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Air Force Football: 2022 Falcons Season Preview and Prediction

Brad Roberts, Air Force Falcons Football

Brad Roberts and the Falcons are ranked No. 37 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

Air Force posted its fourth season of double-digit wins under coach Troy Calhoun after a 10-3 mark last fall. The Falcons have their aim set on something higher in '22, however. The return of 15 starters means Air Force should be near the top of the list of favorites to win the Mountain West this fall. Quarterback Haaziq Daniels and running back Brad Roberts lead the nation's top ground game from '21, and the defense brings back six starters off a unit that allowed only 19.8 points a contest last fall. Road trips to Utah State and San Diego State won't be easy. However, Boise State visits Colorado Springs in '22.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Air Force's Offense for 2022

Haaziq Daniels' versatility is underscored by the school records he's set. As a junior, he posted the program's longest run (94 yards vs. Florida Atlantic) and longest pass (92 yards vs. Colorado State). No other team has those two records authored by the same player. Daniels capped the season with an MVP performance in the First Responder Bowl, completing 9-of-10 passes for 252 yards and two TDs while adding a pair of rushing scores.

Daniels returns as a three-year starter and will have the majority of his playmakers back with him. Senior fullback Brad Roberts rumbled for 1,352 rushing yards in 2021, third most in program history. Three of the top four weapons are back at the tailback/wingback positions in Micah Davis, DeAndre Hughes and Dane Kinamon, who combined for nearly 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns last year.

The offensive line replaced all five starters a year ago yet still paved the way to the national rushing title. Three of five starters return this year, and the other spots will be manned by center Thor Paglialong and guard Wesley Ndago, who started a combined nine games last year. 

Previewing Air Force's Defense for 2022

Air Force is well positioned to absorb the losses of four multiyear starters because of the opportunities created by injuries. Defensive tackle Jayden Thiergood (in for Jordan Jackson), cornerback Michael Mack II (in for Tré Bugg), linebacker TD Blackmon (in for Demonte Meeks) and safety Jayden Goodwin (in for Corvan Taylor) have all started at times for the Falcons.

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Outside linebacker Vince Sanford was a breakout star with 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss. Sanford benefited from the attention paid to Jackson, but defensive tackle Christopher Herrera may similarly draw double teams to free up Sanford and others.

Safety Trey Taylor missed the first three games yet was second on the team with 62 tackles as a sophomore. He has All-MW potential.

The biggest change came in the coaching staff, as as Brian Knorr replaced defensive coordinator John Rudzinski, who left for Virginia, amid a series of moves that left only Knorr (inside linebackers) returning to the same position group on the defensive side.

Related: Mountain West Football Predictions for 2022

Previewing Air Force's Specialists for 2022

The Falcons' strategy in the kicking game is simply to avoid mistakes. They attempted returns on just seven of 50 opponents' kickoffs and five of 60 punts. Matthew Dapore settled into the placekicking role as a freshman and connected on eight of his 10 attempts after the team had started 3-of-7 on field-goal tries.

Final Analysis

Air Force has won 21 of 27 games since Oct. 2019. It leads college football in rushing in that span and has ranked in the nation's top six in total defense each of the past two years. With a roster loaded with experience, head coach Troy Calhoun's machine should keep rolling. The schedule helps, too, bringing four key games — Boise State, Colorado, Colorado State, Navy — to Falcon Stadium, where the team is 36–9 since 2014.

National Ranking: 37

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