QB Shaun Carney

2004 Statistics

Coach: Fisher DeBerry
161-94-1, 21 years
2004 Record: 5-6
at UNLV WON 27-10
at Utah LOST 35-49
at Wyoming LOST 26-43
at Army WON 31-22

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

Falcon fans have come to expect their boys to overachieve. So, when they have a showing like 2004 (5-6), fans wonder what’s wrong. Consider ‘04 (just the third losing season in Fisher DeBerry’s 21 years) a blip, and expect a record again over .500.

DeBerry is the best coach in college football that most casual fans haven’t heard of. He routinely takes a group of guys that wouldn’t find the field for most D-I programs and turns them into winners. The Falcons will be competitive again because they’re keenly aware of just how this team is more than its component parts.

When DeBerry has his best years, it’s due to a star quarterback, which he’s now got. Sophomore Shaun Carney made school history as the first freshman to start a season opener, and then he backed his worth up with a tremendous campaign. Carney has the same exceptional dual-threat capability of all great AFA quarterbacks, and he’s the spine of this wishbone. The Falcons ranked 23rd in total offense and 36th in scoring offense with a host of inexperienced players a year ago. Now, they have Carney and virtually the entire offensive line back intact. The Falcons are going to mostly run (duh), but Carney will again burn the opposition via the team’s namesake. This will be an offense that ranks No. 1 or No. 2 in the MWC.

The defense is a different story. The Falcons gave up gads of yards and points, but many of these marginal faces won’t be back, a blessing in disguise for De Berry. With so much inexperience, there’s little evidence to suggest there will be improvement, except that Air Force typically fields a competitive defense worth more than its individual parts. DeBerry’s has a way of finding active, tough players to fill the gaps, and we feel they’ll be better on that side of the ball.

With Utah falling back to earth, the MWC will be up for grabs this season, and DeBerry’s Falcons will again be in the running. They won’t win the conference, because too many of the difficult conference games (BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico and Utah) are on the road, but Air Force will get back to its winning ways, even nabbing a minor bowl bid.

Another goal of the Falcons every year is the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. The Falcons won it every year from 1997-2002, but haven’t won it since. They will get it back.

Projected 2005 record: 5-6
DB Mark Carlson
QB - 3 DL - 1
RB - 2.5 LB - 2
WR - 2 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Shaun Carney, 149-91-6, 1315 yds., 11 TD

Rushing: Shaun Carney, 159 att., 596 yds., 6 TD

Receiving: Justin Handley, 13 rec., 127 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Shaun Carney, 6 TD, 1 two-pt. conv., 38 pts.

Punting: Donny Heaton, 47 punts, 41.3 avg.

Kicking: None

Tackles: Mark Carlson, 73 tot., 35 solo

Sacks: Dennis Poland, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Chris Sutton, 2 for 44 yds.

Kickoff returns: Justin Handley, 8 ret., 20.5 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Chris Sutton, 11 ret., 7.0 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Alec Messerall-WR, J.P. Waller-WR, Adam Cole-FB, Dan Shaffer-FB, Kris Holstege-HB, Darnell Stephens-HB, Anthony Butler-HB, Michael Greenaway-K
DEFENSE: Nathan Terrazone-DE, Ryan Carter-DE, Kenny Smith-LB, Cameron Hodge-LB, John Rudzinski-LB, Jordan Wilkie-WC, Nate Allen-WC

Air Force won with Shaun Carney. An injury to last season’s expected starter Adam Fitch meant Carney was given the job, becoming the first freshman in school history to start the opener, and the first frosh to start any game since 1986. Now, the Falcons know they’re set for three years. Carney put his solid arm on display by setting a school record for completion percentage (61.1), showed maturity by minimizing mistakes (11 TDs to just six INTs) and flashed his quickness to also lead the team in rushing. Air Force ranked low (108th) in passing offense, but only because the Falcons don’t do it much; not because they can’t. Carney’s efficiency rating (151.52) would have ranked No. 10 in the country had he had enough attempts to qualify (missed by one throw). He’ll be a true star in the MWC now that he has experience.

