The things that have stood out for Air Force football in recent years have had a direct impact on this year’s recruiting class.
A third straight 10-hit season, five straight hits on Power Five programs, and the rise of Brad Roberts to the national lead in rushing, these items were listed almost verbatim by three-star running back rookie Mana Tapusoa as he explained why for which he had chosen the Falcons over offers from Nevada and Princeton.
“I like how I fit into the system,” said Tapusoa, a 5-foot, 11, 205-pound running back from Hawaii who will be looking to play Roberts’ fullback job over the past three seasons. “They make the ball spin a lot, I like it. They win games, not only against Mountain West schools but also against Power Five schools and compete well.
“You will also be ready for life after football.”
Tapusoa was one of 16 three-star recruits to sign a certificate of intent on Wednesday or in the first signing period in December. The certificates are not as binding as the NCAA National Letters of Intent as admission to academies is still subject to the admissions process but this is still the culmination of the recruiting process just as it is everywhere and it seems from the quality of the class that the Falcons have avoided any negative impact from things like name, image, likeness that allow players to earn money in programs but not academies, or recent Defense Department rule changes that will again require two years of active duty before athletes they can become professionals.
Leaning on academy advantages and striving for success on the field, this class includes one of the Dallas area’s all-time leading rushers (Owen Allen), who threw for 7,700 yards and 120 touchdowns in his prep career. There’s a three-star quarterback (Jacob Kilzer) from Minnesota who is 6-foot-3, has rejected Army and several Mid-America Athletic Conference teams, and has a 26-2 record as a starter in high school. There are also two other three-star running backs in addition to Allen and Tapusoa, one wide receiver, one offensive lineman, eight inside and outside linebackers, and two defensive backs.
The Air Force can’t release details about her class, so the list of signatories was independently compiled by The Gazette.
“It was a nice group, really complete,” said coach Troy Calhoun. “I tell you what was interesting, we had four really good players in the last five days. But other than that, a good deal of it was done a long time ago. And we’re still waiting for a couple more who are still sorting things out in the next 10 or 12 days. But much of this was done by mid-January.
The top rated offensive recruit in the group, according to 247Sports, was wide receiver Anthony Wenson of Liberty, Mo. On defense was cornerback Kyle Chen of Vancouver, Washington, who signed with the Falcons along with Mountain View teammate Jacob Martin — one of two sets of teammates in the class, along with Enid, Erik Lewis Jr. of Okla. and Luke Rauh.
There was one signer in the state, Valor Christian linebacker Roman Bradley.
The favorite for best name in the class belongs to 6-3 receiver Jet Wiley of Phenix City, Ala. The “Jet” comes from the first initials of his full name: Jared Edgar Thomas Wiley.
Air Force capped off a 10-3 season — it’s their second consecutive season with that record — with a win over Baylor in December in the Armed Forces Bowl.
The Air Force football recruiting course
Owen Allen RB 6-0 205 Southlake, Texas (Southlake Carroll)
Jonathan Ashford OT 6-4 315 Edmond, Oklahoma (Santa Fe)
Cole Baird DE 6-5 235 Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Calvary Christian Academy)
Kegan Low WR 5-10 170 Mustang, Okla.
Nicholas Beckwith S 6-3 190 Lafayette, La. (St. Thomas More)
Aidan Behymer TE 6-5 225 Overland Park, Ks. (Northwest Blue Valley)
Mitchell Blakeslee TE 6-4 245 The Woods, Texas
Roman Bradley LB 5-10 210 Highlands Ranch (Christian Valor)
Jonathan Brambila OL 6-3 275 Salt Lake City (East)
Shawn Braxton DB 5-11 195 Peachtree City, Georgia (Trinity)
Brody Bujnoch LB 6-3 225 Hutto, Texas
Vinnie Canosa LB 6-1 225 Acworth, Georgia (Allatoona)
Hiro Carr ATH 6-2 185 Stafford, Virginia (Colonial Forge)
Kyle Chen CB 6-1 180 Vancouver, Washington (mountain view)
Rocco Conti RB 5-8 190 Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Will Courtney S6-1 180 Austin, Texas (Westlake)
Andy DeVine Jr.* OLB 6-4 215 San Diego (Mission Hills)
Dominic Diaz LS 6-1 220 Fort Lauderdale, Florida (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Blake Fletcher LB 6-3 220 Racine, Wisc. (Horlick)
Kaden Freemann DL 6-3 235 Frisco, Texas (Reedy)
Ian Fisher OL 6-4 290 Peachtree City, Georgia (McIntosh)
Luke Gallo RB 5-11 200 Carthage, Mo.
