Malik Miller was among those with the most to lose this fall for Air Force, and he ran like it Saturday.
The lone senior among the five tailbacks vying for a starting role, Miller produced the most consistent performance in Saturday’s lengthy scrimmage on the new turf at Falcon Stadium.
No stats were kept on the day and units and personnel shuffled in and out, so there’s no empirical data to share to sum up Miller’s day; but he carried multiple times for positive yardage on the first scoring drive, later added a first-down burst and in general posted the kind of steady showing that might boost him in the race with juniors Nolan Eriksen and Joseph Saucier and sophomores Kade Remsberg and Josh Stoner.
“I feel like today went good,” Miller said. “I had some good carries, broke a few tackles. I feel like today was a good day. Hopefully I flashed some of my talent, made a solid bid.”
Other highlights from the day included long touchdown runs from sophomore quarterbacks Donald Hammond III (on his first snap) and Beau English. Fullback Parker Wilson hauled in a long scoring reception. Geraud Sanders made multiple catches against the No. 1 defense, including a touchdown pass from Isaiah Sanders. Tailback Saucier looked quick in racing inside the pylon on a scoring play. Defensive back Bryce VonZurmeuhlen intercepted a pass.
“I thought our pursuit was pretty darn good on defense,” coach Troy Calhoun observed.
The scrimmage, held just eight days after practice began, obviously won’t alone determine Air Force’s depth chart. But it was important enough that even quarterbacks were made open for contact — returning starter Arion Worthman took several shots, including a blow to the legs during situational drills early in the scrimmage – and it was certainly an important chance to make in impression.
That’s why it was such an important day for Miller, who entered last year in a battle for the No. 2 spot behind Tim McVey that eventually went to Eriksen.
Miller ended up with just eight carries for 32 yards.
With the clock ticking on his career, he can’t afford another season of waiting.
“There’s not really much to stress about,” he said. “I mean, stressing doesn’t really help anything. So I just take it with a calm head and level approach and put in the work. I don’t really worry about external factors.
“But it means everything to me. That’s why I work my tail off every day. That’s the only thing I can control. I can control my effort and the work I put into it, so that’s all I focus on. You’ve got to let the rest take care of itself.”
Worthman, who himself isn’t free from competition as Sanders and Hammond continue to bid for reps, has no idea how the position battles around him will play out.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” the senior quarterback said. “We’ve got five (tailbacks) that can play, but we need one or two to step up and say this is mine.”