Air Force notes: Competitive day for tailbacks looking for playing time
Just how cutthroat is the competition in August scrimmages for Air Force? Consider a brief sequence from Saturday morning.
Tailback Benton Washington slashed through the middle for a gain of about 5 yards, but stayed on the ground injured after the play. He later wore a sling over his right arm.
As Washington was being tended to, Air Force simply moved the ball about 10 yards forward to be clear of him and continued. The next play, Malik Miller, who is contending with Washington for the backup spot, ran hard to the left side, lowered his shoulder, and plowed over cornerback Marquis Griffin in a fierce collision.
Competition waits for no one, I suppose. And there was plenty of competition Saturday as the team scrimmaged in Falcon Stadium for about 190 snaps.
“When you’re competing for a spot, scrimmage days is when you can make a name for yourself,” Miller said. “You’ve got to come hard.”
Tim McVey presumably has a lock on the starting tailback position. Last year the Falcons gave carries to only two tailbacks – Jacobi Owens and McVey – which makes competition for that backup spot all the more intense.
In addition to Washington, a senior, and Miller, a junior, there’s a crop of sophomores that includes Jaylen Burgess, Nolan Ericksen, Christian Mallard and Joseph Saucier who are competing for carries. Ericksen in particular seemed to stand out from that younger group Saturday.
“It’s definitely a good group, and we all push each other,” Miller said.
Sanders takes large percentage of snaps
As soon as Saturday’s practice transitioned into live-contact mode, quarterbacks Arion Worthman and Nate Romine were pulled away from the action. That left Palmer Ridge product Isaiah Sanders running with the first and second teams, as well as his own third-string unit.
“It’s huge,” coach Troy Calhoun said of Sanders, a sophomore. “For Isaiah to have probably well over 50 snaps, scrimmage-type snaps, those are good experiences.”
The other quarterbacks seeing time Saturday included sophomore Michael Schmidt, who completed several passes downfield, freshmen Donald Hammond III, who came from the prep school, and Beau English, who came directly out of Maryland.
Other scrimmage observations
Kevin Fagan took the first reps at fullback after starter Parker Wilson. Fagan is a 6-foot-1, 225-pound sophomore whose father, also named Kevin, played at Miami and with the San Francisco 49ers. Senior Jacob Stafford also saw second-team reps at the position. … Ryan Darby, who is the backup defensive end behind Santo Coppola, brushed aside a block to make a tackle behind the line against the No. 1 offense. … Sophomore linebacker Kyle Johnson, who is challenging backups Brody Bagnall and Blake Dailey, had an active day, making two stops behind the line.