Mavs picked to finish sixth in RMAC
COLORADO SPRINGS — The football coaches in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference don’t expect much to change this season, but Joe Ramunno does.
The football coach at Mesa State College, soon to be Colorado Mesa University, believes the Mavericks can do better than his peers expect this season.
Mesa is picked to finish sixth in the RMAC preseason poll, announced Monday at the RMAC football media day at the Marriott Tech Center in Colorado Springs.
That’s where the Mavericks (3-7, 3-6 RMAC) finished last season. None of this year’s Mavericks made the preseason All-RMAC team.
“We’re going to be better,” Mesa coach Joe Ramunno said. “There’s new energy and new life. I’m excited about what we have. It’s going to be about executing now. This should motivate us.”
Ramunno praised a new offense, led by Shawn Marsh, who replaced Jon Boyer in the spring as offensive coordinator.
“We’ll be a different football team,” Ramunno said. “We’re going to have a more option-oriented package, which is more of what I want to do.”
Unlike the past two seasons, Ramunno has one quarterback in mind to lead that offense.
“(Robert) Felberg was our No. 1 coming out of spring,” Ramunno said. “Unless we feel like he makes us better at the wide receiver position, that’s where he’ll be when we start camp.”
Mesa begins practice Aug. 10, when the institution officially becomes Colorado Mesa University. The Mavs open the season against Humboldt State (Calif.) University at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 at Stocker Stadium.
Mesa isn’t the only school expected to finish where it did last season — the preseason poll is a mirror image of the final 2011 standings.
Nebraska-Kearney is picked to win the RMAC, receiving six first-place votes. The Lopers, who are moving to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association next year, have 16 returning starters (7 offense, 8 defense, 1 special teams) after tying Colorado School of Mines for the conference title last season.
Kearney is looking to exit the RMAC with a rare third consecutive RMAC title.
“They’ll want to send a message, too, being their last year in the RMAC,” Ramunno said. “They are very, very good. The RMAC will truly miss them.
“They are one of the top-tier teams, but I will always throw Chadron State in there. CSU-Pueblo has made a run to the top in a hurry. It’s very competitive from top to bottom in the RMAC. Being between average and great is very slim.”
Mines and Colorado State-Pueblo each received 22 points to finish second in the poll. Mines received two first-place votes and Pueblo one. Chadron State had one first-place vote and is expected to finish fourth. Adams State is picked fifth.
Western New Mexico, Fort Lewis, Western State and New Mexico Highlands round out the poll behind Mesa.
Mines quarterback Clay Garcia is the preseason offensive player of the year. The senior from Alamosa was a 2010 Harlon Hill finalist for the NCAA Division II national player of the year.
CSU-Pueblo linebacker Lee Meisner is the preseason defensive player of the year. The senior from Sterling is on two preseason All-America teams.
Mines punter Taylor Accardi is the preseason special teams player of the year.