Mavs add depth with 54 letters of intent
Colorado Mesa University football coach Russ Martin set out to add quality depth and got more than even he expected.
Martin received 54 letters of intent Wednesday, the first day of the high school signing period.
“We wanted to be fewer, but what was happening is a great thing for us. When young men get on campus and they see it — this is a great campus and a great community,” Martin said. “We have some great things going. We really have a great group of young men. We want to continue to challenge our young men.”
Twenty-two of the 54 come from Colorado, but Martin also received letters of intent from high school seniors in Arizona, California, Wyoming, Texas, Utah, Alaska and Nevada.
“We believe we can be one of the top institutions in the entire Southwest Region because there are no Division II playing schools in Arizona, none in Nevada and only one in Utah,” Martin said. “It just so happened, we got some commitments from those young men, but we will always start with Colorado.”
Martin said the Mavericks had close to 65 recruits sign last year by the end of the signing period, but he said Wednesday’s 54 were more than they had on the first day last year. Martin took over the program in January 2012.
The Mavericks beefed up their offensive line with 10 additions, including Austin Beswick (6-foot-4, 280 pounds), who played for state champion Monarch High School in Louisville.
“If you look at the offensive linemen we have signed, we have increased our size and strength,” Martin said. “Also, they are very good athletes. That was a major part for us from the standpoint of improving the size and strength but also the depth.”
Mesa signed more defensive backs than any position with 13, despite three returning regulars in its secondary.
“We wanted guys that can be safeties, linebackers or corners,” Martin said. “I think we have some great athletes there. We’re excited about those guys.”
Martin continued to address the quarterback position, adding three high school seniors to go with three transfer quarterbacks. Martin has three returning quarterbacks, but only one with playing experience.
“We have some very good quarterbacks,” Martin said. “Last year, it was a position of inconsistency. In defense of the quarterbacks ... this system takes a little time to learn. As they were getting the idea, we had a couple injuries, and we lost some rhythm.
“We had a couple young men that came in at the semester that can help us and are familiar with the system. The young men we recruited, trust me, they’ve played in this type of system. They can run, they can throw, they understand it.”
Trevor Mendonca (5-9, 165, Tulare, Calif.) reminds Martin of his Harlon Hill Trophy candidate, Jake Spitzlberger, at Nebraska-Kearney. Travis Avila (5-11, 185) completed 61 percent of his passes and threw for more than 2,000 yards at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins.
Martin picked up four running backs. The position wasn’t deemed a key position for recruiting this year, but he was thrilled with the class led by two-star recruit Daryl Hawkins (5-11, 215) of Valor Christian High School and Christian Fonbuena from Elk Grove, Calif.
“We wanted to stay strong at the running back spot, and the two young men we are bringing in, Hawkins and Christian Fonbuena, are very good backs. They are both very explosive backs,” Martin said.
CMU picked up eight receivers, including four taller than six feet. Matt Haggerty (6-1) had more than 1,000 yards receiving for a state championship team in Arizona.
“We wanted to improve our size at wide receiver,” Martin said. “Daniel Perse comes from a great program. He reminds me a lot of a Kyle Kaiser at Nebraska-Kearney. He’s not quite as fast, but does a great job.”
Mesa added eight linebackers, including Taylor Barton (6-1, 200). The Faith Christian standout is the son of former Mesa State two-time All-American running back Brian Barton (1990-91).
“We’re very excited to have him,” Martin said. “He’s an intense, high-motor player. You’re going to see some good things out of him. He turns that switch on, and it’s on.”
The signing period continues through April 1. Colorado Mesa signed 10 college transfers last month. Six of the 10 are transfers from Martin’s previous stop, Nebraska-Kearney.
Martin has tentatively set spring ball dates. Practice will likely begin March 11 and conclude with the spring game April 13.
The Mavericks released their 2013 schedule Wednesday. They will open the season on Sept. 14 at Division I Football Championship Series Montana State before beginning RMAC play Sept. 21 at Chadron State. Mesa’s home opener is Sept. 28 against Black Hills State (S.D.).