Added offensive depth has increased competition at quarterback, running back and wide receiver heading into the final week before Saturday’s annual spring football game.
“Our offense is moving along well and our offensive line is picking things up,” said junior running back Saylor Lavallii. “All the backs are hitting holes well and I think we’re all coming together as a unit helping each other out. Everyone is competing (for starting spots) every day.”
With many new faces in camp this spring, the likelihood of first-year starters rises for the Chippewas both on offense and defense.
Senior quarterback Cody Kater credited depth as the major factor in the more competitive battles for starting positions this spring as opposed to last year’s drills.
“Right now we’re hitting on all cylinders,” Kater said. “We’re starting to do some things that are at a more consistent rate than last season. Really, it’s all about the protection up front. (The offensive line) is a solid group of guys. Running backs are deep, too, so it’s really just me and Cooper (Rush’s) job to get those guys the ball and motivate the line to do their job and move the ball down the field.”
Running back is perhaps the deepest of all offensive positions this spring.
Offensive coordinator Morris Watts indicated a number of Chippewas are making a case for starter.
“Martez Walker has definitely stood out,” Watts said. “Saylor hasn’t had as many opportunities with certain plays but he is still an excellent back. Maurice Shoemaker is having a good spring. They (all) just have to get more consistent in the things they do, but the three of those guys have had good springs.”
Of the three, Lavallii had the most carries last season with 182. In eight starts and 12 games, he led the Chippewas in rushing yards (807) and attempts (182). His 889 all-purpose yards was second on the team.
Still, Lavallii said he understands he has company this spring.
“Shoemaker, (Anthony) Garland, Walker … those guys are good backs,” Lavallii said. “We got young guys in there that are trying to learn and pick things up and I think we’re all doing a good job of helping them out with protection and the footwork. I think on a day-to-day basis, we’re all making each other better by competing and pushing each other to that next level.”
Senior wide receiver Titus Davis is also joined by a plethora of talent at his position.
Watts said many of CMU’s younger wideouts show promise.
“The returning guys that have played are definitely ahead of the younger guys,” Watts said. “Probably the guy who has made the biggest jump is Mark Chapman, a freshman. He is out there challenging for a spot in the three-receiver rotation. He is having a great spring. The other young guys have talent, they just haven’t caught up yet on running the right routes at times and understanding how to get off a bump and run.”
Kater, Lavallii and Watts all agreed Chapman has been the biggest surprise on CMU’s offense thus far.
“Mark Chapman, he’s an explosive kid,” Lavallii said. “He is going to be a heck of a football player.”
The CMU spring game is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.