No one currently playing nose guard for Air Force has a snap of college experience.
But with this group, Falcons coaches are willing to offer on-the-job training.
“Probably the deepest position we have right now on defense is nose guard. For sure. By far,” defensive coordinator Steve Russ said.
The three players vying for time in the rotation couldn’t be more different. There’s sophomore Mosese Fifita (6-1, 320), the biggest player in program history who is an accomplished wrestler from the Pacific Northwest. There’s junior Cody Gessler (5-11, 263), who supplements his undersized frame with a helping of nastiness that was formed at one of the best football programs in the nation, Katy High School in the Houston area. Then there’s sophomore Kyler Ehm (6-3, 275), raised country strong in rural Kansas before attending an elite prep school in Wichita.
“I don’t know if you’d ever see a position where there were three different bodies like those three have, especially at nose guard,” coach Troy Calhoun said.
“It’s a good group,” defensive line coach Tim Cross added. “All of them have a little bit of a different dimension. Mo-Mo’s dimensions just seem to be a little bit wider than everybody else.”
Last year the Falcons played seniors Lochlin Deeks and David Harris at nose guard, with Cody Moorhead providing the third option. This explains why the current trio didn’t sniff a down of action. Though the position accounted for just 38 total tackles – including three behind the line of scrimmage – it provided the starting point for a rushing defense that allowed just 3.4 yards per attempt (16th best in the nation despite playing three option-based offenses).
But with the new wave ready, the defensive staff was free to move Moorhead to defensive tackle, where he’ll start next to this group.
It looks like Fifita and Gessler will comprise the primary rotation, but coaches are quick to include Ehm in any discussion of the position.
When it comes to the first two, it could prove a bit staggering for an offensive lineman to adjust to a 60-pound weight difference from snap to snap.
“That’s a blessing in disguise,” Gessler said. “People say I’m undersized, but I might be able to get off the ball a little quicker than someone whose 300 pounds. … (Fifita)’s just like a huge rock. That’s going to be huge having a good rotation like that.”