Jefferson works to maintain eligibility

The prestige of being the starting quarterback might cost Air Force freshman Tim Jefferson his eligibility.

Jefferson acknowledged on Wednesday that after he was named the Falcons' starting quarterback four games into the 2008 season, he started neglecting his academics and now he could be in danger of missing the 2009 campaign.

"I got caught up in all the hoopla of being the starting quarterback as a freshman here at the Academy," Jefferson said. "I didn't pay nearly as much time to my schoolwork as I should have. I got too far behind and I wasn't really able to catch back up. I'm about 99 percent sure that I'm going to be eligible for next season."

Jefferson will miss most of the Falcons' spring practices as he spends extra time getting his grades back up to par. Air Force opened spring football on Monday, but Jefferson said he won't practice until Saturday. From there, Jefferson doesn't know how many practices he'll participate in, but he said he and coach Troy Calhoun would evaluate his academic progress next week and make that decision. Spring practice concludes on April 4.

Jefferson also said he would spend the entire summer on campus helping set up basic training for incoming freshmen and taking two extra classes to catch up.

"It was my decision to sit out most of the practices because I felt like my academics still weren't where they needed to be," Jefferson said. "It was gut-check time and I needed to figure out how much football really meant to me. If football really meant as much as I thought it would, I will get back on track with my academics and make sure I'm nowhere close to being ineligible. It was actually my decision to not practice because [coach Calhoun] wanted me to practice a little bit, but I decided that I needed to have my priorities in line, and academics always comes first."

Graham Watson covers college football for ESPN.com.