Almost in unison, Air Force offensive coordinator Chuck Petersen and receivers coach Blane Morgan screamed into their headsets, begging quarterback Shaun Carney to see what they saw. From the lofted vantage point of a makeshift press box during a simulated game last Friday night, Morgan and Petersen could see tight end Robert McMenomy running free through the middle of the defense, a big play waiting to happen if Carney could catch a glimpse of the same thing. He didn’t. Carney insisted it wasn’t on purpose, but it was symbolic of the patience required to be a tight end at Air Force, where the chances to be a target in the triple-option offense can be few and far between. Though Petersen downplayed the suggestion Mc-Menomy could have a greater role in the passing game than a typical Air Force tight end, there’s been some chatter around the program that Mc-Menomy may break the mold. “I have all the confidence in the world in throw- ing the ball to him and we will because he does have very, very good hands,” coach Fisher DeBerry said last week. “He’s a target we can find.” McMenomy is an intriguing target not just because of his size — he’s 6-foot-4, 235 pounds — but his ability to get open and catch the ball, which is more obvious in practices than it has been in games. Last season, McMenomy caught just five balls for 81 yards as various injuries limited his playing time and effectiveness. He missed three games after a nerve issue that had been dormant since high school suddenly returned, leaving him without feeling in his left arm for a time. “With me being in and out of games last year, I never got in the rhythm of it,” he said. “I think both Shaun and I are more confident now. The whole team’s more confident throwing the ball, and that’ll give me more opportunities.” Though McMenomy said he can control the nerve problem with stretching techniques designed to strengthen his neck, he also wears a hard plastic brace on his right elbow because of some tissue damage he suffered right after returning from the nerve injury. “We didn’t have a ton of confidence in the tight end last year because it was his first year and my first year,” Carney said. “But I think it’s going to be a big improvement this year. I’ll definitely look to throw to him.” McMenomy, however, isn’t necessarily expecting to lead the Falcons in receptions. He said the key to his season will be making the most of opportunities he gets. “My role hasn’t changed much,” he said. “I know primarily I’ll be a blocker.” Not that McMenomy minds. McMenomy knew he wouldn’t be able to contribute at tight end until he became proficient in blocking, which he admitted was a struggle. After playing mostly on the defensive line at South Gwinnett High School in Georgia, McMenomy moved to tight end his senior year and had to learn how to block basically from scratch. “The catching, I’ve always been pretty good at that,” he said. It’s up to Air Force to find ways to utilize that ability. Petersen said it would come in the normal flow of the option offense, not from a concerted effort to get the ball in Mc-Menomy’s hands. “I would say we’ll go him as much as we go to anybody else,” Petersen said. “We’ve got good receivers. From the standpoint of the throwing game, he’s just a part of it.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT Washington vs. Air Force in Seattle, 1:30 p.m., Sept. 3, ABC
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