Senior Jake LaCoste has one last shot at breakout campaign for Air Force
Jake LaCoste followed his brother’s footsteps in coming to Air Force.
Now, he’d like to follow the same blueprint for a breakout senior campaign.
Anthony LaCoste played sparingly – accumulating 15 carries – over his first three years for the Falcons before emerging as the featured tailback in 2013. He ran for a team-high 890 yards that season, including 263 yards (second most in program history) in a home victory over Army.
Jake was watching all this while amassing 7,422 rushing yards with 99 touchdowns as a prep star in Oregon.
“Looking back at his time here, all the fun experiences he did here, I think it did make an impact in my decision,” said Jake LaCoste, who has been joined at the academy by yet another brother, freshman Jeff. Another brother, Jarrett, played at Oregon, and their father, Joseph, played at Oregon State. “It was like, I want that for my future.”
But so far it hasn’t played out in the same way. Jake has just seven career carries for 36 yards, all coming in the 2015 opener against Morgan State. He appeared in just one game as a junior, playing against Georgia State.
“He’ll help us this year,” coach Troy Calhoun said. “In a variety of ways, special teams and on the field offensively.”
Breaking through on offense will be tricky. Having accepted a move last season from tailback to slot receiver, LaCoste is No. 3 on the depth chart behind Tyler Williams, who has played significantly for the past two seasons, and Ronald Cleveland, who was a breakout star as a sophomore last year.
Two players regularly rotate at that spot. Not three.
“He’s certainly talented enough and experienced enough to get in there and be productive for us,” offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen said of LaCoste, who clocked a 4.40-second 40-yard dash in offseason testing. “It’s just a matter of getting that shot.”
There’s another layer to LaCoste’s story.
“The kid could score in the Mountain West conference in the high jump, long jump and triple jump once he can lose about 20 pounds,” track coach Ralph Lindeman said. “He loves track.
“We recognize he’s got to have some bulk on him if he’s going to take a beating at Z-back, but we’re sitting there drooling and thinking he could have a dynamite senior year.”
LaCoste has placed first in indoor meets for Air Force in the triple jump and long jump. His personal record high jump of 6 feet, 5.25 inches would have been good enough to score points for the Falcons at last year’s Mountain West outdoor championships. And this was with limited training after spring football and with a body built for a contact sport.
The track coaches would like to make him a decathlete, but he hasn’t learned to pole vault and he’s obviously not putting in time right now to learn it.
“With Jake, football is No. 1. He loves the game,” Lindeman said. “But he can just flip a switch when it’s over.”
Jamiel Trimble, who is likely to go down as the most successful male trackster in program history, came to Air Force in LaCoste's class as a football player but chose to focus on track.
LaCoste said he never seriously considered taking that route.
“You get the hunch he loves team sports,” Calhoun said.
LaCoste still has lofty goals for football. He wants to earn some opportunities on offense this year, and intends to do something with them. He’s even keeping in play a future in the NFL as a best-case scenario.
And then he’ll see what track brings.
There’s not a hint of regret in any of his decisions. He sees Anthony – now a first lieutenant, married and a first-time father while serving as a force support officer in Virginia – as a trailblazer worth following.
But, man, would a strong senior season sure be sweet.
“Looking back on it, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else,” LaCoste said. “But (a breakout season) is always kind of in the back of my mind. Any year could be your year.”