By JJ Gerlach | firstname.lastname@example.org
NOT a whole lot went right for the Grizzlies last season. They won only a single game and finished with 10 losses. First-year defensive coordinator Kai Ellis and the Grizzlies defense will be looking to change that when Adams State opens its 2022 season against Western New Mexico on Saturday.
The kickoff in Silver City is 6 p.m.
Ellis joined Adams State in the 2017-18 season, serving as the defensive line coach for five years before getting promoted this season under second-year head coach Jarrell Harrison.
“We’re looking for the whole defensive unit that we have, we have some better pass rushers and better interior guys.” Ellis said.
A boost from the guys up front will be huge this year for Adams as they finished last season with just 25 sacks, which put them at eighth in the conference.
A big area of struggle last year was getting off the field on third down (51 percent opposition conversion rate, last in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) and fourth down (77 percent opposition conversion rate, ninth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference).
“Really if you’re looking at it, it’s the penalties. We’re looking for more discipline, being able to do your job when your name’s called. That’s how we’re gonna get off the field and that’s how those percentages go down.” Ellis said.
The strength for the Grizzlies’ defense last season was their ability to get interceptions, coming in at number three in their conference with 13. With an increase in pressure this year, this Adams State defense will be trending up due to the fact that they made so many plays on the ball last season with a relative lack of pressure.
“Everything that you do starts up front, so if we’re getting consistent pressure and getting guys into their zone drops it’s going to give the quarterback pressure. He’s going to throw the ball up, and you’re going to get an interception,” Ellis said. “It all goes hand in hand. We’re working from the back and the middle to the front so I think that will help us out this year.”
Western New Mexico spoiled Adams State’s season opener a year ago when they defeated the Grizzlies at Rex Stadium. Adams hopes to return the favor this season and give Western New Mexico a season-opening loss on their home field in Silver City.
The teams finished with identical 1-10 records a year ago.
- For the second straight year, the Grizzlies will open the season against the Mustangs, the former Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) rival now members of the Lone Star Conference (LSC).
- The Grizzlies dropped last season’s game at Rex Stadium, 35-17, with a well-rounded game that saw Adams State close the lead to 28-17 with 10 minutes remaining before WNMU slammed the door.
- The Grizzlies, who had a carousel of players at the QB1 position last year, will be a little more stable on the offensive sides as Coach Jarrell Harrison has brought in some experienced depth at the position.
- Graduate transfer Mark Salazar, from Northwestern State, joins the Grizzly ranks and has the opportunity to take snaps with graduate student Marckell Grayson.
- Shammah Luani returns with a goal in his sights and he plans on taking the rock and leading the Grizzlies downfield.
- Elijah Harper looks to continue his pursuit to be dominant downfield as the NFFCC All-American and First Team All-RMAC selection will be a primary target.
- Junior Edward McClendon looks to become a premier air defender as he will be the starting player looking to keep momentum in the Grizzlies’ favor with interceptions at the safety position.
- Junior Ahmed Bernard returns at the corner back position and looks to improve on his 15 tackles from last season.
SCOUTING THE MUSTANGS
- Western New Mexico finished the last campaign with a 1-10 win, with their lone win of the season being the season-opener.
- The Mustangs are led by second-year Head Coach Phillip Vigil, a former All-Conference quarterback at Colorado Mesa. He now has 14 years of coaching at the collegiate level.
- The Mustangs are an inexperienced squad together. They announced that they had 28 players sign a National Letter of Intent with 11 transfers joining the Mustangs.
- Sophomore Devin Larsen is slated to return under center after slinging 19 touchdowns last year as the main quarterback. He completed 55.8 percent of his 437 pass attempts for 2,661 yards.
HOW TO FOLLOW
- There are many ways to follow Saturday evening’s game, including a live video stream, radio broadcast and live statistics.
- Live Stream will be broadcast on the LSC Network; there is a $10 fee.
- Live Radio – Adams State’s flagship radio station KSPK-FM is scheduled to broadcast the game. Listeners can tune in to KSPK throughout all of southern Colorado on 100.3 in Colorado Springs, Alamosa, and the San Luis Valley; 104.1 in South Fork and Trinidad; and 102.3 in Pueblo and Walsenburg. Fans nationwide can also tune in on KSPK’s website.
- Additionally, Mustang Radio can be accessed here.
- Live Stats – Live Statistics can be found here.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
- Of the 10 football programs within the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, six will compete on Thursday. Three more take the field on Saturday, Sept. 3.
- Heading into the 2022 season, Colorado School of Mines and Western Colorado are ranked in both the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and D2 Football preseason polls. Colorado State University Pueblo, Chadron State, and Colorado Mesa enter the 2022 campaign by receiving votes in the AFCA poll.
- The Grizzlies return to the friendly confines of Rex Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 10, when they host West Texas A&M University with the first of three night games at home. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
- Several new amenities for home games are being finalized and will be announced on Monday.
PHOTO: Grizzlies defensive coordinator Kai Ellis works with the team.