November 25, 2013 Updated: November 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun offered little insight Monday into what his plans might be to either shake up a struggling team or hold firm when the season concludes Saturday.
"We always review our program each year," Calhoun said. "Really each day we always review it."
Those review sessions couldn't have been pretty through this season, particularly on the defensive side where all but one Mountain West team has put up at least 40 points on Air Force (2-9).
The Falcons rank 111th (out of 123) in total and scoring defense, 119th in rushing defense, 119th in pass efficiency defense and they have given up more first downs than anyone in the nation.
Many reasons have been given for the struggles. The most obvious is that Air Force has an unusually young roster - starting only one senior on defense - at a place where upperclassmen traditionally have more success because of variables outside of football. On top of that, the team has dealt with a number of injuries to key players.
There has also been the overall improvement of others in the league through financial commitments to their programs. There has been a transformation in style of play, with a shift to quicker, more versatile quarterbacks that has left Air Force's sometimes-less-than-elite athletes on defense struggling to keep pace. There has been a step forward in the quality of coaching, with Bob Davie (New Mexico) and Jim McElwain (Colorado State) improving teams that for years had looked up at Air Force in the standings. Finally, as Calhoun has mentioned several times throughout the season (including four times in his weekly press conference Nov. 19), Air Force doesn't have the chance to redshirt cadets and allow them a year to adjust academically and physically to help bridge a growing gap in sizes of players.
Well, none of these variables are likely to change any time soon, so it is likely up to the Falcons to adjust.
Calhoun didn't say what might be in the works.
"We want coaches who are exceptionally bright, who are driven, who care about the players, who continuously learn and are honest," Calhoun said.
When asked if an outside perspective might help a coaching staff of 13 that includes 10 Air Force graduates - defensive line coach Matt Weikert is the only defensive coach who did not attend the academy - Calhoun was again nonspecific.
"I think you always want high-quality coaches who first and foremost are tremendous leaders," Calhoun said, "when it comes to integrity and the character part of it, are as solid as solid gets."
Finally, when it came to addressing specific scheme and style of play, Calhoun was again evasive.
"You're always looking at things that fit your personnel," he said.
If any changes are to be made, they'll probably occur between Saturday's game at CSU and the mid-February start to spring practice.
There is certainly no guarantee that a change will occur. After all, Air Force is hardly unique in its defensive woes. Of the 43 games played in the Mountain West this year, only two saw fewer points than were scored in Air Force's 27-20 loss to San Diego State. League games have averaged 66.8 points and on only two occasions has a team failed to crack double digits.
The bar has not been set very high for defenses, but even then Air Force's 44 points allowed per conference game falls woefully short.
Players don't know what might happen between now and February to fix it.
"We're definitely not smart enough, our IQs aren't high enough to determine what kind of schemes we should run or to change our entire defense or offense," sophomore safety Dexter Walker said. "I feel if the coaches decide that is what's best for us to do and if that's going to make us successful, we've just got to buy in 100 percent and then execute as they want us to."
In other words, players are ready to follow orders. There's just no telling right now what those orders will be, or who will be giving them, after Saturday.