Updated: August 9, 2010 at 12:00 am
The two best players on Air Force’s roster this season might play the same position. They’ll battle all year to figure out how they rank against each other.
Cornerbacks Anthony Wright Jr. and Reggie Rembert both made the preseason all-Mountain West first team (fullback Jared Tew was the third Air Force player on that team). They would never root against each other. They’re good friends, all the way back to when Rembert showed Wright around on his recruiting visit. But they are always keeping an eye out for what the other one is up to.
“There’s no doubt in practice they’re taking score: ‘How many picks you got today? How many pass breakups?’ ” secondary coach Charlton Warren said. “Friendly competition.”
“All the time,” Wright said. “In practice, we see who can get the most picks. When the season starts, whoever gets the most picks has to buy the other dinner or whatnot. We’re in competition all the time.”
Rembert has a first-team all-MWC honor over Wright, who was on the second team last year. Wright bested Rembert in interceptions last year, however, getting seven to Rembert’s three. Rembert is a very good kick returner, and has even played some offense, but Wright can always tell Rembert he’s the one with the punt return for a touchdown, an 88-yarder against Army.
“It seems every time I talk trash I get screwed,” Rembert lamented.
“He’s like ‘I’m going to return a kick before you,’ and I’m like ‘Nah, that’s not happening.’ And he returned a punt against Army. I was like ‘Geez.’ Then I told him I was going to beat him in interceptions, and he went off in the Houston game.”
Air Force’s win in the Armed Forces Bowl over Houston showed how they make each other better. Rembert joked he was bored against the Cougars – only one running play came at him, and the only pass his way was intercepted by safety Jon Davis. But as Houston ignored Rembert’s side of the field, it allowed Wright to pick off three passes.
The differences between the two allow Air Force’s defensive staff some flexibility. Rembert is quick, able to stay with the conference’s best small, fast receivers.
Wright is a little stronger, and he can cover the taller and larger receivers in the Mountain West.
Because they complement each other so well, coaches have talked about the option of moving them around the field this season to get ideal matchups, instead of leaving them on their usual side.
“I like it, switching things up a little bit, mixing up coverages a bit,” Wright said. “It allows us to use our strengths against their strengths.”
There’s an obvious mutual respect between the Falcons’ top cornerbacks.
“He’s savvy,” Wright said about Rembert. “He does everything right. He’s a technician. He doesn’t take plays off, he has pride in himself that he doesn’t want to get beat, and he’s always working hard. I’ve been watching that since I was a freshman.”
“He’s great,” Rembert said about Wright. “He’s a great athlete. I enjoy watching him play. I don’t get to watch him during the games, but during one-on-ones I enjoy watching him go to work.”