• Graham Knight

Lots Of Questions For Air Force Going Into Week 1 Against Lafayette

Reporting by Graham Knight

edited for web by Joe Harman

The Air Force Falcons have a lot of question marks heading into the 2021 season.

There are turn-back players who sat out last year returning to the roster. How will they integrate back into the mix? What about that young offensive line?

On paper, the Falcons have only six returning starters from a year ago: three on offense and three on defense. These questions aside, Head Coach Troy Calhoun, entering his 15th season, is certain of a few things . . .

"We have a bunch of spots where we don’t have a great deal of experience," Calhoun told reporters on August 17. "I think once we get to the mid-point of the season, we’re going to be a different team than what we are today."

Starting off the season is a squad that, despite playing only six games last year, led the nation in rushing, averaging 305 yards per game while running the triple option. Leading that group will be returning FB Brad Roberts, who was the team's top rusher in 2020. The starting QB looks to be junior Hazziq Daniels, who started all six games last season and had as many pass attempts as rushing attempts. Senior Warren Bryant is also in the mix for the Falcons as signal caller.

The Falcons are hoping to open things up more this year, with promising WR David Cormier and TE Kyle Patterson adding options in the passing game.

But it's on defense where the Falcons could be most impressive, with the vast majority of the 2020 turn-backs being defensive players who sat out the COVID year returning. Air Force was still third in the nation in points allowed per game a year ago, despite missing so many players.

One year older, and with a full off-season of practice, those returning turn-back players are hoping to make a big impact -- like they did in the 11-win season of 2019.

"We still have some key components from that year," says CB Tre Bugg, who led the team in interceptions in 2019. The year off has made him even hungrier to get back on the field. "Just having to sit out a year, a full calendar year, it was definitely motivating," the senior adds.

Bugg, along with LBs Lakota Wills and Demonte Meeks, who also sat out 2020, will lead the defense that was second in the Mountain West Conference in passing defense in 2019. "I think with the leadership coming back we’ll be able to foster that environment a little bit better," Meeks says. "We know what it takes and we’re going to be pretty good and pretty stout."

First up for Air Force: Lafayette College, an FCS squad from the Patriot League. The Leopards didn't play last fall because of the pandemic, but were able to have a short spring season earlier this year, going 2 -- 1.