The fullback position in the triple-option is like an engine in a car. It makes the offense go.
And this season, Air Force has to replace not just one engine, but two.
This offseason the Falcons saw three-year starting fullbacks, D.J. Johnson and Shayne Davern, depart from the program. Last season, the two backs combined for 1,000 yards rushing (Johnson with 622 and Davern with 475) and averaged 20.5 carries per game.
"The position is a huge one for us," offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen said.
However, the Falcons are always planning for the future. And the back who seems set to succeed Johnson and Davern is junior Parker Wilson.
"(Wilson) has been good and even in the spring, he is a guy that we can depend on," Thiessen said. "Last year, he was ready to go in and we were ready to play him. He just didn't get his opportunity a whole lot."
In spite of the minimal playing time, Wilson is no stranger to the position.
Since the fullback position is getting phased out almost everywhere around the country, Air Force typically recruits a linebacker who it believes will make a good fullback. But not Wilson. He was a fullback in high school.
Although Wilson played fullback before donning the Falcon blue and white, he did not play in the triple-option. He was an I-formation fullback. So when he arrived at Air Force, the transition was a little difficult.
"It was a little different," Wilson said. "I didn't really run the ball a whole lot in high school, mainly blocking. Just getting into the playbook was hard."
Although at times learning how to be a triple-option fullback was difficult, learning and playing behind guys like Johnson and Davern has made Wilson the player he is today.
Johnson and Davern were bruisers when they ran the ball. They would run over defenders instead of around them. But that is not Wilson's style.
Wilson is more of a speedster. He is able to juke defenders and get into the open field. However, Wilson is still able to put his shoulder down and run through his opponents.
"He is both," Thiessen said. "He has power but he can run. He is not 240 pounds like the last two guys, but we require our fullbacks to be both. They have to be powerful guys, which he is."
Last year in the Falcons' opener against the Abilene Christian Wildcats, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound back received his first collegiate carry.
Wilson's first carry came after a delay of game penalty. The call was a midline play and Abilene Christian's defense was still getting its formation called in.
"I just heard coach yell 'Snap the ball!'," Wilson said on the moment before his attempt.
The Falcons snapped the ball before the Wildcat defense was set.
After 33 yards later, Wilson was finally taken down.
"It was pretty exhilarating," Wilson said.
Wilson hopes he can produce more of those runs come this fall.
Out of the returning fullbacks, Wilson is near the top in terms of experience. In his first two years in Colorado Springs, Wilson ran the ball 16 times for 97 yards. However, the Falcons have yet to name a starting back.
If Wilson wants to make sure he becomes the starting fullback, he just needs to remain steady through the last month of the offseason.
"Just be reliable throughout August," running back coach Ben Miller said. "Don't have little injuries that are going to nag him throughout the month. He will be fine, but we are going to play more than one fullback. We always have. So, we are going to need good depth there and we have a lot of good guys there. Pushing him, making him better every day."
Even though Air Force will utilize more than one fullback this season, Wilson is seen as the most reliable in his coach's eyes.
"I think he has earned it already to be the fullback we rely on just because of the last couple years," Thiessen said. "His work ethic and stability to be a solid, dependable guy, knowing what to do and being physical. He is going to be fun to watch this fall."