Published: September 18, 2013
Jaleel Awini hasn't been asked to simply run Air Force's offense in his sudden rise to the starting quarterback spot.
He's been asked to run three offenses in his first three games.
"I'm pretty good with the playbook right now," the sophomore said. "So I'm good with what I'm doing even if I'm stepping into the fire a little bit."
Against Colgate, Awini was simply a caretaker charged with handing to the running backs.
Against Utah State he came out firing with 10 first-half passing attempts in a game that could have been different were it not for multiple dropped passes. By the second half it devolved into an Aggies blowout and Awini and the offense ran just 10 third-quarter plays before the second team entered.
In a loss at Boise State, Air Force came in a throwback triple-option look, with Awini running 23 times and completing just four passes - in part because of two drops.
"It's going to be a definite advantage for us," Awini said. "We throw so much out there that defenses can't really adjust to that."
Awini said he has called on his multisport past to help him shift gears on the fly as he's picked up the reins to the offense. He was a standout baseball player, a small forward in basketball and the state's top football player while at Rangeview High School in Aurora.
"I was put in tough situations in high school and during the season I had to adjust sport-to-sport," said Awini, who wasn't a pitcher but was once clocked at 90 MPH on the mound. "So I feel I'm pretty good at adjusting to stuff now."
His teammates are certainly believers.
Fullback Broam Hart said Tuesday that "God definitely blessed him with some talent and he's definitely shown some maturity."
Tailback Jon Lee added that Awini is "really proving himself and showing the skills."
Coach Troy Calhoun still refuses to talk specifically about Awini's play, but he responded to a question about the quarterback's progression by talking about the team collectively..
"At a good number of spots, we've got to get where we complete the discovery phase," Calhoun said. "Not just individually perhaps for what certain abilities are but for what really can be tied together."
Here are some of the interactions with Awini in his first press conference since taking over as starting quarterback for Air Force following an injury to Kale Pearson in the season opener.
Q: How have you handled the nerves that come with being thrust into the staring quarterback spot?
A: Against Utah State you could tell by the first play that I was a little nervous (Awini fumbled on that first play). I'm adjusting to it pretty well. Boise was as loud as can be and I thought that was something I adjusted to pretty quick. So my nerves are pretty cool, calm and collected right now.
Q: Dropped passes have hurt the team in key situations over the past two weeks, how have you dealt with that?
A: I have confidence in those guys. They have confidence in me. I'm going to keep throwing it to them. We'll do a lot better job catching the ball this week.
Q: You ran the ball 23 times last week while your top two tailbacks had a combined six carries. In reviewing film, were there times you should have pitched the ball or did you simply take what the defense gave you?
A: There was a couple I should have pitched out there. I need to do a better job of having the attack man attack me a little more.
Q: How has your life been impacted over the past three weeks as you have emerged as the starting quarterback?
A: It's been kind of hectic. It didn't really hit me the first couple weeks, but it's hit me now that this is my team and I kind of need to lead it a little better and go out there and not try to do too much, just do what I can do.
Q: You haven't been shy about voicing your frustrations with academy life on social media. Does your new status in football help you feel better about your decision to stay?
A: I actually thank my mom and dad for this one. They kept pushing to keep me here and, you know, I guess the reward is paying off now. I'm extremely happy that I stayed here.
Q: Did you have a different school in mind if you were to have left?
A: Colorado State
Q: Recent Falcons quarterback Tim Jefferson is about to complete flight training. Do you know your future plans in the Air Force?
A: I don't really like to be in the air. Ever since I was a kid that's something I didn't want to do. I think I'll look for something in acquisitions, helping the Air Force out in that way.
Q: It seems funny that you don't like to be in the air. You do realize this is the Air Force, right?
A: (Laughs) There are other jobs in the Air Force besides pilot.