To be perfectly honest, the concept of spring football has always been strange to me. It seems to pop up out of no where each year and quite frankly, there’s not a lot to really take interest in, especially as an Air Force fan. It doesn’t really give a great snapshot of what to expect for the season because the entire incoming class of freshmen isn’t there yet, the season’s coaching staff isn’t finalized, and many players are nowhere close to being the shape they will play in come the fall season. With only 15 practices allowed, and only 12 of which can have contact, it’s hard to see what can be gained from the event.
So what really is the point of spring football? At Air Force, it’s a demonstration. For the two weeks of practice, the coach’s can set expectations and understand the baseline abilities of their returning team. Sure, seeing the Isaiah Sanders vs Donald Hammond III in the beginning of their inevitable competition for the starting quarterback job is interesting, but spring practice will hardly give us an indication as to who will ultimately win the job.
At this point, we’re almost through the spring season, but the most important event, the Blue and Silver scrimmage, has yet to come. This culminating event on March 16th at Falcon Stadium can send a strong indication from the coaching staff and the Air Force Athletic department as to how seriously they plan on taking the 2019 season. Conversely, it’s a chance for the Falcon fans in Colorado Springs to show how much they’ve gotten out of new athletic director Nathan Pine’s hopeful rhetoric since starting the job in January.
The primary issues that Air Force has had in its football program in the past few years have been a lack of transparency in coaching decisions, dwindling attendance numbers, and a lack of success, with too many close losses. The fixes for the first two problems are glaringly simple. The answer to all three problems is deceptively simple. The coaching staff, with the support of the athletic department, needs to create a plan and own it. Army has seen a ton of success for the last two seasons because Coach Monken came in with a concise plan and goal for his team. They would limit turnovers and almost always go for the conversion on fourth down. Air Force, on the other hand, has employed tactics like keeping their defensive coordinator a secret and creating a rotating carousel of starting quarterbacks from week to week.
These issues are frustrating to fans, and when the odd tactics that the Air Force staff have used began to lead to almost inexplicable losses, attendance at games began to fall. Quirky behavior is only fun when your team is winning.
With a stadium in desperate need of improvements, and a lot of questions about the upcoming season, I don’t predict a record-setting spring game attendance rate, but I do think we will learn a lot about what to expect this season with the message that the coaches and team convey in press conferences and interviews. Nathan Pine has stressed the importance of fundraising and spending funds, so the spring game could be a great chance to get the community excited about a potentially successful season.
With all of the non-football aspects of what the spring practices mean out of the way, there are a few storylines to follow as it pertains to the spring scrimmage.
Donald Hammond finished up the season as the starter, and he seemingly has the job for now, but during last pre-season, Arion Worthman was first on the depth chart, but it only lasted for the first few games of the season.
The Air Force kicker, Jake Koehnke, is now back from injury, but there are three other upperclassmen looking for their shot.
Air Force has a powerhouse contingent of incoming freshman who will provide a new dynamic to the team as far as talent and competition. It will be really difficult to know what the season has in store until camp starts in the late summer. Spring football may be a nice reminder that warmer weather is just around the corner, but for the Falcons, I don’t believe many questions or concerns will be answered.