AFAFalcons.com member "LRFHerk" for his research on Air Force's
first football opponent of the 2008 season. Herk, an avid Air
Force fan, has put together a very interesting and informative
preview of Southern Utah.
Ok, so I decided to do a little research on the SUU Thunderbirds. The
2008 SUU team leadership will look very different than that of the 2007
Thunderbirds. SUU's coach last year Wes Meier did not have his contract renewed
for this year after compiling a dismal 10-33 mark in his tenure. The new coach
for SUU is former University of San Diego special teams and D-backs coach Ed
Lamb. Lamb, a BYU grad, is optimistic about SUU's future, and sees them
competing at the top levels of FCS football in the future. However, he neglected
to say how far in the future.
Offense (5 Returning starters): After running a two QB system last year with results that I can only describe as dismal (27Ints vs. 11 TDs), it appears that redshirt freshman Brett Perry will take over the reigns of the offense after returning from an LDS mission. Obviously, the game against Air Force will be his first college game, but he has shown to be a promising leader of the offense so far in practice. The ground game for SUU was only marginally better than the passing game. The team averaged 105 yards/game on the ground and put the ball on the turf roughly 1.5 times/game. Look for the ground game to be improved this year with the arrival of Kennie Apilli, a transfer student from North Carolina State. Look for a cluster of freshman to share the rushing load with Apilli next year. The teams leading receiver, Jeremy Edwards, is gone. SUU's go to receiver next year will likely be Nick Miller a 5'9'' 175 pound senior, who should match up well with Reggie Rembert. At the other wideout position will be senior Craig Gritton. He has decent height at 5'11'', but weighs in at only 175lbs. Tyson Poots also returns. Poots had the second highest yds/catch average for the team last year behind Edwards. If Perry can throw to the team in the same colored jerseys the receiving corps could be dangerous.
Defense (7returning starters): The strength of this defense is the secondary. All the starters return from a unit that allowed a relatively strong 208 yds/game average last year. 5'11'' DeWayne Lewis is the anchor of the secondary at corner. The unit will have to step up its game considerably this year and create more turnovers as the team only intercepted 6 balls last year. The rush defense is porous and opponents averaged nearly 5yds/rush last year. The leading returning tackler is sophomore Robert Takeno who accounted for 82 tackles last season. Unfortunately for SUU, Takeno is the lone returning starter in the linebacking corps. This unit will need good run support from its safeties if the baby LB corps is to have any success. AF's ground game should give this team fits.
Special Teams: PK Steve Pulver is every bit the equal of Ryan Harrison. Last year he connected on 19 of 19 EPs and 7 of 12 FGs with a long of 52. In the spring game this year, he turned heads with a 57 yard FG. He was about to attempt a 62 yard FG when a procedure penalty pushed the team back 5 yards. The teams kick/ punt returning duties will be handled by receiver Nick Miller. Last year he averaged a solid 9.2 yards per punt return and 22.3 yards per kick return.
Outlook: Air Force appears to just be far to much for SUU. Air Force should not have much problem moving the ball on the ground and the game should be a nice confidence builder for whoever takes the snaps. I expect both Smith and Herbort to see considerable time in this game. On the defensive side, you have to imagine that Chris Thomas can't wait to cause problems for a QB playing in his first collegiate game. The receivers of SUU have talent, but getting the ball could be an issue.
Prediction: Air Force 52 SUU 6