Young Mavs develop in spring football
Spring football is an opportunity for young players to gain confidence and prove themselves.
Many did just that for Colorado Mesa, which concluded spring practice with its scrimmage in front of several hundred fans Saturday at Bergman Field.
“We had a lot of young guys get a lot of time,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “That’s what we needed. That is part of it. A lot of the spring is developing the depth — the guys that haven’t had the game time — and get them ready.
“We had some young receivers step up. I think our young guys have come along well.”
One of them was Central graduate Blaine Jackson, who caught two touchdown passes. The wide receiver will be a junior next fall.
“Last year, I was kind of timid, not really knowing the plays,” he said. “Now, I’m more comfortable. I know what I’m doing.”
Aric Kaiser hit Jackson for a touchdown from 25 yards out in the corner of the end zone for the first score of the scrimmage.
“It was a scramble because (Kaiser) was flushed out of the pocket,” Jackson said. “I turned around and saw the open field. He threw it in a perfect spot and I went and got it.”
Jackson read quarterback Sam Hutsell, another Nebraska-Kearney transfer, on the second touchdown, catching a jump ball over defensive back Tyler Winder, then running into the end zone.
“That one got my heart pumping,” Jackson said. “There was pressure on the quarterback and he threw it up. I did my best to jump up and grab it.
“We’re finally starting to put everything together. The talent on this offense is unbelievable. We have a lot of depth. It’s nice. Everybody brings something different to the table.”
Kaiser, Hutsell and Travis Avila have emerged as strong contenders to start at quarterback, with Kyle Duran also in the mix.
“We had three of them that battled well,” Martin said. “Obviously, Aric played really well and played well today. Sam Hutsell played well and Travis Avila has played really well all spring. Any of those three can be really good.
“Kyle Duran got hurt last week and that hurt. He knows things and won games for us last year. We have guys that can do good things for us.”
Kaiser and Duran each played six games last year. Hutsell played at San Joaquin Delta (Calif.) College before transferring to Nebraska-Kearney and transferred to CMU for the spring semester. Avila is a sophomore who redshirted last season.
New defensive coordinator Marcus Patton was pleased with the play of his defense in his new scheme.
“The guys did a great job of picking things up,” Patton said. “We just kind of scratched the surface on things we’re going to do, so I was excited to see guys pick things up quickly because we still have a lot of work to do. We’ve got off to a great start and had a really good spring.”
Linebacker Marc Palacios, a senior, made several plays, including a sack in the scrimmage. Indiana State transfer Carlos Aviles also made his presence known. Mesa recruited the defensive back out of Valor Christian High School. He played one year at Indiana State, but might play linebacker at Mesa.
Other players Patton said stood out were Olie Olsen, Marcus Cross, Tommy Saager and Issac Koch.
“I think the defense has come along well,” Martin said. “I think Coach Patton is doing a great job helping them understand the concepts of playing hard. I think they’ve adjusted to the multiple coverages we’re running. I think we have a chance of being pretty good on defense.”
Several players didn’t participate in the spring scrimmage because of injuries.
Running backs Dan Geubelle, Daniel Rankin, Ricky Trinidad and Ryan Tasker didn’t participate all spring because of injuries last fall.
“We had a bunch of guys that weren’t playing today that can help us be even more explosive,” Martin said. “That’s the exciting thing for us.”
Duran injured an ankle a week ago, and slot receiver Ian Juede and defensive end Mitch Irwin were also out with injuries.
Several players with eligibility have left the team.
Jake Cimolino has one year left, but was advised not to return because of injuries. He finished third on the Mesa all-time rushing list with 3,475 rushing yards in three seasons (105.3 yards per game).
Defensive back Travis McRae was not cleared to return because of head injuries. Others not returning include Will Harvey and Andrew Hurley.
Defensive backs coach Tanner Tetrault left to take a job in sales. He was not replaced. Patton is coaching defensive backs. Ben Martin moves back to defense to coach linebackers after coaching running backs last fall. Head coach Russ Martin will coach running backs and run the offense.