With four linebackers essentially competing for one spot, Fan Day at Falcon Stadium on Saturday may have a few not-exactly-kid-friendly moments.
The scrimmage, which begins at 9:30 a.m. and will include a host of family activities, figures to pack plenty of punch as the position battle comes to a head at the most violent position on the field.
"You want to do your best all the time," said junior Trey Alexander, one of those four fighting for a spot. "That's how it should be. Every day you come out here to get better. This competition kind of forces you to do that - try to make sure you do the best you can every play."
Connor Healy, barring an injury, will start at one inside linebacker position as he comes off a junior season in which he made 90 tackles. But the spot next to him is up in the air.
Healy's brother, junior Patrick, has handled most of the first-team reps through spring and fall practice and has the inside track on the starting spot. But lately, Alexander has seen more and more time with the top unit. Right behind them are sophomores Jack Flor and Grant Ross, each of whom have shown flashes of being ready to play.
"Connor has been rock steady," defensive coordinator Steve Russ said. "He's been really, really good. The other four guys are competing their butts off, and we're going to play the next best one. We really feel like we have some good depth there. We're excited about it. We're excited to see how it all shakes out, but I think at the end of the day we're much deeper at that position than we were last year."
Each contender brings a unique skill set to the position. Healy, a star at Mullen High School in Denver, is probably the best communicator. Alexander, at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, probably has the best size. Ross, who had an offer to play at TCU, has the best speed. Flor is a throwback type with a natural nose for the football.
"Pat has good quickness, really, really savvy," coach Troy Calhoun said. "He plays like a very experienced player, which really he is when you look at the number of reps he's banked here over the last year and a half. Trey is a really big body. Smart, tough, very, very physical. Both Grant Ross and Jack Flor are really, really athletic. They're guys with great instincts and who chase the ball extremely well but could be very, very adept especially maybe in long yardage situations, and yet still have enough pride and grit to play the run well, too."
It's not like the competition will be settled on Saturday, or even necessarily by the opener on Sept. 5 against Morgan State. Jordan Pierce started last season as a backup at linebacker before an injury to Joey Nichol opened the door for one of the best seasons by an Air Force defender during Calhoun's tenure.
And this group hasn't let the competition drive a wedge in its feelings for each other.
"They're great," Patrick Healy said. "We spend so much time together, we love hanging around with each other. We always have fun during meetings, out of meetings, out of football. We love to joke around. It's been fun."
Needless to say, there won't likely be much joking around on Saturday.