Troy Calhoun refused on Friday to name Kale Pearson as the front-runner to take over as starting quarterback. But then, the Air Force football coach didn’t offer specifics on much of anything in his first public comments since the end of the season.
Calhoun touched on several issues – losses at key positions, the hurdles to recruiting more size, hopes for a scheduling break at Thanksgiving, the new look of the Mountain West – but spoke in delicately vague terms.
“We’ll find out when we get into August who’s where,” Calhoun said. “I think it’s a little bit unwise to do a depth chart until September. There are just a lot of changes that can occur.”
Pearson provided a second-quarter spark in helping the Falcons to a halftime lead in an eventual 33-14 loss to Rice on Dec. 29 in the Armed Forces Bowl. Calhoun said Pearson’s inclusion in that game plan was specific to that day and matchup. He said the future for the sophomore, and the rest of the roster, is undetermined.
“Over the next seven months there’s a good bit that has to be done to be able to earn an opportunity to be a part of it in 2013,” Calhoun said. “That means a significant amount of school work that has to be achieved. … Ultimately you have to be on a path – a very steady and consistent path.”
Calhoun, an Air Force graduate, knows that path. He also knows consistency as a coach, having led the Falcons to a program-record six consecutive bowls. But the program’s momentum has slowed in recent years, sliding from eight or nine wins each season from 2007 through 2010 to seven in 2011 to a 6-7 mark in 2012.
After the loss to Rice, Calhoun lamented the program’s “mass” problem and the need to get bigger.
On Friday, he said nothing to indicate that finding bigger players remains a priority. He instead reiterated that the academy requires cadets to be able to run 1½ miles in 11 minutes, 15 seconds at more than 7,000 feet. He said it’s not impossible for a big player to make that time, but it’s certainly more difficult.
Calhoun’s 2012 roster included no player listed at more than 265 pounds. Operating under the same guidelines for cadets, Air Force had 16 players listed at 270 pounds or more in 2002 under coach Fisher DeBerry.
Since it would therefore seem that Calhoun’s smaller rosters are a matter of preference, he offered no evidence Friday that he had changed his approach.
But, again, he offered very little in general.
When talking about key positions to fill, he mentioned linebacker (where five key players will graduate) and wide receiver. Starters at quarterback and tailback will also be gone.
Calhoun would not discuss potential replacements at any spot.
With regards to the schedule, Calhoun said he’d like to see his team again be given time away at Thanksgiving. The long first semester can wear on Air Force players, as indicated by a 1-4 record this past season after Nov. 1.
Teams can make specific requests during the scheduling process, but there are no guarantees.
“Will the author of the schedule take that into consideration? That will be determined,” Calhoun said.
Reacting to the return to the Mountain West of Boise State and San Diego State, Calhoun said that the league would be a “great challenge.” In terms of alignment for divisions, he said only that he hopes travel time will be considered.
Air Force will begin spring practice in the final week of February.