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Falcon Football: Leader of Men

Who Will Start Under Center for USAFA

Action Shot of Donald Hammond last season
USAFA quarterback Donald Hammond III runs through the Midshipmen defense

What a difference a year can make, especially when the performance we were left with was that of such a high caliber. I’m of course referring to DJ Hammond III, quarterback for the Falcons last season as a sophomore and will most likely be returning to the spot under center this upcoming fall. When discussing quarterbacks from the Air Force Academy the conversation differs from other schools in the Mountain West as well as the rest of the country. For one the triple option offense the military academies run force the quarterback to be under center 60-70% of the time, something that has become a rare site in the landscape of college football. The other thing that makes the position different is the responsibilities given to the quarterback in the triple option, most offenses in the spread that has now permeated the sport gives the quarterback one option read Hammond and other academy quarterbacks have the initial dive option along with at least one pitch option and possibly two.

Hammond III was forced to mature quickly last season in the hyper competitive after the absence of Isaiah Saunders, another young quarterback who lead the comeback from the 2017 season in the finale against Utah State, Hammond had to learn how to compete at the speed of the game that he was not accustomed to and it showed in the overall record. Hammond now having that experience and a team who will be hungry to elevate themselves back to the level of play that landed the team in bowl games and brought home Commander in Chief trophies.

The native from Hampton, Georgia started five games last season for the Falcons posting a 3-2 record in those five games. Though his time was limited Hammond still posted the fourth highest rushing yard total on the team with 371 yards on 83 carries while also completing 52.8 percent of his passes, a high margin for a quarterback in this style of offense for 623 total yards passing on the season. While these are not the flashy number that the Baker Mayfields and Patrick Mahomes of recent history have put up I believe Hammond’s impact will not only be felt in stats but in his new found confidence after posting a winning record as a starter last season.

Turmoil at a marquee position like quarterback often leads to disappointing results in the win and loss column finding the right man to lead your team can often completely turn around the fortunes of even the most down trodden programs. Hammond proved last year that with his athletic gifts and a new understanding of the offense he can not only elevate his game but the game of those around him by finding the right reads to make, just look to the season finale last year against CSU where fullback Cole Fagan rushed all over the Rams defense hanging the very crooked total of 260 yards on the ground. If the Falcons want to ignite another successful string of seasons keeping Hammond in the starting role will give them the most confidence as an offensive unit to play up to their potential and lead the program into the future to compete in bowl games and for conference titles.