Sunday, December 26, 2010

Georgia Tech-Air Force Preview: Q&A With AFA Beat Writer

To get more insight into Georgia Tech's Independence Bowl opponent, the Air Force Falcons, I contacted the home town beat writer Frank Schwab.  I asked Frank about Air Force's multiple offensive formations, how bowl preparation was going, and the task of facing the nation's top rushing offense among other things.

Q; How much have you heard from the Air Force staff and players about breaking the AFA losing streak against Paul Johnson?


A: To be honest, not much. They know the history and how well Johnson did against Air Force, but it isn't a motivating factor for them. Troy Calhoun was involved in only one of those games, in 2007. Only a handful of players participated in that game. If there's any animosity, it's probably more from the fans than anyone in the game.
Q: What key players could be out due to injury?
A: The key question mark is fullback Jared Tew. He was a first-team all-conference preseason pick, and broke his fibula in mid-October. He says he will be ready to go, but the coaches still want to see what he can do when they get to Shreveport. Another injury that isn't as high profile but very important is safety Brian Lindsay. He broke his collarbone in October and might play in this game. That would be a huge boost because he is a true in-the-box safety and would be a key player given the matchup. The one area the Falcons should be concerned about is defensive line. They lost starting end Zach Payne and key reserve nose guard Bradley Connor to injuries in the regular-season finale, and neither is expected to play.
Q: Air Force runs a similar offense to Georgia Tech but will line up in other formations as well.  How much flexbone will we see versus "traditional" offensive sets?

A: Air Force prides itself on multiple formations. In fact, you won't see the same formation many times in any game. The Falcons are a bit miscast as a straight triple-option team. It's a staple of their offense, but they also heavily use zone-blocking runs as a major part of their offense. One of the things I'm sure Georgia Tech has spent a lot of time on is figuring out Air Force's many different formations.
Q: The Falcons have not played since November 20.  Have they been practicing the entire time?  Will the extra time off hurt their timing in the option?

A: They have not been practicing the entire time - there was plenty of time away from football, practicing about twice a week since the end of the season, and then from Dec. 15-21 they were on military leave, something normal college football teams don't have to deal with (http://www.gazette.com/sports/hurdles-109970-jeff-names.html) . But I don't think it will affect them too much. They'll get a full week of practice in down in Shreveport and should be ready to go.
Q: How is Air Force's defense preparing for the Yellow Jackets offense?  Are they scrimmaging against the first string offense? Are they practicing without a football to plan for the speed they will see?
A: Nothing really unusual that way. They're used to playing fast teams - Georgia Tech isn't faster than TCU or Oklahoma, maybe not Utah either, and Air Force didn't change their practices too much for them. They'll do some minor things, like give the scout defense the snap count and things like that, but it's mostly a normal practice. The Falcons rarely play teams that aren't bigger or faster, except when they play Army and Navy, so it's not that big of a deal to them.
Q: Air Force ranks near the top nationally in passing defense, but near the bottom in rush defense.  How much does this worry the defensive coaching staff going up against the nation's top rushing offense in Georgia Tech?

A: Huge concern. The Falcons haven't been great in the front seven this year, and the injuries on the defensive line don't help. The strength of the defense is the secondary and creating turnovers (although that hasn't happened as much this year) and both are neutralized by the Yellow Jackets' offense. It's a matchup that doesn't seem to suit the Falcons well.
Q: What must the Falcons do to win this game? What can they not do to avoid the upset?
A: I think the Falcons can win the game by passing the ball, as odd as that sounds. I think they have a huge edge at quarterback, as far as the passing game goes. Tim Jefferson can throw the ball well enough, and Air Force has good talent at receiver, so I think a couple of long passes could swing the game in the Falcons' favor. The one matchup that should concern them is facing a similar offense with bigger and faster athletes than they see when Army or Navy run it. Air Force has to be at a peak intensity to match Georgia Tech's advantages. Also, Air Force needs to avoid a bad first quarter. That has been an issue this year.
Q: Finally, do you have a prediction for the game?

A: No prediction, aside from a very fast game. I know a lot of people are pretty high on Air Force in this game, especially with Nesbitt seemingly out, but it'll be a close game. Think it's a tough one to call.

Air Force Beat at the Colorado Springs Gazette

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