Coach's Corner

Scheduling one of the service academies has become almost a unique problem in college football. Sure, you probably have better athletes and your players are probably bigger and faster, but the academies find ways to make up for those disadvantages when it comes to the sport of football.

You cannot ignore their high intelligence as a group - not to mention they all seem to play option offenses with wrinkles that you don't see anywhere else. However, there are three other differences that you may not know about:

- Unlimited squad sizes
- Lack of recruiting restrictions
- Coaching staff size

The Air Force Academy lists 100 scholarship players on their roster, whereas Washington has only 85. Actually everyone attending the academy is on the payroll so their only squad limitations are those they place on themselves. This year's squad numbers do not however reflect their actual numbers.

Washington doesn't recruit the same type of athlete as Air Force, but I thought you might find the numbers interesting.

The 100 does not include those attending their prep school where another 100 are playing football while they are waiting for admittance to the academy. These "JV"'s play a complete schedule and run the exact same system as does the varsity. The same terminology, the same drills, the same plays, and they even have the same coaches. Air Force counts 16 full time staff members or coaches and personnel directly involved in the sport of football - 1 head coach, 10 assistants, 3 JV coaches, 1 recruiting coordinator, plus their director of operations.

Washington like all the other division one schools playing football, is limited to 13 - 1 head coach, 9 assistants, 1 director of football operations, and 2 GA's.

Recruiting wise, the Recruiting Coordinator must be one of your full time assistants - unless of course you are one of the academies. In recruiting there are evaluation restrictions, contact restrictions, and actual dead periods.

However, if you are one of the academies, you are not subject to these time periods, or limits on recruiting. Essentially they can do whatever they want, whenever they want with regard to military recruiting.

What this means is that if they are involved in a bowl game, they can focus on just preparing for that game and not be involved in any recruiting, even though December is the key month of the whole year for the rest of the schools around the country. Air Force coaches can work full time on preparation for their bowl game without any distractions with recruiting campus visits and entertaining recruits, home visits, and balancing it all with their practices. That allows them to put in wrinkles into bowl games that you may not have seen during the season.

When Washington played them in 1998, Air Force came into that contest leading the nation in rushing offense with well over 400 yards a game.

We, of course, worked extremely hard on coming up with and teaching a scheme that we hoped would slow down this vaunted option attack. We thought we had been successful holding them to 232 yards rushing. We were putting in 18 hour days combining recruiting and coaching. They surprised us with a sophisticated passing attack and blew us out 45-25 with their quarterback completing 12 of 16 for 267 yards and 2 TD's. Conversely, our quarterback, Brock Huard threw for the same 267 yards but needed 32 attempts to do so. There was a reason that Air Force team went 12-1 that year – it was one of the best teams in their history.

. They had done a marvelous job of coaching and had not spent any time recruiting. It worked to perfection, and I and the rest of the staff were fired shortly thereafter.

When talking about the Husky opener for this year, you have to start by looking at the Air Force offensive attack. Their option is very sophisticated in that whatever you do to stop it, they have the answer for. Technically you don't stop them running the option because they know it so well that they simply adjust and go to a different blocking scheme. This comes from years upon years of doing it and knowing how to counteract anything you try simply because they have seen every imaginable way of attacking it.

This coming season they have an experienced quarterback who is of course the key to any good option attack. He is always a threat and appears to have been working on his passing game - that could be scary.

Playing the option, you need to stop the fullback. He is usually their first and most consistent threat. If you don't honor the fullback then they will run him down your throat. Air Force usually lines up with only 1 back and two wings. They will motion one of the wings and he usually becomes the pitch. However, they can also fake to the fullback and the motion back and run the option the other way with the other wing coming back as the pitch. It's maddening and requires great communication and the ability to stay at home and do your responsibility.

Compounding the whole situation is the fact that they are the masters of the chop block. They go for the knees and because they are usually smaller in the line they are quicker and get into your legs before you know it. They roll in, dive in and simply attack your defensive front. They force you to balance up and make it even harder to do by using unbalanced sets and shifts. Stopping the option attack requires playing off the block and disciplining yourself to do your responsibility, be it fullback, quarterback, or pitch. Stopping their passes becomes an entirely different thing once you are concentrating so hard to stop the run.

Another factor that many people don't realize is that they also present an entirely unique defense as well as their option attack.

Air Force actually plays a 3-5-3 defense with anywhere from 1 to 3 of the linebackers coming at you on any one down. The odd front gives them the advantage of taking your center out of the second level blocking.

One of best times to play an option team is the first game of the season. Why? Because you have the extra time to practice against it. That is precisely why they are so successful out of their conference. You don't see the option that much in the Pac-10, Big–10, or SEC, etc. Consequently you have to simplify and try to keep their offense off the field. The Dawgs getting them in an opener is to their advantage.

If Washington is to win this game, they will have to play ball control, get ahead, and Force the Air into passing. The longer they have the ball the bigger their chances are of finding the answer to your defense. Air Force has become the best of the service academies over the past decade and even though they had a losing season last year, it was their only losing season in the past eleven.

This is a difficult opener for Washington, simply because Air Force is such a unique team. They are also extremely well coached. Top Stories