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Spring Practice Primer: Air Force

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

College football never ends, and during the next few weeks teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Air Force Falcons and what they'll be working on this spring.

Kale Pearson will get his shot at taking over for Connor Dietz. (USATSI)
Kale Pearson will get his shot at taking over for Connor Dietz. (USATSI)

Spring practice begins began: Feb. 21

Spring game: Air Force will not play a spring game. The Falcons' spring practices end March 20.

2012 record: 6-7 (4th in MWC)

Returning starters: 7 (three offense, four defense)

The least you should know about Air Force this spring

-- There might be a slight hint of pressure on Troy Calhoun this time around. Calhoun is far, far from being on the hot seat, but there also might be a little bit more edge to spring camp in Colorado Springs after a 2011 Falcons team,which was expected to challenge for a Mountain West title (or at least second place) went 3-4. The 2012 squad scraped to a bowl game at 6-6 without winning a Commander in Chief's rivalry game. Both teams lost their bowls to teams from the MAC and C-USA, respectively. And now Calhoun faces the challenge of lifting the Falcons out of their sudden middle-of-the-Mountain West-pack doldrums with only seven official returning starters. (Some other tallies do give the Falcons more.) Lacking experience is nothing new for any service academy, but the guess here is that Calhoun would like a bit more of it as he aims for a bounce-back season.

-- There's a quarterbacking battle on. After the graduation of Connor Dietz, the Falcons' heir apparent under center is junior Kale Pearson, who spelled Dietz at times in 2012 and scored a key touchdown in the Falcons' dramatic (and Dave Christensen-infuriating) win at Wyoming. But 6-foot-2 rising sophomoreJaleel Awini boasts the kind of height and arm strength not usually seen in flexbone quarterbacks, and the 5-9 Pearson struggled mightily in his rare attempts in the passing game in 2012 (12-of-29, 4.4 yards per-attempt, four interceptions, no touchdowns). Sophomore Dano Graves could be in the mix, too. Pearson's running ability makes him the favorite to leave spring as the starter, but it's not a foregone conclusion.

-- Linebackers are in short supply. Air Force starts four linebackers in their shifting 3-4 defense, and unfortunately for the Falcons, all four of those 2012 starters have graduated. Junior Jared Jones enjoyed a productive 2012 (45 tackles) and should cement a starting job, but the other three spots are up for grabs.

-- The tailback position needs some sorting out, too. Junior Jon Lee is the only one of the Falcons' top four rushers from a year ago to return, and if he can hold on to the primary tailback job, he'll likely follow in the footsteps of the departed Cody Getz with at least a 1,000-yard season. But that assumes he can hold off re-converted safety Anthony LaCoste and possibly even Ty MacArthur, a 5-9 receiver who doesn't feature the usual size for the position but leads all returning Falcons in all-purpose yardage.

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