Colorado Mesa begins new era with new coach

COLORADO SPRINGS - A new era begins this week in the Colorado Mesa University football program.

Among the RMAC coaches anyway, results aren’t expected to change right away.

Colorado Mesa, under a new coach for the first time in 14 years, is picked to finish where it did last year in the RMAC preseason poll announced Monday.

The Mavericks (4-7, 3-6 RMAC in 2011) are picked fifth.

Colorado State-Pueblo, which went undefeated to win the RMAC last season, is picked first. The ThunderWolves received nine of the 10 first-place votes. CSU-Pueblo coach John Wristen might have have picked his team, but couldn’t by RMAC rules. He voted Chadron State at the top.

“A lot of times the preseason poll is based on the previous year,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “Pueblo is definitely the team that should be on top.

“They had great success and have a lot of returners. If you look at the recruiting class and some of the transfers, they’re going to be loaded again.”

After the ThunderWolves, Martin said, it could be anybody.

“Mines and Chadron are a toss-up. Both of them have a lot of good players back. Both have great tradition. A lot of it is who stays healthy,” he said.

Adams State University, which achieved university status this summer, is picked fourth. New Mexico Highlands and Western New Mexico are picked sixth.

Fort Lewis is eighth, followed by Western State Colorado University and Black Hills (S.D.) State, which joined the RMAC this season.

Black Hills replaces Nebraska-Kearney, which moved to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Many of the Mesa football players were upset over Joe Ramunno’s resignation after the season, but have accepted Martin, his staff and the changes since he was hired in January.

“The biggest change we’ve had is the mentality the coaches bring,” Mesa senior safety Trent deBraga said.

“They’re all about winning. I’d say we’ve made a 360-degree turnaround just from the preparation standpoint. I think our expectations are way higher. Anything less than winning will be a disappointment.”

CMU had two seniors on the preseason all-conference team, offensive lineman Trevor Stapp and defensive lineman Domonique Lewis.

CSU-Pueblo quarterback Ross Dausin is the preseason offensive player of the year, with Highlands linebacker Jordan Campbell the defensive player of the year and Colorado Mines punter Taylor Accardi the special teams player of the year.

The Mavericks will have to practice and play more consistently and with a higher level of intensity, Martin said, to get out of the middle of the pack, where Mesa has resided the past four seasons.

“It will be a lot with developing consistency and maintaining a level of intensity because it is different,” Martin said.

That will start with the ever-changing quarterback position, The Mavericks had five different quarterbacks last season.

“The first eight practices we’ll get the four quarterbacks some reps,” Martin said. “After that, we’ll start to narrow it down.

“At the same time, I’m not against playing two quarterbacks. When I was at Baylor University back in 1985, we played two whole offensive units. In each one of them we had three running backs and three receivers.”

Junior Jason Haferman, sophomore Chris Henderson and redshirt freshman Deke Cisco return. Michael Mankoff, who would’ve been a senior, graduated early. Steven Romero opted to not return this fall, Martin said.

Transfer Austen Fales (Central Connecticut State) will compete for the starting job.

Mesa players report Wednesday and begin practice Thursday morning. The Mavericks open the season Aug. 30 at Humboldt State (Calif.) University.

By then, Martin hopes some changes will have starting taking place.

One that has is a new helmet logo, featuring the university’s new Maverick head instead of the CMU lettering.

Although some players, including Trevor Stapp and Jake Edmiston, admitted they liked the previous Maverick head better, they’re embracing the change.

“I’m probably not the one to ask,” said Edmiston of the new logo. “It’s a new identity. Change is good.”

“I’m a fan of the old logo,” Stapp said. “It’s a new team and a new start.”


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