Mavs ready for Year 2 under Martin
Russ Martin came in to change the culture of the Colorado Mesa University football team.
A year later, the new culture is starting to take form.
The Mavericks’ head coach bulked up a team thin in depth and overall numbers by adding 14 college transfers and more than 50 freshmen. Martin said he had another 50-plus students wanting to play for Mesa, but he had to turn them away.
The players aren’t just bodies taking a position, he said.
“Drew Holder and Jason Haferman were in here (Martin’s office),” Martin said. “They said, ‘You kept telling us you would recruit guys to beat us out.’ They said we have never seen as much talent in a freshman class like this one.”
The Mavericks (4-7, 4-5 RMAC last year) expect to be much better, and the new faces help, but the optimism stems primarily from the year of experience the 32 returning players have in Martin’s spread offense.
“I do believe we’ve got most of the older guys ready to step up and perform for us right now,” Martin said. “Now we need to understand why we do it and when we do it.”
Martin will run the offense this year after offensive coordinator Bill O’Boyle left to become the offensive line coach and running game coordinator at Southern Illinois University, an NCAA Division I program.
Last year’s offense was a mix of O’Boyle’s more traditional running game and Martin’s spread offense, and every player was trying to learn the offense.
“Now, we have older players that have been through it and can help the younger players,” Martin said. “That speeds the learning curve. It also forces the older players to know it even better. They play with more confidence because they understand what’s going on.”
If it clicks this year, Martin believes this team can produce like the University of Nebraska-Kearney offense that ranked second in Division II in 2011. Martin was Kearney’s offensive coordinator at the time.
“At Kearney, we had over 80 20-plus-yard plays every season,” Martin said. “That is by design. We have some explosive players in our system. I want to be an offense people are scared to death to face.”
Eight of CMU’s 14 transfers came from Nebraska-Kearney.
“They ought to call it University of Nebraska at Grand Junction,” Colorado State University-Pueblo coach John Wristen said of Mesa. “They’re familiar with the staff and what they’re doing. I imagine they’ll have some confidence.”
Among those Kearney transfers to Mesa are quarterback Aric Kaiser and running backs Ricky Trinidad and Ryan Tasker.
Kaiser earned the starting job at Kearney last fall as a redshirt freshman, but he was injured in the third game and received a medical redshirt. Trinidad, a junior, led the Lopers with 1,037 yards in eight games last season.
Tasker, a sophomore, was one of the top running backs in Colorado at Grandview High School in Aurora.
They will take some of the pressure off junior running back Jake Cimolino, who had 242 carries (22 per game) for 1,365 yards last season.
Kearney transfer Daniel Rankin, a junior, would have played a big role with his ability to play several positions — slot receiver, wide receiver and running back — but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first week of practice and is out for the season.
The Mavericks have four players with college experience available to line up in the slot, a key player in Martin’s offense — returners DJ Hubbard and Zach Adair and transfers Dylan Carter and Ian Juede.
The transfers and returning players should take some heat off the quarterback.
Jason Haferman started seven games last season for the Mavericks. The senior stayed in Grand Junction over the summer and worked out with several players each day. He appears ready to have a better season, but he has to win the job.
Mesa’s other two quarterbacks in the mix know the offense fairly well.
Kaiser completed 56 percent of his passes for 426 yards against three Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association teams last season before he was injured. He ran a similar offense to Martin’s system at Broomfield High School.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Duran was on the sideline for nearly every game last season. He became the emergency quarterback by midseason and had a successful scrimmage in the spring.
“They have been through it,” Martin said. “All three had very successful high school careers. Jason is the one with college game experience. All of those guys have been in big games. They are playing with more and more confidence.”
The offensive line will be a bit different with new coach Mike Chavez, who replaces O’Boyle. Chavez has more than 20 years of experience coaching at the college level. He coached with Martin at Black Hills State (S.D.) in the late 1990s and at Southeast Missouri State until 2004. He’s been out of coaching since 2004.
Starters Brett Boyer and Nick Leonard return on the line. Boyer will move from guard to center, which he played in high school.
Six starters return on defense, led by all-RMAC linebacker Jake Edmiston. The senior from Palisade led the Mavericks with 122 tackles last season.
Three returning starters and another Kearney transfer in the secondary back up Edmiston, Michael Brady, Travis McRae and Jordan Price, who was the RMAC defensive freshman of the year two years ago.
Nebraska-Kearney transfer Ryan Lendrum was a two-year starter for the Lopers at cornerback, and Andrew Hurley returns after missing last year with an injury.
“I think our secondary will be an area of strength because of experience,” Martin said.
The key to success, though, will be the linemen on both sides of the ball, Martin said.
If they can stay healthy, he added, “I believe we can contend for a conference championship.”
Colorado Mesa Schedule
LeftAlign.27LeftAlign.77All Times Mountain
LeftAlign.27LeftAlign.77Sept. 7 Menlo College 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Montana State 1 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Chadron State noon
Sept. 28 Black Hills State 1 p.m.
Oct. 5 at N.M. Highlands 1 p.m.
Oct. 12 Western New Mexico 1 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Fort Lewis 1 p.m.
Oct. 26 Colorado Mines 1 p.m.
Nov. 2 at CSU-Pueblo 6 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Western State 1 p.m.
Nov. 16 Adams State noon
All home games at Stocker Stadium
2012 RMAC Standings
CSU-Pueblo 9-0 12-1
Chadron State 8-1 9-3
N.M. Highlands 7-2 8-3
Adams State 6-3 8-3
Colorado Mines 4-5 6-5
Colorado Mesa 4-5 4-7
Western New Mexico 3-6 4-7
Black Hills State 3-6 4-7
Western State 1-8 1-10
Fort Lewis 0-9 0-10