The right fit
Mavs' Tann making his mark at RB instead of LB this season
Sometimes it just comes down to finding the right guy at the right time and putting him in the right spot.
The Colorado Mesa football team has done that on both sides of the ball this season, and it’s paying off.
Take David Tann, for instance.
After graduating from Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the all-state running back/linebacker walked on at the University of Iowa as a linebacker. He redshirted in 2012 and didn’t get on the field in 2013 for the Hawkeyes.
It was time to find a place where he could play. Enter Colorado Mesa.
He transferred and played in all 11 games last season as a defensive back, making 36 tackles, and entered his junior year ready to play even more on the Mavericks’ stout defense.
Then, running backs Jerreon Dennis and Olie Olson injured ankles in the season opener at Dixie State, and DJ Hubbard had a nagging ankle injury. The Mavs suddenly needed some depth in the backfield.
Enter David Tann.
“I knew he had been an outstanding running back in high school,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “Some of the coaches were unsure, but I said, ‘I’m telling you, the kid was an all-state running back in Iowa in the toughest conference in the Quad Cities.’ He is a heck of a good running back.”
The coaches asked him to move to offense.
“Whatever helps us win and keep the ball rolling,” Tann said.
In a couple of games, he came in late when the game was well in hand, just to get some game reps and give Hubbard and Jonathon Beverly a break. Last week, though, with Beverly sitting out for disciplinary reasons, Tann got his chance early and often.
In the Mavericks’ second series, Tann spelled Hubbard, and on the third series, he channeled his inner linebacker.
On second and 10 from the Mavs’ 31, Tann took a handoff and picked up seven yards. As Western New Mexico safety Juwan Sumpter came up to make the hit, Tann beat him to the punch, lowering his shoulder and knocking him over for another three yards and a first down.
“He had that one 10-yard gain, and the safety comes in, and David just plows through him,” Martin said. “It added two yards on the carry and made the difference on a first down. There’s a difference in each one, DJ, David and Jonathon, and it’s a great combination in the backfield.”
He made the defense feel the pain again on his 38-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, again knocking over would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone for his second touchdown of the season. He got 10 carries and gained 101 yards, an average of 10.1 yards a carry, and gave the Mavericks two 100-yard rushers Saturday — Hubbard went for 142 yards and one touchdown.
“When you’re running the ball, that’s what I learned from defense, you come and hit them harder than they’re running at you,” said Tann, who wears the number associated with a linebacker or fullback, 44. “They’re going to feel it. That’s how I tried to run the ball. If I see somebody coming at me and I can’t make a move on them, I just try to run them over and not feel that pain, make them feel it.”
Can you coach that?
Colby Dixon must have been really good at playing leapfrog as a kid.
The junior safety out of Fruita Monument also plays special teams for the Mavericks, and had one of the most special of plays Saturday.
Western New Mexico lined up for a 35-yard field goal with 1:45 left in the first quarter. Dixon lined up across from the center, one step behind the Mavs’ line.
He anticipated the snap perfectly, took one step toward the line and jumped over the center.
That’s right — he jumped OVER the center, took a couple of stutter steps, threw his hands up and smothered the kick. Plus, he recovered the football.
It happened so fast, fans were asking themselves if Dixon did, indeed, jump over the line.
Yes, he did, and yes, it was just how he was coached to do it.
“Coach (Michael) Ghobrial had seen they really wanted to submarine to keep you from getting penetration, so we actually thought we could get over the top,” Martin said. “He had Colby practice it and a couple of other guys, and Colby was the best at doing it and still having his hands up and being aware. Man, it came down exactly like we drew it up.
“It was so exciting. The guys were watching, and lo and behold when we did it in the game, the whole sideline lit up. It was exactly like you draw it up.”
The tricky thing is, by rule, if you jump over the line, you can only take one step. You can’t take a running start and launch yourself. You also can’t land on an opposing player, and you can’t use your hands on another player to get leverage on the leap.
“You’ve got to spring up and over, and he came down perfect,” Martin said.
Miss the play, which was picked as the RMAC’s top play of the week? Here’s the video, courtesy of CMU athletics: