Quarterback Connor Dietz has always carried himself as a starter for Air Force, so next year shouldn’t be that much of an adjustment.
Dietz backs up senior Tim Jefferson, and there’s little shame in that, considering Jefferson has been one of the best quarterbacks in Air Force history. But Dietz, who has been granted a ninth semester of eligibility in 2012 under the medical hardship program for an ankle injury suffered as a freshman, has played well whenever asked.
Dietz’s best moment last year came when he played most of a win against New Mexico after Jefferson went down with a broken nose. Again this year, Dietz played well when Jefferson was knocked out against New Mexico with a broken nose. Coach Troy Calhoun hasn’t said if Jefferson will be ready to start against Army on Saturday, although all signs point to Jefferson being ready to go. In the small chance Dietz has to start, the Falcons know they’d be just fine with him.
“He’s a starter for us,” Calhoun said of Dietz. “We’re just lucky to have two starters.”
This season, Dietz gave the offense a spark late in a blowout loss against TCU, did well again against Tennessee State, moved the offense in garbage time against Notre Dame and ran for 87 yards on six carries against New Mexico. Each time he plays well, it gives a glimpse of what might be in store for 2012.
The Falcons lose a lot after this season, but Dietz – assuming he beats out the competition and wins the job – should play well for Air Force. Next season is a long way off, but the players are interested to see what he will do.
“He’s a great leader for us, very vocal, gets everyone going on the sideline, and T.J. is a great leader as well,” fullback Mike DeWitt said. “He’ll be good for us next year, but we just have to focus on this year.”
That the Falcons say they feel as much confidence in Dietz says plenty about him as a player. The players know he has had success when called upon, going back to 2009 when he started some games for an injured Jefferson. Dietz prepares like a starter, which players pick up on. And his confident personality naturally inspires confidence.
“Connor Dietz has a bit of a fire about him – he’s kind of the wild west when he comes in to quarterback,” offensive tackle Jason Kons said. “Jefferson is laid back, calm, smart. Dietz just wants to pound the ball and go as hard as he can. I love blocking for both those guys, and I love both their attitudes.”
Calhoun said Dietz has come to him repeatedly asking to be included on special teams. Calhoun, a former backup quarterback himself, raved about how Dietz has gone about his job, and how players react to him as a leader even though he doesn’t play that much.
“He’s got a little life in him,” Calhoun said. “He’s got plenty of juice.”
Dietz said he isn’t focusing on next year yet, because he takes his role this year so seriously. He says he has become a better player this year – he has gotten stronger, watched more film and developed a timing relationship with the receivers. He said he’s excited for next year, but he’s excited for every game, including this week.
“As soon as this season is over we’ll set goals for ourselves, but that time is not here yet,” Dietz said. “We’re focusing on the here and now.”