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Are the Falcons ready to fly? The biggest questions ahead of Air Force’s return to football

Questions abound and answers are few, but let’s try to get a better idea about Air Force ahead of Saturday’s C.I.C tilt.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Cheez-It Bowl - Air Force v Washington State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You have questions and so do we, but before we start:

Air Force has been in football limbo since the Mountain West suspended fall sports, but the Falcons are back, baby!

And they no longer have just the two C.I.C. games on their schedule, either. Mitch wrote about it earlier, but the Mountain West is officially coming back for an eight-game season scheduled to kick off Oct. 24.

We don’t have an official schedule yet, but that doesn’t count as a question since we’ll have an answer soon. Gavin also took a look at the upcoming Air Force and Navy game from the Mids’ perspective, so I’ll try not to steal much of his thunder. Check out his thoughts right here.

Now then, let’s get to some important Falcon mysteries:

Who will start under center?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Air Force at Navy Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This should have been the easiest question in the world for the Falcons to answer. The answer should have been Donald Hammond III. Instead it was announced that Hammond is “no longer a cadet in good standing and cannot represent the Academy in outside activities.” Unfortunately, that announcement came out in late July and we haven’t received any updates since.

With DJ presumably out for the season, the question becomes who will take his place? Isaiah Sanders served as Hammond’s backup, but he’s since graduated and transferred to Stanford. The Falcons haven’t released a depth chart, but Chance Stevenson and Warren Bryan seem to be the leaders in the clubhouse. Neither has much experience — Stevenson has completed two passes for 11 yards, and Bryan has yet to record any stats despite appearing against San Jose State and Hawaii.

How much of a team can Air Force field?

Air Force v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

While the quarterback mystery is a bit of a problem, turnbacks are a far larger issue for the Falcons. The offense should survive thanks to the presence of Kade Remsberg, Timothy Jackson, All-American lineman Nolan Laufenberg and more, but the defense is rife with openings.

According to the Gazette, defensive anchors Demonte Meeks, Milton Bugg III and Jordan Jackson are just a few of the Falcons who are not on campus this fall. Turnbacks are meant to provide cadets with an opportunity to separate from the Academy for a semester in order to address hardships.

Unfortunately, many players opted for a turnback and are now out of luck with the Mountain West’s newly announced schedule. Players will be eligible for an additional season of football and their time at the Academy will stretch to a ninth semester, but it leaves the Falcons’ cabinet rather empty. Reports are that as many as 40 Falcons have chosen to take a turnback rather than compete in the fall semester.

In other news, punter Charlie Scott is also gone as a graduate transfer to join Nick Saban at Alabama. He did not play in Alabama’s 38-19 win over Missouri on Saturday.

Will the delayed start be a boom or a bust for the Falcons?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 06 Navy at Air Force Photo by Kyle Emery/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s a good chance that the fuss over the Falcons’ late start to football is much ado about nothing. After all, practice really can’t compete with live action. When Air Force takes the field against Navy, they’ll face a team of Midshipmen with two games under its belt. We all saw how contact-less practices impaccted the Mids against BYU and how a completely different team showed up just weeks later in the second half against Tulane.

Teams often make their greatest jumps between weeks one and two, so we’ll likely be seeing a group of Falcons who are still ironing out their early jitters. The injury bug may not be a factor, but the Falcons will still be without many key players because of those turnbacks.

At least we know what the uniforms will look like...

In a season of uncertainty, there’s one thing we know for sure — the Falcons are going to look bad-ass when they finally kick off the 2020 football season. Air Force recently unveiled its latest Air Power Legacy Series uniform, honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and their P-51 Mustangs.

We covered the details in full right here, but the overall uniform is a perfect embodiment of the Red Tails, from the helmets to the bottoms of each cleat. In case you missed it, the Falcons latest APLS uniform also secured their place with the best alternate uniforms among the Service Academies, according to y’all, the readers:

Hopefully, we’ll get a few answers to these questions over the next few days. Tune in on Oct. 3 when the battle for the 2020 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy gets underway.