After starting year at quarterback, Mavs' Cisco volunteers to move to receiver

Deke Cisco started the year as the Colorado Mesa quarterback. An injury against Chadron State sidelined Cisco, and Jason Haferman took over and has led the Mavs to three wins in four games. With Haferman entrenched as the starter, a healthy Cisco has agreed to move to wide receiver. The redshirt freshman caught two passes last week and is in the Mavs’ plans at both quarterback and wide receiver for the rest of the season.


Colo. Mesa (3-4, 3-2) at Colo. Mines (4-3, 2-3)

Saturday, Noon, Harry Campbell Field

Radio: 1230-AM (KEXO), 99.9-FM (KEKB)

The Coaches

Colorado Mesa — Russ Martin, first season, 3-4. Colorado Mines — Bob Stitt, 13th season, 80-52.

Last Week

Colorado Mesa put up a season-high 545 yards of total offense in a 36-12 victory over Fort Lewis College.

Colorado Mines was limited to a season-low 285 yards of total offense in a 35-21 loss to then-No. 2 CSU-Pueblo, which now is ranked No. 1 in Division II.

Series History

Colorado Mesa leads 28-8, but the Orediggers have won the past three meetings, including a 29-20 victory last year at Stocker Stadium.

Players to Watch

Colorado Mesa

RB Jake Cimolino topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season with 1,033 yards (147.57 per game); LB Jake Edmiston leads the RMAC with 78 tackles (11.1 per game);  Kick returner Trent deBraga leads the RMAC with 17 returns for 428 yards (25.2 per game).

Colorado Mines

QB Matt Brown leads Division II with 397.7 passing yards per game; WR Cody Renken has 60 catches for 732 yards and nine touchdowns; LB Tyler Densen leads the Orediggers with 66 tackles, including 5.5 for losses.

Coach Martin SaYS

About the Colorado Mines offense:

“When you look at them, they put up points and yards. They’ve got a great offensive scheme and passing attack. If you look at it, they’ll stretch the field and go vertical on you, but that’s not what they live on. They’ll throw a lot of high-percentage routes. They do a great job with their screen game.”

About Mines receivers Cody Renken, Jerrod Doucet, David Pawelek and Diamond Gillis:

“They are extremely well-balanced. All four of their top receivers are in the top 10 in the conference. Cody Renken and Jerrod Doucet are two big-time players. They’ve been extremely good for years. The other two guys (David Pawelek, Diamond Gillis) are good receivers.”

About slowing Mines’ offense:

“You’re not going to stop them, but you’ve got to slow them down. We’ve got to create pressure on the quarterback and get him out of his rhythm. You’ve got to change the coverage on them. We have to eliminate the yards after catch. That’s huge. Sometimes you have to have some breakups or get a pick.”

About Mesa’s offense:

“Our strength is running the football. We’re getting better and better at throwing the football. We have to get some of those big plays, but at the same time, we have to get first downs and keep (the Orediggers’ offense) off the field. You look at the teams that beat them, that’s what they’ve been able to do, keep their offense off the field.”

Game Notes

■ CMU RB Jake Cimolino moved into fifth place on the Mavs’ all-time rushing list with 2,007 yards.

■ The Mavericks haven’t allowed an opposing running back to rush for 100 yards since the first game of the season.

■ The Orediggers are fourth in the nation in total offense (512.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (44.9 points per game).

■ Mines senior RB Dan Palmer was injured four weeks ago and isn’t expected to start.

■ CMU quarterback coach Phil Vigil was a graduate assistant coach at Mines in 2009.

■ Mines junior defensive back Tyler Palmer is a Grand Junction High School graduate.

Deke Cisco was beginning to feel more comfortable under center.

The Colorado Mesa University redshirt freshman threw for 109 yards in the season’s third game and nearly led the Mavericks to victory against Chadron State. He injured his left ankle, however, trying to score a touchdown on a one-yard run and tried to continue on the next possession, but he couldn’t put his weight on the ankle.

Cisco spent the next week in a boot and watched junior Jason Haferman take over the offense.

“I was getting used to playing (quarterback) and getting into a groove of things,” Cisco said. “I was getting a lot better as a quarterback and the coaches thought so, too. It came at a bad time, because I was getting the hang of it, but it happens. Injuries are a part of the game.”

Cisco has healed, but he continued to watch from the sideline as Haferman led the Mavericks to three wins in the past four games.

Cisco went into quarterback coach Phil Vigil’s offense and was told the Mavericks need help at wide receiver.

“(Vigil) told me I’d be playing receiver and quarterback the rest of the season,” Cisco said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll do whatever the team needs.’ “

He started taking reps at wide receiver last week and caught two screen passes late in the game against Fort Lewis.

That doesn’t mean his days as a quarterback are over.

“I think you’ll see him play both quarterback and receiver for us this year,” CMU head coach Russ Martin said. “If something happens to Jason, Deke is ready to go. We might do some things with Deke at quarterback. Jason continues to improve, but if you look back, Deke was definitely improving in his reads, checks and the play-action passing game. I think either one can be effective for us.”

Cisco isn’t the only player on the team that came to Mesa as a quarterback and moved to receiver.

Senior tight end Robert Felberg did two years ago and led the team in receptions with 23 and yards with 323 that year.

“We didn’t really have any receivers left because of injuries and inexperience at that point,” Felberg said. “Now, we have five receivers, so they had to move Deke over. It was very similar.”

He had a talk with Cisco last week and shared his first-hand experience about the position change.

“It’s an easier transition coming from quarterback because you know the whole offense,” Felberg said. “The biggest transition is learning the technique and the skill set that comes with each position — each receiver position is a little different — and what you do from inside to outside.”

Cisco agreed.

“Going from a quarterback to another position in the offense is a lot easier, I’d say than from another position to quarterback,” he said. “What he told me was to use what I know as quarterback to help me as a receiver, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Mesa’s opponent this week has a similar story. The Colorado School of Mines hosts the Mavericks at noon Saturday at Harry Campbell Field in Golden.

The Orediggers’ quarterback, Matt Brown, who leads the nation in passing, filled in at wide receiver last year when starting wide receiver Cody Renken was lost for the season to an injury.

“It’s not a lot different than Matt Brown. He was behind an outstanding quarterback, knew his time would be coming and is doing a great job at quarterback this year,” Martin said. “Yet last year, he was a very good receiver at Mines.”

Brown was third on the team in receiving last year with 48 catches for 564 yards. He led the team with five touchdown catches. He completed 16 of 20 passes for 180 yards with one touchdown in a backup role to Harlon Hill candidate Clay Garcia. The Harlon Hill trophy is awarded to the NCAA Division II national player of the year.

Cisco will have to wait for another chance at quarterback, but for now, he’s trying to make the most of the situation.

“I’ve got to keep a positive attitude,” Cisco said. “It’s a completely different game out in the open field, for sure. I try to keep pushing and do what’s best for the team.”


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