If there is a college football season in 2020, Air Force may have an unexpected starter under center.
Senior quarterback Donald Hammond III “is no longer a cadet in good standing and cannot represent the Academy in outside activities,” an Air Force athletics spokesperson said in a statement to Against All Enemies.
Hammond’s status was first reported by Brent Briggeman at the Colorado Springs Gazette. The Air Force Academy has not made it clear what Hammond did — or didn’t do — to have his cadet status altered.
Because Hammond cannot currently participate in any extracurricular activities in his current status, the quarterback position at Air Force is up for grabs. Air Force was already missing many returners from last season — in which they finished 11-2 with a bowl win and a No. 22 ranking in the final AP poll — making the 6-foot-2 quarterback one of the most experienced players on the team.
A native of Hampton, Georgia, Hammond, who was just named to the watchlist for the Davey O’Brien award last week, has been the clear pick as starting quarterback following the graduation of Isaiah Sanders, who entered the transfer portal earlier this year and landed at Stanford.
Davey O'Brien Watch List— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) July 14, 2020
The list recognizes the nation's top 30 returning quarterbacks ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/MVeVCtFB3l
The Falcons have yet to issue a depth chart for 2020. As it stands, Chance Stevenson presently has the most experience at the position, but the bar is low, as he’s completed 2-of-2 career passes for 11 yards. The junior was moved from halfback to QB in the spring and will compete for the slot according to Air Force athletics. Briggeman says that Warren Bryan, a junior, emerged from spring practices as the “likely No. 2,” though he’s never thrown a pass at the college level. Still, Hammond told Briggeman in the spring that the Falcons would “still be in good hands” if he were to go down.
Maybe an Air Force backup could prove Hammond right. Still, not having him at QB would be a huge loss for Air Force this season. Hammond, who was second in the Mountain West in scoring touchdowns last year, also moved up the chain in a number of Air Force single-season records; throwing for a program fifth-best 13 touchdowns, and averaging a program fourth-best 23.5 years per completion. And his 177.88 passing efficiency mark last season ranks as second-best in program history.
In all, Hammond accounted for 26 touchdowns and 1,891 yards of total offense last season. In addition to the O’Brien award, he was absolutely a candidate for the 2020 Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year.
As Briggeman notes, Hammond would not be the first Air Force athlete whose drop in cadet status forced them to miss a season of play or more. More recently, that list includes football players Cole Fagan, David Cormier and Brandon Lewis, and women’s basketball player Kassady Huffman.