Opposition Danger Men: Air Force

The clash with the Falcons marks the midpoint in Navy's season and thus the midpoint in our opposition danger men preview series. This is where we are going to take a closer look at a couple of difference makers who Navy will come up against each week when the season gets started. These are the guys that the coaches must game plan for if the 2014 Navy football season is going to be a success.

Air Force

Offense: WR – Jalen Robinette

In general it is fair to say that the Mids know what they are in for when they come up against the Air Force offense. Just like Navy, and Army too for that matter, the Falcons use the triple option as their base and historically have not done much of anything through the air. In 2014 this could all change though, because Air Force has Jalen Robinette in the mix out wide.

The problems which Air Force have had a wide receiver have basically been the same as Navy's. The program has relied on small, athletically limited targets who are good for moving the chains every now and again to supplement the running game, but not much else. In Robinette however the Falcons have a premier wide receiving prospect who at 6-feet-3 and 220 pounds would fit into any system at any school in the country.

Robinette will be the guy to key in on for a few different reasons. Firstly he is just that good, with measurable in terms of speed, size, and leaping ability which put him among the best in the country. He is one of those players who you can just throw a jump ball to and expect him to make the reception. Secondly his mere presence on the field, and the attention he demands, will open up both the passing game for other receivers and keep cornerbacks occupied in the run game.

In summary it is not unfair to say that Robinette will be the biggest headache for the Mids secondary to deal with all season. When that schedule includes teams such as Ohio State and Notre Dame then you know that Air Force has a good one on their hands.

Defense: DE – Alex Hansen

It is tough to pick the best defender on an Air Force team which has just fallen apart on that side of the ball since coordinator Tim DeRuyter left for Texas A&M back in early 2010. The Falcons have been overpowered in the front seven and ineffective in the secondary ever since that date, with safeties making more of the tackles than they should ever be expected to and the whole unit being pushed around at will.

With all that said the Falcons do have one player who has shown flashes of being a difference maker in defensive end Alex Hansen. Hansen, like most military academy linemen, is on the small side at 6-feet-2 and 240 pounds. As a freshmen in 2012 though he used this to his advantage, winning the leverage battle and using he speed and quickness to elude offensive tackles and get in the backfield to be disruptive. The result of this was 36 tackles (nine for a loss) and four sacks in limited action in the Falcons 13 games. Most thought that in 2013 he would kick on and prove to be something close to an all-conference performer as the leader of the Air Force defense.

The truth, however, is that Hansen regressed last fall. He was held without a sack all season and though he was again in on 36 tackles he was only in on two which went for a loss. Obviously part of this is due to the total lack of help he received from his line mates and linebackers, all of whom were overwhelmed and outclassed, but there is an argument that someone as talented as Hansen should still have been able to do more with what he was given a year ago.

So the question for the Mids is which Hansen will show up? If it is the player from his freshmen year then Navy will have to be on their game and block as a unit to keep him out of plays. The expectation is that the whole Air Force defense will be more aggressive as a unit in 2014 and if this is true it will only be good news for Hansen as he looks to battle back and progress to be the player all the Falcon's fans expected him to be.

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