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Falcons coach discusses upcoming football season
Dr. Hans Mueh and Falcons football head coach Troy Calhoun talk about the Falcons football program during a Coaches' Tour stop at Jack Quinn's Irish Pub and Restaurant in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 29, 2010. The Falcons play their first two games of the 2010 season at home, hosting Northwestern State Sept. 4 and conference rival BYU Sept. 11. Dr. Mueh is the Academy's director of athletics. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)
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Football: Calhoun goes 'on tour,' discusses 2010 season

Posted 8/2/2010   Updated 8/5/2010 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Don Branum
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

8/2/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Air Force head football coach Troy Calhoun met with patrons at Jack Quinn's Irish Pub and Restaurant downtown July 29 to talk about the upcoming 2010 season.

The team began practice Aug. 2 for what Calhoun said is one of the most rigorous schedules in the football program's history, one that includes a trip to Norman, Okla., Sept. 18.

"Oklahoma's a phenomenal team," Calhoun said. "If you look back at the last 60 years of college football, they're easily one of the top three teams. When you go into their stadium, you have to fight, and we'll go in scrapping."

Dr. Hans Mueh, the Academy's athletics director, said Air Force stands a real chance against the Sooners. And he may have a point: both teams placed closely to each other in points scored and points allowed. However, starting Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones threw 14 interceptions in 2009, and the Falcons proved last season they could pick off opposing quarterbacks, with 20 interceptions on the season.

"We could be a real trap game for Oklahoma," Dr. Mueh said.

Much of the starting talent from the 2009 season will return. Jefferson, Warzeka and Clark will return to the lineup for their junior seasons. Jefferson, an Atlanta native, seemed to settle into a groove at the end of last season, throwing for 111, 131 and 126 yards against Colorado State, Army and UNLV, then going 10-of-14 for a season-high 161 yards in the Armed Forces Bowl. He finished the season with an average passer rating of 140.84.

A challenge facing Air Force this year is that most of the team's starting offensive line graduated in May to become "part of a real team," Calhoun said: second lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force. However, he said he has confidence in the new players, who he said will develop rapidly.

"They're tough, durable guys, and they love to practice," he added. "If we see a little bit of talent ... we might have six or seven players who have something to contribute this fall, which would give us more depth than we've had the previous four or five seasons."

And the Falcons will have not only one of their toughest schedules in recent history, but they'll also have one of their shortest, playing all 12 regular-season games in 75 days.

Air Force doesn't have the biggest offensive or defensive lines in the MWC -- far from it, because players have to run 1½ miles in less than 11:40 to pass their physical training tests. However, the athletes who play on the offensive and defensive lines are technical experts and know how to communicate, Calhoun said, adding that he expects one outside linebacker in particular to become a potent element of the Falcons' pass rush.

"I want to see Andre Morris take another step," Calhoun said. "I want him to be not just good -- I want to see a guy that other teams have to put two guys on during pass-rush situations."

One of the greatest challenges, though, is that Air Force athletes don't have as much time to practice as other college football teams. While most schools' athletes start training for football in July, the Falcons' cadets train for something else entirely: becoming Air Force officers.

"Most schools keep their students on campus the entire time," Calhoun said. "For us, our cadets were taking part in Operations Air Force. Tim Jefferson was at Dover Air Force Base, Del., because he wanted to know more about flying C-17 (Globemaster III)s. John Warzeka was at Moody AFB, GA. John Davis went to Tyndall AFB, Fla."

Other cadets, such as returning defensive back Reggie Rembert, helped with inprocessing and Basic Cadet Training for the Class of 2014, the coach said. Rembert was squadron commander for the Barbarians flight during BCT, overseeing 35 cadre in training 127 basic cadets.

"For Reggie, a typical day was getting up at 3:30 a.m., spending all day in Jacks Valley overseeing things, and going to bed at 10:30 or 11 p.m.," Calhoun said. "And all our cadets still find a way to get their minds and bodies ready to go and play Air Force football."

The academic environment is also more rigorous. Cadets must take 140 semester hours, including courses in upper-level mathematics, science and engineering, to graduate from the Academy.

"When you think about the cadets at the Air Force Academy, they've got a lot more going on" than students attending other colleges, Calhoun said. "Other schools' core curricula is nothing like what it is at the Academy, which tells you something about the quality of our cadets."

According to a March report on Scout.com, the Air Force Academy was eighth in the Football Bowl Subdivision and first in the MWC for football student-athlete graduation rates with 87 percent, compared to 65 percent and 61 percent for TCU and BYU, the two runners-up. The Academy also had the second-highest Academic Progress Rate in the FBS with 988, second only to Rutgers (992) and 20 points ahead of TCU.

The cadets' dedication and drive toward something greater than themselves is palpable, especially on game day, Calhoun said.

"When you're out there and you see the cadets in formation and all the fly-bys, it's just something else," he said.

Calhoun wrapped up the discussion by encouraging those in the audience to come out and attend Falcons games.

"It's great football, and not only that, you'll get to watch great young men who are going to fight for their country," he said. "If you want to be part of something special, buy your season tickets and come out to Falcon Stadium year in and year out."

Calhoun, a 1989 Air Force Academy graduate, begins his fourth year as Air Force's head coach this season. He has a 25-14 record through three previous seasons, including a victory in the 2009 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl against the Houston Cougars. He was named the Mountain West Conference's head coach of the year in 2007 after leading the Falcons to a 9-3 record. His previous coaching jobs included offensive coordinator for quarterbacks with the NFL's Houston Texans and coaching assistant for the Denver Broncos. He served as a graduate assistant for the Falcons in 1989 and 1990 and as a recruiting and junior varsity offensive coordinator with the Falcons in 1993-94.

Calhoun's last stop on the tour will take place at the Colorado Mountain Brewery near Interstate 25 Exit 153 in Colorado Springs Aug. 12 beginning at 6 p.m.

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