Air Force’s offensive line needs to get stronger. Its linebackers need to get healthy.
Those are two of the top priorities for the Falcons in the coming months before they start preseason camp on August 2.
The neophyte line, which will include five new starters, “is not a big group” and has to “do a lot more,” in the weight room, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said Wednesday during the Mountain West Conference’s spring football teleconference.
“Love the way they work when you’re around them in the weight room, and you just like what they have in their eyes,” Calhoun said. “But just in terms of leg strength, upper body strength, really the whole body, we’ve got to make some strides there.”
Injuries kept most of the Falcons’ key returning linebackers out of spring practice. Calhoun said rising senior outside linebacker Patrick Hennessey (shoulder) “is back to becoming more immersed in the weight room.” He and rising junior inside linebacker Brady Amack (knee) should be ready for the start of fall camp.
Rising sophomore outside linebacker Alex Means (foot) “ought to be able to do pretty much everything physically around the first of June, and yet he’s got a long ways to go – he has to make up some major, major gains, just across the board.”
The biggest concern continues to be Ken Lamendola. The rising senior, who led the Falcons in tackles as a sophomore, had offseason knee surgery and has “even has further to go” than Means.
Whittingham not worrying about Pac-10 rumors
Rumors once again are swirling that the Pac-10 could expand and add Utah.
But while acknowledging “you can’t help but hear everything that’s being talked about and all the speculation,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said he hasn’t “been dwelling on it at all.”
“One thing we do know for sure is we’re playing in the Mountain West Conference this fall, and that’s where our complete focus and attention is.”
BYU could get Unga back
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said the Cougars could get running back Harvey Unga – the school’s all-time leading rusher – back for the 2010 season.
Unga withdrew from classes last week, saying he had violated the school’s honor code. But now he’s seeking reinstatement.
“Harvey’s first choice, and what he’s fighting diligently for and trying to express to the administration, is that he wants to be back,” Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall said he thinks that Unga, by voluntarily withdrawing, “was just taking accountability for his actions. Harvey knows and embraces the standards here and wants the standards here and is in full support of the things the university asks.”
Hauck completes first spring
Just one new coach in the MWC this season – Bobby Hauck, who replaces Mike Sanford at UNLV.
Hauck comes to the Rebels from Montana, where he had an 80-17 record in seven seasons and led the Grizzlies to three national championship games in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
Hauck said the Rebels made progress in the spring but have a long way to go.
“For us to be competitive in the Mountain West Conference is going to take some work and some time,” Hauck said.
The biggest task for Hauck will be rebuilding a defense that has been porous in recent years.
“I think we need to recruit more defensive players in general,” Hauck said. “We have a lot of converted offensive players on the defensive side of the ball, and we don’t have a lot of numbers over there, particularly in our front seven.”
Hauck also said the Rebels have to become more fundamentally sound – “It sounds way simple, but just the blocking and tackling part of it we need to improve,” he said.
TCU again the team to beat
Defending MWC champion TCU returns nine offensive starters and seven defensive starters from last season’s squad, which finished 12-1 and ranked No. 6 in the country.
Among the returning starters are four players who earned first-team All-MWC honors in 2009 – quarterback Andy Dalton (the offensive player of the year), receiver/returner Jeremy Kerley (the special teams player of the year), offensive lineman Marcus Cannon and kicker Ross Evans.
“They’re going to be the team to beat in my estimation,” Whittingham said.
Cannon has moved to left tackle, TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Utes will have stable
Utah should be stacked at running back in 2010.
The Utes return Eddie Wide, who rushed for a team-high 1,069 yards and earned first-team all-league honors in 2009 after taking over for the injured Matt Asiata.
But the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Asiata, who led the Utes in rushing in 2008, also will be back, as will sophomore Sausan Shakerin, who “had a tremendous spring,” Whittingham said.
Wyoming switches scheme
In Dave Christensen’s second spring, the Cowboys converted their defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front.
“It was basically what I wanted to do when I first came here, but we had the personnel in place to run a 3-4,” Christensen said.
“I just think it’s more sound for what I want to do here. And I just think from a recruiting standpoint we can get much better personnel to play that scheme.”
Christensen also said the Cowboys have increased their team speed “drastically,” and put more weapons around quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, the 2009 MWC Freshman of the Year.