Joe Ginnetti LB 6-2 225 Cincinnati (Archbishop Moeller)
Charlie Gleason OLB 6-4 220 Stillwater, Minnesota (Stillwater Senior)
Trenton Groff TE 6-5 235 Eureka, Mo.
Carson Hall DL 6-3 275 Ranburne, Ala.
Greg Hatley III ATH 5-10 190 Waxahachie, Texas
Freemason Hayes WR 6-2 205 Burien, Washington (Kennedy Catholic)
Houston Hendrix LB 6-2 185 Boerne, Texas
Ryan Henning RB 5-10 185 Lincoln, Calif.
Aiden Herring OLB 6-3 260 Gilbert, Arizona (Perry)
Isaac Hubert OLB 6-2 230 Guangzhou, Georgia (Creekview)
Evan Keef OL 6-3 275 Muskogee, Oklahoma (Hilldale)
Jacob Kilzer QB 6-3 196 Bone, Minnesota (Maple Grove)
Josh Johnson QB 6-3 185 Katy, Texas (Morton Ranch)
Korey Johnson CB 6-0 175 Glendale, Arizona (Mountain Ridge)
Devin Giordano DB 6-2 190 Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Erik Lewis Jr. CB 6-0 190 Enid, Okla.
Devin Lively DT 6-1 251 Lebanon, Tennessee (Christian Fellowship)
Luca Logano TE 6-5 230 Suwanee, Georgia (Lambert)
Jacob Martin WR 6-1 180 Vancouver, Washington (mountain view)
Maguire Martin QB 6-1 188 Plano, Texas (Prestonwood Christian)
Cole Nilles LB 6-2 225 Philadelphia (Preparation of St. Joseph)
Bryce Olson K 5-11 180 Fort Collins (Fossil Ridge)
Dan Parker S 6-1 180 Puyallup, Wash.
Right Perale OL 6-3 260 Garland, Texas (Naaman Forest)
Rip Perez P 6-2 195 Brookhaven, Georgia (Marist)
Luca Rauh RB 6-1 205 Enid, Okla.
Jaylin Reese LB 6-3 225 St. Paul, Minnesota (East Ridge)
Sky Richardson OL 6-5 298 Roswell, Georgia (Blessed Trinity)
Dixon Grey RyanDE 6-5 250 Las Vegas (Faith Lutheran)
David Santiago LB 6-3 230 Raleigh, NC (Millbrook)
KeShon Singleton WR 6-2 180 Springfield, Ill. (griffon of the Sacred Heart)
Gage Spencer RB 5-9 190 Cecil, Alabama (East Macon)
Griffin Stalfort OL 6-2 280 Chandler, Arizona (Hamilton)
Kade Steadman DL 6-2 240 Meridian, Idaho (Rocky Mountains)
Mana Tapusa RB 5-11 205 Blue Springs, Mo.
TJ Tarascio OL 6-4 295 Riverside, California (John W. North)
Kade Tomkins DL 6-1 290 Midlothian, Texas
Carson Tito TO 6-5 265 Cincinnati (Archbishop Moeller)
Jansen Ware OL 6-4 275 Port Neches, Texas (Port Neches-Groves)
Grant Wayne WR 6-2 180 Murrieta, California (Vista)
Antonio Wenson WR 6-1 185 Liberty, Mo.
Laird Wheeler OL 6-2 275 Danville, California (San Ramon Valley)
Dermot White RB 5-9 185 Plano, Texas (West)
Jet Wiley WR 6-3 185 Phenix City, Central Alabama)