Successful triple option offenses are like well oiled machines. Of course, that comparison could really be made with any type of offense, defense, and special teams, but the components of a triple option offense are all of equal importance, and 100% necessary to win football games.
Air Force running backs need to be equal parts runner, blocker, and actor, selling fakes and opening up the gates for the full depth of the offense to be successful. Let’s take a look at the players:
Kadin Remsberg - RB
100 rushes, 583 net yards and three touchdowns. Those are his stats and really, you couldn’t ask for much else in a running back. He works well in the triple option with either quarterback and at 5’9” and 185 pounds, he’s shifty enough to break fast around corners and blow up a hole to get a first down. He has the most experience out of the backfield runners this season with the Cole Fagan and Joseph Saucier no longer on the team, and I suspect he has a big workload ahead of him this season.
Nolan Erikson - RB
Although he had significantly less carries than other running backs last season, Erikson can play. He’s a little stockier than Kade Remsberg at the same height and about ten pounds heavier, but he’s a hard runner. Of the top six running backs last season, he was the only player that didn’t record a loss of yards and it’s evident that he fights for the extra yards when he can. There’s no doubt that he needs to show up to play this season.
Josh Stoner - RB
Like Remsberg, Josh Stoner is a junior this season without much playing time, but he did see a few snaps last season and dress for games. With Air Force’s offense, a third string runner needs to come ready to play. While we may not see Stoner as the first option to run the ball, he could fill a blocking role in the fullback slot and potentially get some carries to give the starting two a breath.
Taven Birdow - FB
Based on his stats, Birdow almost looks like just as much of a running back as anyone on the depth chart. He averages 5.1 yards a carry and ran for a touchdown last season. As a blocker, he’s a powerful asset. At 220 pounds, he can handle most any opponents linebackers and DE ends on the pitch, meeting their size with his size and speed. I could see him as a good red zone option for carries and I even expect to see the ball in his hands more this season than last year.
Christian Mallard - FB
In only four games played, Mallard was able to average 4.2 yards and even scored a touchdown in 2018. Similar to the running back situation, Mallard needs to be as versatile as possible for carrying and blocking.
The Offseason is/was Critical
With so many returning players, there’s both an opportunity and a responsibility to get better over the offseason. Unlike civilian schools’ football programs, however, football takes a back seat to training duties over the summer. Survival training, operations Air Force where cadets shadow officers at an active duty Air Force base, acting as a cadre for training, and airmanship programs mean that cadets will be working odd hours, spending time away from the field and gym, and operating on a nutritional program that is less than ideal for a football player. That’s not to say they don’t have an opportunity to work out, eat right, and work with their team, it’s just limited. On a full depth chart, it will be interesting to see if any returning players are putting in the work to emerge as a viable starter over their peers.
Making them Mesh
It’s just the nature of the beast that a running based offense needs to rotate their running backs and fullbacks. Last season, a hallmark of the offense was also rotating quarterbacks. This creates a problem in a triple option when the play unfolds in seconds and the decision to pitch or keep is made in milliseconds. If the players don’t have chemistry and have to constantly get used to new players in the system, it creates a huge hurdle for a productive offense.
If Coach Calhoun and Mike Thiessen can decide on one quarterback, the odds of establishing well rehearsed offensive sets increases dramatically. We can also hope that the more experienced players will be used to playing with one another and create some magic, especially against tougher teams on the schedule like Colorado and Army.
I’m preaching cautious optimism for this season, especially at the running backs position. I would qualify our runners as very solid. There probably aren’t any players who will really stand out more heavily than another being that experience is really the only differentiating factor, and even that isn’t really reflected in last season’s stats. Falcon fans have a lot to look forward to as we approach another season of Air Force football.