Another week, another unclear answer from Air Force about who will start at quarterback.
The depth chart released in advance of Saturday’s game against New Mexico lists Isaiah Sanders or Donald Hammond III at quarterback, but coach Troy Calhoun would not say when he will decide between the two.
“When we do, we will,” Calhoun said.
“It’s just helpful to watch a full week of practice.”
At this point, however, it would be a surprise if it were anybody other than Hammond.
Over the past six games Hammond started twice, sat two games with an injury and entered in relief twice, providing a spark to the offense in place of Arion Worthman against Nevada and Sanders against Army.
“With D.J. in, he brings a little bit more of a swagger to him,” senior receiver Andrew Smith said. “He brings a little bit more of a gunslinger approach. He’s not very timid. If he makes a mistake, he’ll own it.
“Whereas Isaiah, Isaiah’s a great kid, I love Isaiah. He played amazing in the UNLV game and the Boise game when D.J. was out. So it’s hard to sit here and point a finger at either one of the quarterbacks and blame, because it is definitely more of a team effort. But there are definitely differences when D.J. is in in terms of a swagger type thing. He’s going to put the team on his back. He’s going to try to lead us more, whereas Isaiah’s more of a laid-back role, he’s just going to play his part and do the best for everybody else.”
The one knock on Hammond from Army came from his bout with accuracy issues. He completed just 7-of-15 passes, though those went for 120 yards and he orchestrated two touchdown-scoring drives after the Falcons had been shut out in the first half of a 17-14 loss.
Calhoun disputed the notion that Hammond wasn’t as accurate as he had been, though he noted that any such issues could be attributed to Air Force taking more shots down the field.
He compared it to being accepting of lower percentages from 3-point range in basketball.
“It was spotty at times, but when it counted I hit open receivers,” Hammond said after the loss. “But I wasn’t good enough.”
Sanders was 5-of-7 passing with an interception against Army. He followed stellar performances at UNLV (a 41-35 victory) and in the first half against Boise State (the game was tied 28-28 at the half), by leading the Falcons to just 10 points over his last four quarters of action.
Air Force (3-6, 1-4 Mountain West) must win its final three games to secure bowl eligibility, a run that begins Saturday with a visit from New Mexico (3-6, 1-4).
Calhoun said both players need to improve their “command” of the position, which he didn’t necessarily equate to leadership.
“Part of that, again, is being involved,” Calhoun said. “Playing in games and knowing what’s really, really pertinent and just the priorities that have to be involved in playing that position.”
Which quarterback he decides to give the opportunity to play in more games, however, remains a mystery.