Spring project: Air Force focuses on developing mental side of QB Arion Worthman's game

February 28, 2017 Updated: February 28, 2017 at 9:17 pm
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Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman throws the ball during a game against Alabama South in the Arizon Bowl on Friday, December 30, 2016. photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

Arion Worthman's development as Air Force's quarterback is getting a boost from technology this spring.

The sophomore showed up to practice Tuesday wearing a GoPro video camera secured at eye level on the side of his helmet. The purpose is pretty simple. The coaches want to know exactly what he is seeing, so they can help understand - and then improve - the decisions he's making both before and after the snap.

"Instead of a bird's-eye view, you can see exactly where his eyes are," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Thiessen said. "We'll see if it will help us teach a little bit.

"It's a little bit of experimentation."

Worthman took over at quarterback with Air Force trailing in the second half at Fresno State this past season. He led a come-from-behind victory that night and was at the helm for five more wins to close a 10-3 season.

He averaged 5.2 yards per carry with six touchdowns and completed 59 percent of his passes for 546 yards and four touchdowns.

By working on the decision-making, the Falcons hope to build on that. Every time he walks to the line of scrimmage he has four-to-five plays he could call depending on the defense. And when he's running the option, there are always decisions on what to do with the ball and when. Often he kept it himself last year, averaging 21.7 carries over those six games. That was effective, but not likely sustainable.

"Last year there were times I saw what the defense was doing but I didn't believe in it," Worthman said. "I think I can get to the point where I see what they're doing, I know what they're doing and I can believe in my reads and my instincts. That will help me play faster."

And as for those pre-snap reads, Worthman said the offense will benefit from his ability to get the team into the right play with greater consistency.

"There's some situations where it's pretty much run-to-run, but we're trying to get to where it could be run-to-pass, pass-to-run," he said. "I think it's real exciting. It will make us more dynamic pre-snap and get us in the best play with the highest percentage to have high success. I think that's exciting."

Thiessen has confidence Worthman has the mental tools to match the physical ones.

"He's sharp," Thiessen said. "He's got a sharp football mind, so he's way ahead of the curve."

One area that doesn't need to be developed is the team's embrace of its quarterback. That was on display Tuesday. Practicing in full pads for the first time, there was plenty of contact - but not on quarterbacks. On a play against the first-team defense, Worthman was knocked hard and the GoPro on his helmet went flying to the turf.

Instantaneously, the offense rushed to his defense and a giant skirmish ensued. It was short-lived, but the point was made - no one is to mess with Worthman.

"That was awesome," Worthman said. "I love that. It's spring ball, guys are trying to earn a spot. It's exciting. Guys are trying to fly around and make football plays. I love the intensity. I think we should have more fights. That means guys are working hard."

In the case of Worthman, the goal is to work hard. And smart.

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