Mav Watch, Aug. 30, 2017

Western State
at Colorado Mesa

Thursday, 7 p.m., Stocker Stadium

Radio: KTMM (101.1-FM)

Video streaming:

2016 Records: Colorado Mesa 9-3, 8-2 RMAC; Western State 7-4, 7-3 RMAC

Last season: Colorado Mesa 34, Western State 14 in Gunnison

Series: 45th meeting; CMU leads 25-19

Rankings: Colorado Mesa No. 23 (AFCA)

Three keys

Defense: Sound fundamentals. With the graduation of All-America running back Austin Ekeler and quarterback Brett Arrivey, plus a new offensive coordinator (Robby Case), the Mountaineers’ offense will be different this season. With no film exchange the first week, all teams are playing a guessing game. Having a senior-laden defense should help the Mavericks adjust on the fly. “We don’t have a ton of game film or a lot of information on their personnel,” senior defensive end Blake Nelson said. “All week we’ve been focusing on staying crisp and each individual assignment. If we do that we’ll be fine, no matter what they come out with. If they do something we haven’t seen, I think we’ll adjust to that.”

Offense: Execution. The quarterbacks and receivers weren’t clicking in the final scrimmage, in part because of how well CMU’s defense played, but coach Russ Martin expects the offense to put up plenty of points. “I’m excited for the whole offense,” running back David Tann said. “The biggest thing for me is to keep going and keep the offense rolling, be explosive and keep all these other guys excited.”

Fast start: This is a veteran CMU team, one that should take control of games from the get-go. “We kind of got off to a slow start (offensively) last season and finally found our groove,” Tann said. “We need to start from the beginning and step on the gas pedal and not let up all year. We’ve got a strong defense to help us out and get us the ball. The more we can get the ball and score touchdowns, try not to let (Ryan) Sheehan get as many field goals this year, put it in the end zone.”

Scouting report

Jas Bains has Western State headed in the right direction. He’s gone from 1-10 in each of his first two seasons to 7-4 last fall, Western’s best record since 2000 (6-5). The Mountaineers will start a freshman at quarterback, 2017 Green Mountain High School graduate Dylan Jacob, who beat out sophomore Garrett Boyd. Only one player who took snaps at QB last season, senior Spencer Shook (4 games, 4-of-5 passing, 17 yards) returned this season. Sophomore Rico Tipton, who had two carries last season, will start at running back. Rodray Perkins and Markeith McDonald are two talented receivers and should challenge the Mavericks’ exceptional defensive secondary. For CMU, Tom Saager was dominant during scrimmages at middle linebacker after missing all of last season with a foot injury, and this defense, Martin said, can be special if it stays healthy. Look for the Mavericks to open things up with their bevy of wide receivers. Tann won’t be the only guy carrying the ball; QB Eystin Salum showed his running prowess last season, and CMU is deep at running back, with Jonathan Beverly, Brett Ojiyi and Daryl Hawkins, who has missed the past two seasons. Martin said Hawkins has taken care of grade and off-field issues and was reinstated this fall. He was CMU’s leading rusher in 2014 (433 yards, 6 TDs) playing in only nine games.

Did you know?

Ten CMU freshmen are on the active game roster: quarterbacks Brevinn Tyler and Aaron Howard, safety Nick Ciccio, defensive linemen Kyle Schulman and Pharoah Davis, defensive end Jeremiah Ratliff, linebacker Uriah Vigil, offensive linemen Pate Clearman and Jordan McDonald, and tight end Shaun Apiki. “We knew they had the talent and the ability to come in and compete,” Martin said. “I think it speaks volumes about where this program has advanced to in the recruiting process to have young men who are able to learn and pick up the system (right out of high school).” ... The class breakdown of the 89-man roster: 23 seniors, 17 juniors, 21 sophomores, 18 redshirt freshmen, 10 freshmen. Another 40 freshmen are slated to redshirt. ... Sheehan was selected a second-team All-American this week by The senior kicker made a CMU and RMAC-record 23 field goals and all 53 PAT kicks last season. ... CMU has won three straight against the Mountaineers; this is the 45th meeting between the schools, the longest rivalry in Mesa program history. The Mavericks are 13-6 at home against WSC. .. Two Western Slope players who redshirted last season decided not to play this season for the Mavs, Fruita Monument graduate Clayton Voytilla, who will concentrate on wrestling, and former Paonia standout Taylor Walters, who was injured last season. ... Ekeler is one of three players listed as the No. 4 running back on the Los Angeles Chargers’ depth chart heading into the final preseason game. Ekeler, who signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent, is also playing on special teams, which could help him make the final roster.

— Patti Arnold


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