Running Back
With Carney behind center, there’s less pressure on the rest of the backfield, which is good because the Falcons lost talent here. As usual, they have plenty of backs ready to fill the void. The Falcons rely on their fullback perhaps more than any team in the country, and for good reason. Since 1990, the Falcons are 39-9 when they get 100 yards from their FB. That means this year’s starter, Jacobe Kendrick, has the speed to go with his prototypical size and strength. Justin Handley is a small/speedy halfback and he’ll get his share of carries. Fitch will have a big year, too. Recognizing Carney’s grip on the QB spot, Fitch changed positions. He’s a tremendous athlete (6-foot-10 high jump in high school) who has natural ability out the wazoo. The Falcons like to distribute the ball to many backs (seven backs had 40+ carries in ‘04), so even expect some unknowns to make this rushing attack again one of the country’s best.

In the wishbone, just one receiver lines up, and most of the time that will be Jason Brown. Although the Falcons don’t throw much (23%), they do depend on their receivers’ physical presence (distraction, blocking chores) quite a bit. Brown has the speed and size to dominate most as he stretches a defense.

Tight End
Just like their WRs, Air Force tight ends typically don’t do much more than block, and with Robert McMenomy returning to the starting lineup, that won’t be a problem. He is strong, but it’s his quickness that makes him such a good blocker. When he does catch the ball, McMenomy is a threat (16.2 yards per catch).

Offensive Line
Four full-time starters are back, meaning their wishbone offense will be just fine. Tackles Robert Kraay and Ross Weaver are big, physical guys who have the mobility and technique needed for these schemes. Lawrence Hufford has played all three line positions, but coaches like his strength at guard. Curtis Grantham is a strong, brute force that hasn’t had a chance to prove himself (leg broke four plays into the 2004 opener). The anchor of the line is center Jon Wilson, a second-team all-MWC performer. Wilson fires off the ball quickly, which allows him to rack up the only individual stat linemen care much about (team-best 17.3 knockdown blocks per game). As a group, the AFA line will have a huge year.

It’s never a secret what the Falcons are going to do. They’ve ranked in the top four nationally in rushing every year from 1998-2004. A year ago, their 277.36 yards per game ranked 4th. Even with a small amount of passing, the offense put up 425.45 yards (ranked 23rd), and scored nearly 30 points a game (36th). Like their service brethren (Navy), efficiency in the air is the key to keeping defenses from stacking the box and therefore the key to any offensive balance and/or success. Carney is the “real deal”, and the offensive line is as solid as it’s ever been. The Falcons also take care of the football, with just one fumble lost for every 81 rushing attempts. No reason to think the Falcons won’t once again flog opponent after opponent with their streamlined approach.


OT Jon Wilson


Returning Starters in bold
QB Shaun Carney-So (5-9, 195) Lucas Ewing-Jr (6-0, 185)
FB Jacobe Kendrick-Jr (6-0, 220) Ryan Williams-So (5-9, 210)
HB Justin Handley-Jr (5-8, 175) Jason Boman-Sr (6-1, 205)
Adam Fitch-Sr (6-0, 190)
HB Chad Smith-So (5-10, 185) Kip McCarthy-So (5-10, 190)
WR Jason Brown-Sr (6-4, 220) Greg Kirkwood-Sr (6-2, 205)
Victor Thompson-Jr (6-0, 190)
TE Robert McMenomy-Sr (6-4, 235) Carsten Stahr-Sr (6-3, 245)
OT Robert Kraay-Jr (6-8, 285) Donald Whitt-Jr (6-5, 290)
OG Lawrence Hufford-Sr (6-1, 280) Caleb Morris-So (6-2, 275)
C Jon Wilson-Sr (6-4, 300) Stuart Perlow-Jr (6-4, 280)
OG Pat Edwards-Sr (6-2, 260) Curtis Grantham-Sr (6-2, 270)
OT Ross Weaver-Sr (6-7, 295) Bob Scott-Sr (6-3, 255)
K Scott Eberle-Sr (6-1, 200) Brandon Greenaway-Jr (6-3, 200)



Defensive Line
Unlike a year ago, the Falcons have a good deal of experience coming back. DT Russ Mitscherling is the only returning starter, but ends Gilberto Perez and Nelson Mitchell both played enough to be a secure foundation here. Mitscherling is a bull and is strong against the run, but he needs to find opponents’ backfields more for this line to make itself formidable. Perez is coming off a solid year as Mitscherling’s backup, and now he’s been moved to the outside to utilize his speed. Expect him to “excel” the most. Mitchell has the least game experience, but is a tough player with solid speed for an end. Even though the trio itself combined for just one sack (by Perez) a year ago, the Falcons are more interested in them improving the run defense (ranked 101st), which they will do. But relying on three marginal linemen to go with a totally new LB group (see below) does not guarantee anything. Watch this area to see a barometer of how the entire team is doing.

