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Air Force football notes: Battles extend beyond top of the depth chart

August 10, 2017 Updated: August 10, 2017 at 8:10 pm
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photo - Air Force's Benton Washington scores a rushing touchdown over Michigan State's Arjen Colquhoun during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 35-21. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Air Force's Benton Washington scores a rushing touchdown over Michigan State's Arjen Colquhoun during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 35-21. (AP Photo/Al Goldis) 

The starting spots aren’t all that are up for grabs as Air Force rolls along through its first week of fall camp.

At tailback, the No. 2 spot has at least five legitimate contenders, headed by senior Benton Washington and junior Malik Miller.

“We’ve got 15 practices before the first game,” offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen said. “We watch them in the scrimmage in live situations. They distinguish themselves.

“The year Timmy (McVey) led our team in touchdowns I think he broke camp at No. 7 on our depth chart. So anything can happen.”

At middle linebacker, a three-way battle has developed between juniors Brody Bagnall and Blake Dailey and sophomore Kyle Johnson to be the primary backup. That has proved to be an important spot in recent years, as injuries mounted at the position and standouts like Tre’ Alexander and Jordan Pierce emerged after starting the season on the bench.

“I tell them things can change overnight and they’re all fighting for playing time,” linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden said.

 

Waters settling in at safety

Defensive coordinator Steve Russ said a player of Ben Waters’ talent wouldn’t have been switched from receiver to safety if there wasn’t an intention of him contributing. And so far, the sophomore from Valor Christian is on that path.

“We need help at the safety position,” Russ said. “Ben has a very good skill set. He’s very smart. He’s picked up the defense probably as fast as any new player at the safety position. There are a lot of things our safeties have to do. His teammates have been wonderful in helping him, and each day he moves a little faster.”

Defensive backs are notorious for struggling to catch the ball, and that has become something of a running joke around the Falcons.

And sure enough, Waters, a lifelong receiver, put himself in position for an interception and a chance to squash that perception.

“It hit him right in the hands and he dropped it,” Russ said.

Sophomores and freshman are not made available to media during fall camp.

 

Commitment set

With a commitment ceremony Wednesday evening and the start of class Thursday, the junior class is locked in to the academy and the postgraduate service time that comes with it.

This means Air Force’s junior class that includes quarterback Arion Worthman and Ronald Cleveland is no longer eligible to depart. Until this point in their junior year, cadets can leave the academy without penalty.

“I’m all in,” junior cornerback Robert Bullard said.

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