Falcons shake up responsibilities for football coaching staff

February 19, 2014 Updated: February 19, 2014 at 7:43 am
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Titles and responsibilities received a thorough makeover as Air Force released its new coaching roster in advance of the beginning of spring practice.

Mike Thiessen will take over as the sole offensive coordinator - a position he split with three others last year - and Steve Russ will be the defensive coordinator.

The major position shifts include Matt Weikert from defensive line to outside linebackers, Russ from inside linebackers to defensive backs and John Rudzinski from outside linebackers to secondary.

Newly hired veteran coaches Tim Cross and Ron Vanderlinden were given their spots on the defense, with Cross coaching the line and Vanderlinden the inside linebackers.

The Falcons also brought aboard Capt. Drew Fowler as an assistant linebackers coach. Fowler is a 2008 Air Force graduate who was twice voted the team's defensive MVP and led the Mountain West in tackles as a junior.

Coaching assignments
1 With more returning players than it has had in recent memory, the newcomers will instead be on the coaching staff. Two veteran coaches – Tim Cross and Ron Vanderlinden – will be working their first practices with the program and several others will be adjusting to new positions. Some of the switches may be indicative of a new approach, such as moving Steve Russ from linebackers to defensive backs in a move that hints the team intends to be more physical vs. receivers on the line of scrimmage.
running game Personnel
2 After losing its top rusher and three starting offensive linemen, spring practice figures to be an open audition to fill the key components in the Falcons’ running attack. Jon Lee figures to be the front-runner to take the bulk of carries at tailback, but after an injury-plagued junior season that saw him gain just 429 yards — 130 of which came in the opener against Colgate. Calhoun likes durability, so look for sophomore Devin Rushing to get an honest crack at the position.
Everything on defense
3 Only one senior starter will be missing from last year’s squad, but that doesn’t mean changes won’t be in order for a unit that ranked near the bottom of the nation in nearly every key statistic. The change in coaches could signal a change in philosophy or scheme, which in turn could impact the personnel. No returning starter should be considered untouchable when it comes to a position battle.

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