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Here’s what Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said this week ahead of the Navy game

Calhoun was mostly mum about the Falcons’ roster ahead of their first game of the 2020 season, which happens to be the C.I.C. series opener.

Cheez-It Bowl - Air Force v Washington State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Air Force will play football on Saturday for the first time in 2020.

The Falcons host Navy for their season opener, in a game that is also the opener for the 2020 Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy series.

On Tuesday, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun spoke to media members during a Zoom call. He was pretty guarded when it came to specific questions regarding the roster or personnel.

On where Air Force is at and how excited the team is to play…

It’s very dynamic to say the least, just in terms of how fluid things are. I think that’s really just the, you know, a little bit of the elements here over the last six months or so. And, you know, for what our guys have done – the freshmen started back in, it was on June 25 was their first day of basic training. And we had our older guys that also return there in late June. And so, we’re like everybody – trying to balance, taking a good number of your classes online, although there are some in-person classes for all the things that we have to do on the military part of it; being in a smaller dining hall and Mitchell Hall and working in football too.

So, certainly a different way to operate. And yet, I do think, when we get down the road three or four years, we’ll look back and realize, hey, there’s some things that we discovered to be even more efficient the way we work too.

Where Air Force is at quarterback right now…

You know, we’ve got a good number of guys that are out there. We have three freshmen with whom, I mean, I think have shown, you know, really, really good capability. And then the other guys that are out there right now too. And so, we have the advantage, at least to having a few more practices before we go play. And certainly, we’re going to take advantage of that too.

If having a full season has changed the Falcons’ preparation…

Obviously, you know, we’re waiting for the schedule to come about, and hopefully that occurs here fairly soon. And, you know, as I guess you know, there’s a good chance we’re playing on Oct. 24. I think probably the other part of it is just the extension of at least the regular season into December. I don’t think it really alters just daily organization, as far as when you go to class, how we meet, the weekly arrangement in terms of certain lifts that we emphasize in the weight room. So, I don’t think a great deal. No, sir.

General reaction to having a full fall season…

Yeah, you know, Chris, we want to play as many football games as we possibly can. We want that for our guys and our program. And however that is… I think that’s everybody’s desire, you know, across the country, and I know it certainly is here at the Air Force Academy.

How the program ended up with so many players missing from the roster…

Well, I got to see. You’re saying the roster, as far as? … Okay. Did we release that roster today? We did? Okay. Okay. Yeah, I knew we were going to release that here. I didn’t know that we’d already released that. But, uh, no, it’s just you know, each year, you have different things that come about, and I think in this season, certainly, I think even more so.

On if the coaches advised players to take turnbacks…

Not at all. I mean, that’s not something that in which you’re involved. I do think, you know, like we said a little bit earlier – and I think, you know, academically, I think there’s some advantages of being in person where, maybe that can occur down the road. I think the other thing, just in terms of military preparation as an officer, if you truly believe in your soul, in the strength of the leadership experience athletically, we want to make sure we’re able to optimize out as much as we can too.

On who the starting quarterback is going to be…

We’re working through that. Like we said a little bit earlier, that’s why we get to practice today and tomorrow and Thursday. And that probably goes for a good number of spots. We do have – we’re going to have some guys that in certain positions, I think probably more so on the defensive side of the ball, that, I mean, each day, there’s something new that comes about in terms of what happens in practice. Maybe, I think the other thing that we’re going to have to balance is just the involvement of the special teams part of it too. Just looking at accumulated number of snaps that I think are that are relevant as you play a football game.

If anything positive has come out of the team practicing under COVID conditions…

I do think there are some things that you’ll come across. There’s something that we all have to learn at least in terms of health. You know, if there are ways that we can raise our immune system as human beings, we certainly want to do that in ways where times that we maybe were a little more, we give more adherence to sanitation, and how important that is. And I think even on the football part of it, I think there are times where, as coaches, if you gave us all kinds of extra hours, we probably utilize each and every minute, where maybe you’ll end up coming about finding out ways that you can operate even better too.

On being two wins away from 100 career victories…

You know, that’s not something to which I haven’t even given any thought to. And for us, we are fully a team. And there’s no coach, there’s no player, that is just who we are. I mean, that’s everybody that’s involved, whether you’re in equipment, whether you work in recruiting at our front office and video, our coaches, our players in the weight room, we’re a team.

