There's no denying that Spencer Proctor is moving to a more glamorous position for Air Force.
"You get more sacks," said the senior, who moves from inside to outside linebacker. "The crowd loves sacks. But it's not really about that, it's just about helping the team."
More sacks would definitely be nice for an Air Force team that brought down quarterbacks just 14 times last year. But moving Proctor, along with Dexter Walker, to the outside and then redefining the position is mostly about making the defense more flexible.
Though the spots will largely mirror each other, the position currently occupied by Proctor, which will line up on the short side of the field, is designed primarily as a rush end. Walker's spot, which will take the wide side, will often defend tight ends or slot receivers.
Both outside linebackers are lining up at or near the line of scrimmage.
Outside linebacker coach Matt Weikert said the change in philosophy (both outside linebackers played several yards off the line of scrimmage last year) is in part an answer to the spread offenses that now dominate the Mountain West and gave the Falcons fits last season. Having linebackers closer should allow them to impact a play more quickly, jam a receiver, rush a quarterback, help in run support or drop back in coverage.
"Just having another guy who's closer to the quarterback, closer to the action, that's why," coach Troy Calhoun explained. "We want him closer to where the combat is."
Proctor certainly looks the part of an outside linebacker, particularly if the image that comes to mind for the position is a Lawrence Taylor of Derrick Thomas body-type. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 227 pounds ‑ both seem like conservative estimates.
"The physicality I had on the inside will definitely help on the outside," Proctor said. "And my leanness and my speed on the edge, that's a good combination."
Walker, 6-foot, 205 pounds, seems a bit more miscast, but he was second on the team last year with 91 tackles and, with two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and a team-high three forced fumbles, showed a knack for making things happen.
"I already pretty much knew outside linebacker, but it's just learning how to play between tackles and fending off guards," said Walker, a converted safety. "You've just to be stronger, really, and use my quickness to my advantage."
Weikert said Walker's size was downplayed in deciding on the move because of the number of spread teams the Falcons will face."He'll have enough athletic ability to be able to handle business down there when he is playing against a pound team," Weikert said.