Bye-week work has continued for Air Force without some of the regular contributors, but featuring some who might soon fit that description.
Sophomore Kade Remsberg has seen first-team snaps at tailback. Another sophomore, Demonte Meeks, has played at an inside linebacker position. Junior Isaiah Sanders continues to occupy the starting spot at quarterback, even with a healthy Arion Worthman practicing with the next group.
Some of the shifting has been by necessity, as starters Ronald Cleveland (slot receiver), Garrett Kauppila (safety), Brody Bagnall (linebacker), Joseph Saucier (tailback), Parker Wilson (fullback) and Jordan Jackson (defensive line) have been held out of practice. No details have been provided on any injuries, but most were at practice without any obvious issues.
One certainty, as practice has included full pads and plenty of contact — even for Sanders — is that coach Troy Calhoun intends to use this week to make strides with whomever is available.
“We have to work on Air Force,” said Calhoun, whose team is off to a 1-1 start and has lost four of five to FBS competition. “I couldn’t be more adamant. That’s not taking anything away from anybody we’ve played. It’s just Air Force must elevate.”
The areas for concern are many. The offense has struggled to generate a consistent running game — at least by the Falcons’ standards — averaging 193 yards over the past five FBS contests and eclipsing 210 yards just once. Defensively, the past three FBS opponents have put up 33 points or more while averaging 491 yards.
The Falcons expect no quick fixes.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be a spark,” tailback Nolan Eriksen said. “We’ve just got to work hard in practice every day. That’s what it’s going to come down to, just working hard and figuring out everything that we need to do.”
Part of that has been ongoing auditions at new spots. Eriksen, who stepped in for Saucier at tailback in a 33-27 loss at Florida Atlantic on Saturday, has ceded some first-team time this week to Remsberg.
Meeks, filling in for the injured Bagnall, is an interesting prospect at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds. The Ohio native, who attended the prep school, is one of the team’s top performers in the weight room and was an accomplished discus thrower in high school while also competing in wrestling.
Bagnall, who has been a team captain, has made just two solo stops among his five total tackles in two games. It’s early. He’s a first-time starter. Still, maybe that’s another spot that will see more competition.
At this point, Air Force is looking at everything as it has extra time before traveling to Utah State on Sept. 22.
“I do think that’s the benefit of doing a lot of padded work,” Calhoun said. “There’s maybe two or three guys you think are going to play quite a bit over the next couple of months. You just try to put them in situations that they haven’t been in yet over the first couple of games.”