CSU-Pueblo, Chadron expected to be RMAC powers
Colorado State University-Pueblo is favored to win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference a third straight year, but not by much.
CSU-Pueblo, which received six first-place votes from the RMAC coaches, lost a large group of seniors, leaving coach John Wristen a bit concerned.
“I’m a little nervous. It’s going to be a challenge,” said Wristen, who added he graduated 22 seniors.
The ThunderWolves have nine seniors on their roster, but only five have more than two years of experience.
CSU-Pueblo must replace quarterback Ross Dausin, the RMAC offensive player of the year, and running back J.B. Mathews, who rushed for 1,077 yards last season, who is suspended for the fall.
The ThunderWolves return RMAC preseason defensive player of the year Darius Allen. He had 8.5 sacks and forced two fumbles last year, and Wristen said Allen added 30 pounds of muscle since last season.
Chadron State College, which pushed the ThunderWolves to overtime last year before losing, appears primed to take the RMAC title if Pueblo stumbles.
The Eagles, who received four first-place votes in the preseason poll, have 16 returning starters and 38 returning players.
“I think we have a good core of veterans,” Chadron coach Jay Long said. “We’re definitely excited about the season.”
The Eagles are led offensively by senior running back Glen Clinton. The RMAC preseason offensive player of the year rushed for 1,350 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago.
“He is one of the best downhill runners I’ve been around as a coach,” Long said.
Quarterback Jonn McLain is the third McLain brother to play for Chadron. He completed 239 of 362 passes for 2,606 yards and 30 touchdowns last season. Long calls him a great leader and intelligent player.
Chadron’s defense has six returning starters, including All-RMAC selections Trelan Taylor (safety) and Shea Koch (linebacker).
Colorado Mesa coach Russ Martin was one of the four coaches who picked Chadron to win it.
Wristen agreed Chadron has the experience and talent to win it, and he said the RMAC will be tougher top to bottom this year.
“Chadron is going to be really good,” Wristen said. “Mesa looks really good. Mines is really good. ... Highlands could be good. ... Fort Lewis will be much better. It’s tough to tell in Division II. Everyone’s roster changes a whole bunch from one year to the next.”