Last year there was a lot of uncertainty as to the starting quarterback and the level of play we could expect from the position without the suspended Donald Hammond. Haaziq Daniels emerged as the starter, and the Falcons broke him in slowly with early season conservative play calling. By the middle of the season, Daniels was clearly in control and executing the full array of Air Force’s playbook. Brief looks at backup quarterbacks Warren Bryan and Ben Brittain provided some confidence to Air Force fans that an injury to Daniels would not result in much, if any, dropoff in performance.
All three quarterbacks who played last year return for 2021, and three more QBs are returning from turnbacks, so the position is crowded even before considering any freshmen who show up on campus this year. Chance Stevenson, Jake Smith, and Zach Larrier are the returning turnbacks.
With that many QBs on the roster, we might expect to see some position switching, trying to get the best athletes on the field at all times. As I said in my running back preview, Stevenson has playing time at tailback and might return to that position. Larrier was a multi-sport athlete in high school who saw time at quarterback, receiver, defensive back, and punter.
- Hazziiq Daniels
- Warren Bryan
- Jake Smith
- Ben Brittain
Daniels returns for his junior year after a solid 2020. Perhaps the best way to evaluate Daniel’s year on paper might be to compare his sophomore year to the sophomore year of the man he replaced - Donald Hammond:
Rushing yards per carry - 5.4
Rushing TDs - 3
Passing completion pct - 55.6%
Passing TDs - 3
Interceptions - 3
Passing yards per attempt - 8.0
Passing rating - 130.1
Rushing yards per carry - 4.5
Rushing TDs - 9
Passing completion pct - 52.8
Passing TDs - 5
Interceptions - 2
Passing yards per attempt - 8.7
Passing rating - 142.8
You can see from this comparison, Daniels stacks up pretty well with Hammond, but it’s clear that progress in the passing game is required to reach the next level. In particular, the three interceptions all came in the last game against Army, and were the result of bad throws or forcing the ball into tight coverage.
Daniels’ command of the triple option is very good, and he seems a little faster and more elusive than Hammond but not as powerful on tough yardage situations. He did have three fumbles, and needs to take care of the ball better.
Bryan is a senior this year, so has been in the program long enough to do a good job as a backup. He looks every bit as capable to fill in in the event of injury as Mike Schmidt was two years ago against Hawaii.
Smith had a brief appearance in a Falcon game two years ago, but last year opted to sit out on a turnback. In high school, he played safety and quarterback, and his claim to fame is as the last quarterback prior to Justin Fields last year to defeat Trevor Lawrence in a football game. He threw a 26 yard touchdown pass in the final minute of a second round Georgia state championship game to beat Lawrence 21-17.
Sports Illustrated had an article about the matchup you can find here
Brittain played in two games last year as a freshman. His only pass was good for a 31 yard completion. He also carried the ball 4 times for 15 yards.