This is the third article in our series dissectingt spring football coverage of Army’s 2019 opponents. We enter the third quarter this week with reports covering the San Jose Spartans, the Air Force Falcons, and the UMass Minutemen. If you missed any of the previous articles, they are archived below:
This group of men could’ve chosen an easier path. Instead, they chose to walk upon the most challenging path in America. Along the way they found a BROTHERHOOD like nowhere else on the planet; they also found themselves as CHAMPIONS! #NCOT #THEBrotherhood ⚔️?☠️⚔️?? pic.twitter.com/9wxg6zx7It
— Sean Saturnio (@CoachSaturnio) May 11, 2019
San Jose State Spartans
It’s hard to believe in San Jose State. Here is another team trying to throw down the field without a substantial running game, and especially against Army, that never works. Starting QB Josh Love returns in 2019, and he throws a nice deep ball, but he’s also more than slightly inconsistent. This is how his team lost eleven games in 2018 despite having a legitimately explosive offense. In their spring game, Love did his thing once again, going 4/11 passing (36.4%) for just 54 yards, but that included a beautiful 33-yard touchdown pass. Rising redshirt sophomore QB Chance LaChappelle went 13/19 passing for 96 yards (68.4%) and an interception. Might that be enough to spark a quarterback controversy?
The Spartans worked their running backs hard during the game. All in, the group carried 41 times for 161 yards (3.9 yards/carry), led by rising senior DeJon Parker. Parker had 7 carries for 58 yards (8.3 yards/carry) and a touchdown. If his team’s going to succeed in 2019, Parker’s going to need to put up more numbers like that–a lot more.
The Spartans’ rushing defense was arguably the team’s best asset last season. This year’s defense seems to have been productive against their offense, registering sacks and interceptions with regularity and generally holding the offense in check. Whether that means they’re good, though, or just good enough against bad competition, remains to be seen.
"Coach Tomey was a legend. He had the unique ability to reach into your soul and get the best out of you. He was different. He loved the game of football but it was more about the players, the coaches, the families, the TEAM. You knew sincerely cared about you.”
– @CoachBrennan pic.twitter.com/606v4ew3LO
— San José State Football ? (@SanJoseStateFB) May 11, 2019
Air Force Falcons
Coming off a 5-7 season that featured a dominant rushing defense alongside uncertainty at quarterback, Air Force is looking to get back to the postseason. Despite competing in a tough Mountain West conference, this looks doable. The Zoomies have been somewhat cyclical under Head Coach Troy Calhoun, but Calhoun’s teams have been very successful when they’ve been able to put experienced players on field. With a returning quarterback in rising junior Donald Hammond III and most of the team’s defensive starters back, 2019 looks to be one of the good years.
The Air Force spring game was a bit like Army’s in that the Zoomies didn’t play their starters much. They featured “semi-live” action, though, so in that sense, they weren’t getting after it like the Black Knights did. However, they did at least let some of the backups come out and compete. For example, third string QB Beau English II played a lot, and reports were that he looked good throwing the football. No one’s suggesting that he’s going to push QB Isaiah Sanders for the backup role, but the Falcons have real depth under center.
As always, it seems like Air Force has an exciting young receiving corps. For example, 6’4” sophomore WR Jake Spiewak looks like he could be a dominant force as a possession receiver. The Zoomies have a lot of size on the outside besides just Spiewack, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they try to push the ball down the field more in 2019.
The biggest plus for Air Force is that the team returns nearly all of its defensive starters on a unit that was already pretty good, especially against the run. The Zoomie have tough matchups against Boise State, Fresno State, and Utah State in 2019, but the rest of the schedule looks distinctly manageable, even with the early-season contest at Colorado, a team that’s struggled to stay competitive in the Pac-12.
Air Force football leads nation in APR score https://t.co/fNd7roAYqF
— Air Force Falcons (@AF_Falcons) May 9, 2019
University of Massachusetts Minutemen
UMass hired Head Coach Walt Bell this offseason following stints as offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Maryland, and Florida State. Bell has brought a new energy and tempo to Minuteman practices, but he hasn’t just revised the offense, he’s also simplified the defensive scheme in an effort to get his guys to play faster, more instinctive football. Bell didn’t even try to install his full offensive playbook during the spring. Instead, he and his coaching staff spent most of camp just trying to teach his players the basic concepts of the scheme. With this in mind, it’s not exactly surprising to hear that UMass’s defense is currently well ahead of its offense.
All of which makes the Minutemen a team in transition. They didn’t hold a full spring game, for example. Rather, they held a spring “showcase” because Bell was concerned about keeping his players healthy. Similarly, Bell has leaned hard into having a quarterback competition this offseason despite having an established starter in QB Andrew Ford, who threw for 2,665 yards against just 4 interceptions in 2018. But Bell seems to want to change not just the look but the very culture of his program. The Minutemen still have a handful of scholarships available that their new coach is hoping he can award to transfer students from various junior colleges or even from other FBS schools. At this point, it’s too early to say who’s going to get the chance to suit up for UMass in 2019.
This may well work out in the end. In an immediate sense, though, it’s hard to have a lot of faith. UMass would seem to be headed for a rebuilding year despite the fact that their 2019 schedule isn’t exactly a killer. They open at Rutgers, at home against FCS Southern Illinois, and then at Charlotte. Rutgers was a dumpster fire last year, and Charlotte went 5-7, so a 2-1 start to build some momentum is not out of the question despite all the transition issues currently facing the team.
8 recruiting opportunities down, back in the office to regroup tomorrow! Finished the week in Canada (Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto), Pittsburgh, Richmond/NoVA, DMV, CT, Delaware, and of course, New Jersey. Can't wait for our guys to be back out next Monday! #MassMen
— Walt Bell (@coachwaltbell) May 2, 2019
Ryan McGee, “The coveted top of the 2018 Bottom 10 is decided,” ESPN: November 27, 2018.
Bill Connelly, “Is the improving San Jose State gaining any ground in the Mountain West?” SB*Nation: April 15, 2019.
“Happiness All Around After 2nd Spring Football Scrimmage,” San Jose State Spartans: March 23, 2019.
Andrew Pang, “A major announcement happened before SJSU’s spring football game,” 247Sports.Com: April 14, 2019.
Nick Rothschild, “Air Force ‘spring’ game 2019,” KRDO.Com: March 16, 2019.
Brent Briggeman, “Air Force football spring scrimmage: Highlights from Falcon Stadium,” The Gazette: Mar 16, 2019.
Josh Walfish, “UMass football defense flying fast in spring practice,” Daily Hampshire Gazette: April 2, 2019.
Josh Walfish, “UMass still playing ‘real football’ during spring game,” Daily Hampshire Gazette: April 19, 2019.
Philip Sanzo, “Who to watch for in UMass football spring game,” The Massachussets Daily Collegian: April 10, 2018.
Ross Gienieczko, “Walt Bell is bringing his energy to UMass spring football,” Boston Herald: March 26, 2019.
“Walt Bell Named Massachusetts Football Head Coach,” UMassAthletics.Com: December 03, 2018.