DeRuyter's gone, but AFA defense isn't changing

JAKE SCHALLER Updated: February 24, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: February 24, 2010

Matt Wallerstedt appears to have a daunting task — taking over as Air Force’s defensive coordinator for Tim DeRuyter, who left the academy to take the same post at Texas A&M.

DeRuyter, after all, received much of the credit for revamping the Falcons’ once-porous defense. And, in 2009, he increased his national renown when Air Force finished 10th in scoring defense (15.7 points allowed per game) and 11th in total defense (288.3 yards allowed per game — the lowest mark at the academy since 1966).

But Wallerstedt notes that only “one seat changed,” and that he’ll have plenty of help from the rest of the defensive staff — just as DeRuyter did.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s been a collective, group effort — it was all of us,” Wallerstedt said. “It wasn’t just a one-man show. It won’t be a one-man show now.”

Wallerstedt, who was described by junior defensive end Rick Ricketts as “all intensity all the time,” isn’t planning to change much. The Falcons will keep the same aggressive 3-4 scheme that they’ve run the past three seasons. And they likely will use plenty of their nickel package (five defensive backs) like they did late last season.

“There has actually been really no change in the defense,” junior nose guard Ryan Gardner said after Air Force completed its fifth spring practice Wednesday.

There are some changes in personnel, however. Wallerstedt and the Falcons return three-fourths of their starting secondary and a talented and experienced linebacker corps  — provided inside linebacker Ken Lamendola and outside linebackers Patrick Hennessey and Alex Means come back strong from injuries.

But they have big holes to fill at strong safety and nose guard with the graduation of three-year starters Chris Thomas and Ben Garland.

“Key guys,” Wallerstedt said. “… We’re just going to continue to push in the right direction.”

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