Flags flew for three offsides penalties in goal-line situations. A pitch fell to the ground. There were multiple turnovers.
Air Force entered Falcon Stadium on Saturday for the first time this season for a scrimmage and found plenty of areas that need fine-tuning before it returns to the venue in three weeks for the season opener against Colgate.
“There were parts that were bumpy and sloppy a little bit, yet there were parts that were good, too,” coach Troy Calhoun said.
“Everything’s a learning experience. Forever. You’re always learning.”
The practice ran nearly three hours and provided repetitions for nearly everybody on the roster. Among the upper groups, it appeared that only receiver Geraud Sanders was held out of action. Even quarterbacks, with the exception of Donald Hammond III and Isaiah Sanders, were left open to tacklers.
The scrimmage included situation drills at the goal line (going in and out), 2-minute hurry-up and a long session of regular, open-field play.
Here are some observations from the morning:
Freshman slot receiver Dane Kinamon played extensive snaps with the first and second teams, caught several passes and gained a chunk of yards on a first-down run. The Georgia native is only four days removed from the official end of basic training and has played the position for only five days after initially arriving as a quarterback. “He’s an excellent athlete,” Calhoun said. “Guy that played a lot of different spots in high school, and he did some good things out here today.”
Kinamon’s father, Chuck, was a linebacker for the Falcons and played on the 1985 team that finished 12-1 and ranked No. 8 in the final AP poll. Dane’s oldest brother, Derek, graduated from the academy and competed as a boxer. His sister, Tori, was a gymnast at Brown. His other brother, Duke, was an infielder at Stanford and was drafted in June in the 24th round of the MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.
• Quarterback Hammond had a fairly quiet day. A would-be score was dropped by sophomore receiver Jake Spiewak in a goal-line drill.
Hammond also misfired on several attempts, including one that couldn’t connect with Kade Remsberg when the tailback leaked from the backfield without a defender in sight. A pitch from Hammond to tailback Nolan Eriksen resulted in a fumble. But the junior quarterback also completed several passes, including a 20-yard gain that helped the team escape from the shadow of its goal line. And as one of the two players off limits to tacklers, the returning starter wasn’t permitted to show the speed and power that were part of his game a year ago. Hammond said offseason film study has increased his understanding of defenses and, compared to last August when he was running the third team, says he feels “a lot more prepared right now.”
Among other quarterbacks, senior Michael Schmidt showed off his legs with a gain of roughly 50 yards before defensive backs ran him down. Sophomore Warren Bryan provided a glimpse of his running/passing abilities on various plays, including one where he bought time in the pocket and then rolled to his right to complete a deep pass to sophomore David Cormier (who hauled it in despite being hit by fellow receiver Brandon Lewis, as both had broken from their routes when Bryan prolonged the play and each thought the pass was intended for him). Bryan also threw a touchdown to junior receiver Luke Bohenek, who made the diving grab just inside the boundary.
Quarterback Jake Smith, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound product of Georgia who had offers from Army and Georgia Southern, appears to have jumped to the top of the freshman class at the position. He made multiple solid plays, including a deep ball down the middle put in the only spot it could have been completed as the receiver was locked with a defender and grabbed it with one hand.
Add the name of Matthew Murla to the long list of candidates to see time at fullback. Seniors Taven Birdow, Christian Mallard and Colton Parton and sophomore Timothy Jackson appear to be the leaders at the crowded position, but Murla, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior from Baton Rouge, La., also received reps with the upper groups in situational drills.
Junior cornerback Elisha Palm continues to play with the first-team defense over senior Zane Lewis, a returning starter. The rest of the No. 1 defense at this point includes Jordan Jackson, Mosese Fifita and Jared Bair on the line, Kyle Johnson and Demonte Meeks at inside linebacker, Lakota Wills and Parker Noren at outside linebacker, Tre’ Bugg at the other cornerback position and Jeremy Fejedelem and Garrett Kauppila at safety.
Among the defenders with highlight plays were Kauppila, Meeks and outside linebacker Vince Sanford.