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Air Force set for spring scrimmage that has propelled offensive stars in its brief history

April 7, 2017 Updated: April 7, 2017 at 1:15 pm
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Arion Worthman's introduction to Air Force football fans didn't occur in the second half at Fresno State this past season when he checked in at quarterback and led a comeback victory.

It came a year ago at Fountain-Fort Carson High School, when the then-freshman made play after play in the Falcons' spring scrimmage as he battled classmate Ryan Brand for the top backup spot.

"He would make an incredible play, then I'd want to make an incredible play," said Worthman of Brand, who has since transferred to a junior college and then to Maryland. "Competition pushes you to a level you didn't know you could be. You're just pushing every play."

Even if Air Force decides to keep Worthman out of this year's scrimmage - it has a history of holding established starters out of the game - there will be plenty of hotly contested spots when the team wraps spring ball at 10 a.m. for the Blue & Silver Scrimmage at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock.

This will be Air Force's third off-site spring scrimmage over the past four years. In 2014 it was held at District 20 Stadium and the Falcons split into two teams for a intrasquad game. After no end-of-spring scrimmage in 2015, the game in 2016 at Fountain-Fort Carson was simply an offense vs. defense format. That's what will be used again, with a special teams session held before the scrimmage.

"We just felt like we ran out of bodies to do it that way," Calhoun said of again splitting into two full teams. "It's the most fun way to do it because you create two different sides and you bond with your guys on the blue team and your guys on the silver team, but it's just not quite as efficient."

For players trying to earn a spot, the format won't make much of a difference.

Defensively, the Falcons return just one full-time starter (linebacker Grant Ross) and two regulars in defensive end Santo Coppola and linebacker Jack Flor. Other than that, it should be an open competition, with Saturday's scrimmage the last chance to make an on-field impression before the offseason.

Defensive coordinator Steve Russ believes that wide-open nature of the positions on his side of the ball will make Saturday's scrimmage will present plenty to watch on Saturday.

"If it was me, I'd like to watch the battles that are ensuing at the spots," Russ said. "Who's playing well? Who's making plays? Who's stepping up when the lights come on? Who's bringing that spark, that life, that juice, that energy? I like watching the competition battles, and like I said, there's a whole bunch of spots not just for starters but for backups and guys looking for playing time."

On the offensive side, tailback Jacobi Owens (2014) and Worthman used the spring game to launch into major roles the following year. Owens ran for more than 200 yards in the season opener after starring in the game as a freshman the previous April.

There will be plenty of players vying to do the same this year, including a group of four wide receivers vying for Jalen Robinette's vacated spot, multiple candidates looking to back up Tim McVey at tailback and a spirited competition between freshmen Miller Mosely and Isaiah Sanders to position themselves behind Worthman and Nate Romine at quarterback.

Top Z-receivers Ronald Cleveland and Tyler Williams have missed spring ball with injuries, presenting opportunities for players like junior Jake LaCoste and freshman Ben Waters from Valor Christian to make an impression.

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