As a Falcon fan, I was extremely disappointed when the Academy announced that Donald Hammond had lost his good standing as a cadet and is unable to play football until he regains his status. I want to add however that I am not disappointed in Donald Hammond. Yes, whatever he did that brought this about has resulted in a blow to his team’s chances at achieving its goals for the upcoming season. However, the standards of behavior at the Academy are very high and even the best of cadets can stray away from those standards. There will be no announcement about what happened to precipitate the loss of status. It could be minor or it could be more serious. Every indication prior to this incident indicated Hammond was a good cadet. He was majoring in Aeronautical Engineering, one of the more difficult majors at the Academy and doing well. His leadership on the football field was obvious and many people with connections to the team frequently pointed that out. I hope for Hammond’s sake this incident is not like the Cole Fagan incident last year which involved drugs. They are a scourge in our society and destroy lives. This last year has been stressful in many ways and isolating people away from each other does not help matters.
It is possible that this incident was minor and Hammond could return to the field this year, but the Falcons will have to prepare for games without Hammond. The other quarterbacks on the roster are Warren Bryan, Chance Stevenson, Zach Larrier, and a couple of first year quarterbacks. It is not at all likely that anyone just arriving at the academy can step in and immediately run the offense anywhere near the level that Hammond can. Shaun Carney was the only quarterback in the option era that was able to start at quarterback on the first day of the season, and only Dee Dowis and Tim Jefferson were the only other quarterbacks who were tabbed to start multiple games during their freshmen season.
Stevenson, Bryan, and Larrier played a few snaps last year in garbage time. Stevenson also saw some time at slotback, and took a pair of pitches for halfback option passes, completing both of them for 41 and 23 yards. Bryan had an impressive high school career in La Verne, CA, where he threw for 7600 yards and ran for 1200 yards in his career there. Larrier played quarterback and defensive back in high school and was recruited by Oregon State and Washington State in addition to Air Force. All three will have steep learning curves to reach a level of precision needed to lead the Falcons to a successful season. My hope would be that the level of talent around whoever plays quarterback would bring results similar to last year, when Mike Schmidt came into the Hawaii game with only a few snaps of experience and proceeded to rush for 120 yards and three touchdowns and completed 5 of 6 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown.
Whoever will replace Hammond will at least have a full fall camp with plenty of reps with Hammond not around to play with the first team. Hopefully the rest of the team will learn from the fate of Hammond and Fagan (as well as David Cormier and Brandon Lewis) that not following the rules at the Academy hurts yourself and your teammates, and these incidents won’t continue to happen. I’ll be interested to see how the rest of the team can rally around their new quarterback and meet their goals for the season.