New year, new attitude
There was less talking, better execution and plenty of energy during the Colorado Mesa University football team’s first day of practice Monday afternoon at Bergman Field.
“I think energy-wise is what you see the most,” senior quarterback Jason Haferman said. “We have the energy because we’re a year-and-a-half into this new coaching staff. The concepts and schemes are so familiar to us now. We’re getting going a lot sooner.
“I thought execution-wise we came out focused and knew what we had to accomplish. That moved right into our 7-on-7 and team drills. That energy was high, and it produced a lot of good plays. Execution was up. That’s what we need to keep doing.”
Haferman added the team is excited about its new talent.
“We’ve got guys pushing us from the younger groups we’ve never had before,” he said.
There are 32 returning players, 14 transfers and several dozen freshmen this year, a welcomed sight after several players dropped out by the first game last year. The Mavericks finished 4-7 overall and 4-5 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in coach Russ Martin’s first season.
Haferman, who worked out with several teammates early each morning during the summer, is one of three players vying for the starting quarterback job.
Haferman is back at quarterback, but he will be challenged by redshirt freshman Kyle Duran and University of Nebraska-Kearney redshirt freshman transfer Aric Kaiser.
“Coming out of spring ball, Aric Kaiser had the best spring,” Martin said. “The last practice and the scrimmage, Kyle Duran was really coming on. Jason got better and better as well. He’s been around this summer working with guys. I think all three of them still have a shot to play.”
Each quarterback will receive equal time during the first eight practices, and Martin will adjust their reps from there as he gets closer to deciding on a starter.
“We’ll still work three guys (after the starter is named) to some degree,” Martin said. “I don’t want to paint ourselves into a corner. This guy’s been taking all the reps, and all of a sudden he’s hurt.
“We practice fast. We run multiple drills at the same time, so they’re not standing around.”
Whoever ends up starting at quarterback will have Jake Cimolino behind him in the backfield.
The junior is coming off a 1,365-yard season despite some minor shoulder and back injuries. He said he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go.
The quarterback will have a new center this year after losing Matt Mankoff to graduation. Senior Brett Boyer moves from guard to center to anchor the line.
“Matt (Mankoff) and Trevor (Stapp) were our mentors,” Boyer said. “Trying to get into that role myself is different, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Boyer and Nick Leonard are the only returning regular starters on the offensive line. Austin Bennett would’ve been another, but he is ineligible.
“It hurt losing Austin (Bennett),” Boyer said. “We’ve got guys willing to step in. Jeff Berghorn is back and will be a solid addition. Nick played last year and is a solid player, too. We have good guys at tackle, too. They don’t have the experience, but they’re working hard at it.”
Boyer played center at Mountain View High School in Loveland.
“It’s similar to guard, just a couple different things,” Boyer said.
With a year of experience and six returning starters on offense and six on defense, the Mavericks hope to have their first winning season in five years.
“I came from a (high school) program, it was winning all the time,” senior linebacker Jake Edmiston said. “It was a great atmosphere. We didn’t know any different. There are a lot of guys (at CMU) that probably didn’t win (in high school). It was expected to lose. We need to teach each other, we need to compete. We need to cross that threshold to become an elite team rather than just average.”
That means being in shape and cutting down the mistakes.
“We have to learn to finish all the way through,” Cimolino said. “Coaches have been hammering us with that since Day One when they got here. We’re listening now. I think we’re going to do just fine this year.”