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Air Force boasts a flashy receiving corps, but will it use it?

August 6, 2014 Updated: August 6, 2014 at 10:10 pm
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photo - Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette catches a touchdown pass while avoiding Wyoming cornerback Tim Hayes during Air Force's 23-56 loss to Wyoming at Falcon Stadium Saturday, September 21, 2013. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette catches a touchdown pass while avoiding Wyoming cornerback Tim Hayes during Air Force's 23-56 loss to Wyoming at Falcon Stadium Saturday, September 21, 2013. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

Jalen Robinette's size and physique turned heads immediately upon arrival as Air Force opened practice last season.

But he didn't see things that way.

"As a freshman the first couple of days I felt small," the 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver said. "It's weird being on the other end of the spectrum now as a sophomore. It's definitely a different feeling. Now I'm just trying to perfect my technique and stay on my A-game."

Even if Robinette felt in over his head at times as a freshman, he didn't play like it. His first reception went for a 37-yard touchdown against Utah State. He finished the season with 16 catches for 291 yards and three touchdowns.

What's noticeable about the wide receiver crop Air Force has this year is that Robinette isn't as noticeable.

Cody Bronkar, who had early interest from Florida, Washington and UCLA before a broken ankle, stands 6-3.

Andrew Daugherty is a 6-2, 185-pound sophomore who chose Air Force over Army.

Cody Apfel is 6-2 and had a strong spring. Myles Barnes is 6-5.

Those are just the receivers who match up with Robinette physically. There is also the under-6-foot crowd of smaller, shifty receivers like Garrett Brown, Nelson Onwuzu, Colton Huntsman and Alex Ludowig.

Jon Lee is in that mix, too, after a move from tailback.

It's as though Air Force, in true military fashion, is stockpiling valuable weapons it hopes to never need. Because this remains a run-first attack.

"We are an option team," said Clay Hendrix, who ought to know such things with the long title he carries after his name on the team's website - associate head coach/offensive coordinator/offensive line. "We're going to have some direct runs. We're going to play action off those things. We have a bunch of ways to run options. Some of it's old Air Force, some of it's not.

"If it's third and 10, we've got to be able to drop back and complete a ball."

A desire to stay out of the air is understandable. During the three seasons during the Troy Calhoun era in which the team attempted the most passes per game - 2007, 2011 and 2013 - the Falcons are a combined 17-21. In the four seasons they have passed the least, they are 31-21.

"I think we're going to give teams some Air Force football, some good option running," quarterback Kale Pearson said. "I think we'll get to that and stick to it."

So, what about all those sizeable weapons sitting out there at the receiver position?

"There is definitely some talent out there," Pearson added. "If they ask us to throw it, that definitely won't be a problem."

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