Graduation hit this unit hard, leaving no returning starters. While they are green, the corps will lean on Marcus Brown, who has all the physical tools to be a star in the MWC – speed to track down runners and excel in pass coverage, and toughness to take down anyone. The big problem early will be continuity, because the other two starters – Overton Spence and Andrew Braley – sat out the spring with injuries. Spence also possesses a good mix of speed and power, and he’ll make big plays all year. Braley is more the size of a big safety. Because they’re untested as a group, the opposition will look to exploit underneath passing routes and instill play-action until they prove some worth. This is another area where team success will reflect how well the corps is developing.

Defensive Back
Air Force doesn’t run a traditional secondary. There are five DBs in the Air Force system, including a pair of “falcons” (rovers). These are typically their two top play-makers, for reading the developing scheme(s) has to be the strong-point for each. With speed and physicality, Denny Poland can make the play from anywhere on the field. He was second on the team in sacks (three), but also made his impact felt both through the air and against the run. Mark Carlson (team leader in tackles) has been moved from free safety to the other falcon slot to make better use of his all-around skills. When it comes to actually stopping the pass, though, nobody on the team is better than corner Chris Sutton.

The Falcons took a major step back on defense in ‘04 (95th in total defense, 87th in scoring; down from 41st and 24th in ‘03). That mainly had to do with inexperience, which spells trouble because the Falcons don’t have much experience back again, either. Just five starters return, and only one in the front six. The Falcons often field a decent defense, so 2004’s performance was unexpected. Despite the inexperience all over the field, the Falcons will again produce good athletes who make plays. They’ll be drastically better than they were in 2004. Still, efficiency stats for Air Force’s opponents are unfortunately similar to those of the offense – this secondary allows foes to truly capitalize on their limited pass attempts (allowed 17 TDs and had only nine INTs). If this unit is again needed for excessive run-support, this entire D will suffer.


DB Dennis Poland


Returning Starters in bold
DE Gilberto Perez-Jr (6-3, 275) Erik Anderson-Sr (6-8, 280)
NG Russ Mitscherling-Sr (6-3, 285) Grant Thomas-Jr (6-1, 275)
DE Nelson Mitchell-Sr (6-1, 260) Kevin Quinn-Jr (6-1, 235)
LLB Overton Spence-Sr (6-2, 240) Jared Baxley-Jr (6-0, 195)
ILB Marcus Brown-So (6-2, 240) Aaron Shanor-So (6-1, 225)
ILB Rick Ricciardi-Jr (6-1, 235) Andrew Braley-Sr (6-2, 215)
FAL John Taibi-Sr (6-2, 205) Denny Poland-Sr (6-3, 225)
FAL Mark Carlson-Sr (6-0, 190) Beau Suder-Jr (5-11, 190)
CB Carson Bird-So (5-11, 185) Chris Huckins-Jr (5-10, 175)
CB Chris Sutton-Jr (6-0, 180) Nathan Smith-So (5-11, 175)
FS Bobby Giannini-So (6-2, 210) Julian Madrid-So (6-0, 200)
P Donny Heaton-Sr (6-2, 195) Christopher Carp-Jr (5-9, 160)




This was supposed to be Scott Eberle’s job a year ago, but he lost it just before the opener. He has yet to kick a field goal in his career with the Falcons, but he’s always had an accurate leg. Coverage just has to repeat its performance, which will not be hard as the defense develops.

A first-team all-MWC caliber punter, Heaton is tremendous for the Falcons. He averaged 41.3 yards per kick his first full year, and booted a MWC record 90-yarder. But net results didn’t reflect his solid performance, and with an unproven defense, field position realities could ground the Falcon’s chances in a few tilts.

Return Game
This is an area of concern after a poor showing (101st in punt returns, 75th in kick returns). Chris Sutton will again handle the punts, but needs to improve into the potential blazer he could be. Justin Handley was No. 2 in KRs, and as the top guy, he’ll be even better as he develops.