Air Force coach Troy Calhoun continues to value quality over quantity in his recruiting.
The Falcons in the past had brought in large numbers of players because they were not bound by scholarship limits and figured they’d lose players who decided they didn’t like the military lifestyle or couldn’t handle the rigors of academy life.
But when Calhoun took over he noticed that the Falcons’ retention of its official-visit recruits was extremely poor. So he changed the recruiting philosophy. Air Force would do far more research up front and take fewer players – but ones who were more likely to stay.
“We’re a lot more selective,” Calhoun said. “We’re building a better rapport with kids and evaluating them a little earlier in the process.”
His fourth recruiting class is his smallest since he’s been the head coach at his alma mater.
“Every year it’s smaller and smaller,” he said. “But I think the quality has increased.”
Air Force recruits do not sign binding letters of intent like players heading to other schools because of the on-going academy admissions process. Because of that process, the academy does not release a list of recruits until they arrive on campus in the fall, and coaches cannot comment on rheir recruits.
But based on those players who have verbally committed to play at Air Force—or signed non-binding Certificates of Intent, the Falcons have put together another solid group.
This season’s class contains the typical bumper crop of players from Texas, where Air Force deploys three assistant coaches (Jemal Singleton, Ron Burton and Blane Morgan) to recruit. About a third of the Falcons’ approximately 40-player class (Air Force recruits for both the varsity team and its prep school squad) hails from the Lone Star State.
While Air Force also did well in traditionally fertile states Georgia and Ohio, it picked up some high-quality prospects from both Arizona and Washington.
From Arizona, Air Force landed linebacker Austin Arias (Peoria/Centennial High) and offensive tackle Jacob Ehm (Scottsdale/Chaparral High), both of whom are listed as three-star recruits by Scout.com, and tight end Sean Craig (Tucson/Salpointe Catholic) who is listed as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com.
Nearly all the remaining players in Air Force’s class are listed as one— or two—star recruits.
From Washington, the Falcons picked up a pair of linebackers—Riley Carr (Mill Creek/Jackson High), a four-year starter, and Seth Kline (Yakima/Eisenhower High), a three-star recruit, according to Rivals.com—all-state running back Anthony Meray (Spanway/Bethel High), who rushed for 2,003 yards as a senior, and guard Jake Welch, another four-year starter and all-state selection.
Air Force also will bring in a pair of top players from Colorado—Heritage quarterback Mitch Griebel, the 4A Player of the Year, who led Littleton to a state title, and Greeley West defensive tackle A.J. Frieler, a Denver Post All-Colorado selection.
Calhoun said the academy did not lose any commitments after defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter left to take the same job at Texas A&M. Assistant Tony Sampson took over recruiting DeRuyter’s territory in California.
A common thread among the Falcon recruits is they were team leaders and often team captains for their high school teams. That’s not by accident.
“We’re very, very thorough when it comes to the character part of it,” Calhoun said. “We will talk to trainers, counselors, principles, teachers in addition to the coach. Every single person with whom we interact has got to tell us, 'This is as good a kid as we’ve ever had at this school.' And be pretty emphatic."