic training. It is rare for a freshman to make a significant contribution because of the demands placed on an incoming cadet (basic training, familiarizing with military life, and academics), but Ben Souther and Tyrone Sauls have made their marks and may emerge as go to players from day one. The option offense relies on the fullback to move the ball up the middle and keep the defense honest. Replacing last year's starter Jared Tew is the only real project on the offensive side of the ball.
Another way for the option to open up the opposition's defense is passing over the top of it. For many years Air Force fans had hoped to see the Falcons open things up, and this year is no different than the past. The Falcons have six pass catchers returning this season led by seniors Jonathan Warzeka and Zack Kauth. Warzeka is a hybrid who led the offense with 18 catches for 406 yards and 3 TDs typically coming out of motions through the backfield. Kauth is the stretch man at 6' 5" with great hands who has apparently cut his 40 yard dash time to under 4.5 seconds. That may not be too impressive to some, but at the Academy it is a rarity. Kauth led Air Force with 4 TDs in 2010. Will Calhoun stretch defenses a little more this year? Time will tell, but the talent is finally there.
One thing that is for sure is Air Force will run the ball again, and again, and again. Asher Clark returns for his final year sitting seventh on the career rushing list at Air Force with 2,484 yards. With a repeat of last season's 1,031 yard performance Clark will find himself second to only Dowis on the all-time list. After Clark, the cupboard isn't bare with juniors Darius Jones and Cody Getz both gaining experience as sophomores and ready to spell Clark when ever he needs a rest.
For many a year the mantra of Air Force football has been re-load, re-load, re-load. This year the Falcons are reloading with refined returning starters. There will not be lost time in practice to teaching players on the fly and getting them up to game speed. This season will be about fine tuning and focusing on attacking each opponent's weaknesses.
Expectations are high both in the locker room and in the stands. Troy Calhoun may be giddy about the young talent he has brought in for the future, but Falcon fans should be salivating over the proven talent that is already there ready to strike again this fall.