Duran jumps into QB battle for Mavericks

Aric Kaiser, one of three quarterbacks to transfer to Colorado Mesa this spring, throws to a receiver Saturday in the Cardinal-White scrimmage at Bergman Field. Kaiser is a redshirt freshman from Nebraska-Kearney.

Colorado Mesa football coach Russ Martin watches the Mavericks’ spring scrimmage Saturday at Bergman Field.

Sean Flanagan, who transferred to Colorado Mesa this spring from Nebraska-Kearney, takes off on a run Saturday at Bergman Field.


2013 CMU Football Schedule

Sept. 7 vs. Menlo (Calif.) College

Sept. 14 at Montana State

Sept. 21 at Chadron State*

Sept. 28 vs. Black Hills State*

Oct. 5 at N.M. Highlands*

Oct. 12 vs. Western N.M.*

Oct. 19 at Fort Lewis*

Oct. 26 vs. Colorado Mines*

Nov. 2 at CSU-Pueblo, 6 p.m.*

Nov. 9 at Western State*

Nov. 16 vs. Adams State

*RMAC game

All games 1 p.m., unless noted

Freshman Kyle Duran has found himself in the thick of competition to be Colorado Mesa University’s next quarterback.

He showed he belonged Saturday in the Mavericks’ spring scrimmage at Bergman Field.

“With a wide-open competition, you always want to perform at your best,” Duran said. “We have some great quarterbacks. It’s humbling when you see these good quarterbacks. It makes you want to get better every day. Today, it felt like we made some big strides. We’ll find out what the coaches think and where we need to go from here.”

Duran (6-foot, 205 pounds) led the White team on a 12-play, 
75-yard scoring drive on the first possession in White’s 14-0 victory over the Cardinal squad.

Having the past fall season to redshirt helped him feel comfortable.

“These coaches have done a good job,” Duran said. “I have a lot more confidence, especially now, than I had last year.

“Last year, it was a lot more confusing. There were a lot more assignment errors because we really didn’t understand the offense. The coaches have done a good job of teaching and shoring up assignment errors.”

The touchdown drive was capped by a 14-yard run from Jerreon Dennis for a 7-0 lead. Dennis, a Grand Junction High graduate, redshirted last fall.

Jason Haferman, the Mavericks’ only returning quarterback with game experience, led the White team on a four-play, 58-yard scoring drive. Haferman, who will be a senior in the fall, completed four of six passes for 55 yards. Junior transfer Daniel Rankin (Nebraska-Kearney), who had six carries for 32 yards, scored on a 14-yard run just before halftime.

Those were the highlights for the offense, which was near the bottom of the RMAC in nearly every statistical category last fall. They were eighth in yardage (323.4 per game), eighth in points (20.5 per game), ninth in passing (141.4 per game) and seventh in red zone scoring (72 percent). Mesa was second in rushing (182 per game).

Both sides ran the ball nearly twice as much as they passed Saturday and only a handful of the pass attempts were downfield.

“I think we made pretty good progress,” CMU coach Russ Martin. “The kids have very good retention from last year. I think the guys are really picking things up. We stayed relatively simple today, but I think we’ve got some guys that can be some playmakers for us.”

The Cardinal team went three-and-out four times and had four first downs. Three of the four new quarterbacks in camp played for the Cardinal team — Aric Kaiser and Sean Flanagan, both redshirt freshmen who transferred from Nebraska-Kearney, and Zander McKean (junior, Pima Community College).

“I’m pleased with the quarterbacks and where they’re coming out of spring,” Martin said. “Right now, legitimately, we have three guys that have played well all spring.

“Aric Kaiser has played well all spring long. He’s done a very good job. Jason Haferman has done a great job. He’s throwing the ball well. Kyle Duran had a great day today.

“All three have played consistently well this spring. We’re not throwing a ton of the quick game. We’ll throw more play-action down the field. All three of those guys can do that.”

Martin isn’t ready to select starters, preferring to give the Mavericks a chance to absorb what they’ve learned in the spring and improve over the summer.

“They know they have an opportunity to compete for that starting spot,” Martin said. “Even though there is a little bit of separation in the grade situation, they have an opportunity to refine some stuff and it will be how they come back in the fall ready to lead and what makes us the best team. I’m pretty excited about it.”

None of the top three tailbacks from last season played a down in the scrimmage. Jake Cimolino rested most of the spring for precautionary reasons.

Dan Geubelle and DJ Hubbard were out with injuries, but are expected to return in the fall. Martin sat out nearly two dozen players with injuries.

“We know what those guys can do,” Martin said. “We wanted to see some of these other guys.

“Daniel (Rankin) can play both running back and receiver. He’s actually played more running back this spring. He’s a versatile young man and an outstanding athlete. He can be a great running back. In our first scrimmage, he lit it up at running back. He’s a good receiver and running back.

“We want guys on the field that are playmakers. There will be times, they’ll be shifting and in motion stuff. We’ll do more in the fall just to get guys involved to make it where defenses can’t key in on one or two things.”


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