QB IS IN CHARGE
Worthman leads young troops
Force opened football fall camp practice Friday night, and in the sunset glow beneath the Rampart Range, the Falcons felt out first-day jitters with a huge crop of new faces.
A program-record 32 seniors are gone from last year’s 10-win team. Two new assistant coaches roam the sideline.
“It’s a little strange, at first,” senior wide receiver Tyler Williams said.
However, after a two-hour practice in shoulder pads and helmets, a 5-foot-11, 201pound junior trotted off the practice field in front of reporters with a sense of calm.
“We got the ball really rolling last year,” quarterback Arion Worthman said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence.”
Eleventh-year Air Force coach Troy Calhoun enters the 2017 campaign without a defined starting passer on the fall camp depth chart as he tracks the progress of Worthman and senior Nate Romine before the Sept. 2 home opener against VMI. But if the final six games of 2016 serve as any indicator, the Falcons are in capable hands with Worthman under center.
Back on Oct. 28, Air Force was headed toward its fourth consecutive loss, this time at Fresno State, when Romine’s ankle injury pushed Worthman into the spotlight midway through the third quarter. He sparked the Falcons to a 31-21 victory and then started in five consecutive wins, including a 45-21 Arizona Bowl victory against South Alabama, to finish the year.
In seven appearances last fall, Worthman led the Falcons in average rushing (96.3 yards) and accounted for 10 touchdowns.
“His strengths are that he is strong, physically and mentally,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun told reporters in July at the Mountain West media summit in Las Vegas. “He’s bright. He’s a good worker. He’s a humble guy who really wants to play well.”
Should Worthman secure the starting role, he’ll be without the services of receiver Jalen Robinette, whose 35 catches last season accounted for 51 percent of the Falcons’ total completions. No other receiver on the roster accounted for more than 200 yards, while Robinette finished with 959. It has left the door open for several wideouts — including Williams, Cody Bronkar, Ronald Cleveland and Jake Maktovitch — to fill the void.
“We’re going to miss Jalen Robinette. He’s an awesome guy, one of my great buddies,” Worthman said. “But we’ve got four guys that are capable of coming in, stepping up, and playing for us. I’ve got confidence in all four guys that are competing for the spot, and I’m glad I’m not the coach right now, because they’re going to have a hard decision.”
The return of tailback Tim McVey and five offensive linemen with starting experience instills confidence, too, but should the Falcons outperform their preseason Mountain West media poll projection (fourth in the Mountain Division), Worthman understands his leadership role must increase.
It’s why he plans to arrive early and leave late at each fall camp practice in addition to hours of film study. When the freshman class of cadets arrived on campus this summer, Worthman took several players he previously hosted on official visits under his wing.
A sign of things to come over Worthman’s final two years in the program.
“I want to look out for them,” he said. “I’m excited that they’re here.”
Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman, warming up last week at practice, rushed for 96.3 yards per game in 2016.