Air Force likely will enter preseason camp — and possibly the 2018 season — without an official defensive coordinator.
The team hasn’t named a coordinator replacement for Steve Russ, who left in January to become the Carolina Panthers‘ linebackers coach. Russ had spent the previous four seasons as Air Force’s defensive coordinator and defensive backfield coach.
Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun, speaking Tuesday at a panel lunch for Colorado’s college football coaches, said he’s not sure whether he’ll name an official coordinator, noting he’s under no obligation to do so. Calhoun told ESPN.com on Tuesday night that the overall experience of the defensive staff and its ability to collaborate on play calls and scheme creates little urgency for an appointed coordinator.
He noted that inside linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and spurs coach Brian Knorr both have extensive defensive coordinator experience. Both Vanderlinden and Knorr have been FBS head coaches at Maryland and Ohio, respectively.
“I know [naming a coordinator] is what everyone says you have to do, but they know the scheme we’re going to use,” Calhoun said. “Inevitably, everyone on the staff collaborates on play calls.”
Air Force has an offensive coordinator in Mike Thiessen, who has held the title for four years and been on the staff for the past 11 seasons. Defensive line coach Tim Cross is the lone defensive assistant with a supplementary title — assistant head coach.
Calhoun didn’t rule out naming a defensive coordinator before the season but indicated that the staff would function well — and perhaps better — without one. Air Force opens the season Sept. 1 against Stony Brook.