Ultimately, how you win is you have good players that are disciplined and well-coached and well-prepared. And it’s just – I know at least here, since 2007, a coach has never ever, ever won a game and has never ever played a snap… That’s true. And that’s the way we feel in our heart too.

On the oddity of the first game coming in October against Navy…

Yeah, you know that that would be our preference (to have played a few games already). It was only three weeks ago — when it really, really came into light — I mentioned, “Wouldn’t it be good if we could find somebody on September 26, to try to have a game under a belt.” I just think naturally, you know, like I said earlier, you want to play as much football as you can possibly play. And we want that more than else for our guys. But it is quite, quite different that way and it is different. And hopefully Bill, we’ll go 130 years until maybe it has to happen again too.

On Ken Niumatalolo saying that Air Force has an advantage because it has a month to prepare for Navy…

No, I don’t, Bill. I mean, we have plenty on our plate in terms of getting Air Force ready than trying to respond to a response. So, that’s where we are, just trying to, like I said, you know, just trying to take advantage of being able to go practice again this afternoon and to get ready to go for the game on Saturday.

On what Calhoun likes about his team so far…

You know, Dylan, really what we’ve seen thus far, in really the four weeks that we’ve been practicing, we do have guys that work very, very hard, that I think embrace the growth and the education that’s part of experience in football and we just really, really have to utilize and take advantage of each and every single day. And so, you know, and hopefully what it does is instill some habits that help guys not only over the next two or three months, but maybe down the road too, the next two or three years, especially for our freshmen and probably our sophomores too.

On how the triple-option and the offense looks so far…

You know, Dylan, we return two of our five, correct? On the offensive line? Because Connor Vikupitz, Chris Mitchell and Scott Haddock were three of our starters that graduated and you know, each day there’s some progress that we make. And yet we realize we need to make more, not only here over the next few days, but I think really as we proceed throughout the season.

On how he feels about the defense…

I think really, you look at our entire team. I mean, you know, we go out there just day in, day out, there’s going to be some, you know, there’s going to be some new guys that really, really haven’t played a whole lot in regards to college football. Now, you love the effort. You absolutely love the attitude yet, Chris, I don’t know if it’s, you know, I think even if you were to go way back to – God, the last time we played, we walked off the field back in the end of December.

I remember, it would have been in I think February, when Bill Connelly of ESPN – who does great, great work when it comes to, you know, some of the models, many of which that we use – I think we were 128 out of 130 schools in returning production itself. You know, I think we knew coming into the season we were going to have a good number of new faces. So it’ll be interesting to see, you know, not only when you play one game or three games, but even once you get into hopefully, you know, the opportunity to play a seventh, eighth or whatever that may be later in the season too, just because, I think there will be some moving parts, to answer your question.

On if the result of last year’s game at Navy factors into this year’s preparation…

You know, it hasn’t been. We haven’t mentioned it. I mean, we haven’t mentioned it at all. And, John, we just, you know, I think I think for the most part, you never ever... – (Calhoun spends the rest of this answer talking about John Feinstein’s book “Forever’s Team.”)

On his impression of Navy’s passing attack…

You look at the big play potential that they have there and, obviously the quarterback too. I thought he was just splendid in the second half down at Tulane. And, you know, even last year, they hit some big plays in this game too, down the field with those guys. So, they certainly do. And there’s some guys that you know, as you go through in some of your study and your preparation, that have every bit to hold us captive in that regard.

On if Donald Hammond III is practicing and when he could be ready to play…

I’ll say this: every quarterback that’s on our squad right now... Cannon Turner, one of our freshmen quarterbacks, he missed 7 days. Everybody’s practiced.

On preseason All-American offensive lineman Nolan Laufenberg

You know, just the development. The improvement that he’s made from year to year, fundamentally, and that’s work probably and along with just additional strength and more power. That’s power in the lower body. He’s gotten stronger in his upper body, and then just been exceptionally well coached by Steed Lobotzke. I mean, there have been some factors that have been involved there. And it’s been fun to see that maturation process that’s occurred for him. He comes from a really solid pedigree. Mom and dad were athletes. Mom was very competitive, to say the least, there at Iowa. Dad was a football player at Iowa too.