New Mexico Stars head football coach Dominic Bramante said he will be welcoming roughly 30 players and a new staff Sunday when members of the fourth-year indoor pro team report for preseason camp at Hotel Cascada.
Practices will run Monday through March 1, the day before their Champions Indoor Football opener at home against the San Angelo Bandits at the Santa Ana Star Center.
But where will drills be held? Three days before camp commences, Stars front-office folks haven’t made their decision public, but indications are the practices will be in Rio Rancho.
Regardless, Bramante said he has a talented foundation for his squad. Last year, that core reached the LSFL title game before losing at San Angelo.
“We have guys back who know our philosophy, so we’ll have a little bit of a head start with veterans we have,” Bramante said. Among the returnees are ex-Lobos James Cleveland, Landrick Brody, DeAndre Wright, Roland Bruno and Emmanuel McPherson.
Bramante, in his second year as boss, will be leading his team in the first year of the nine-team CIF, which was born out of the merger between the three surviving LSFL franchises plus five Champions Pro Indoor Football League clubs.
He said there will be an adjustment period adapting to different rules in the league, including the addition of a fourth defensive back and allowing for two men in motion at the snap instead of one.
“We don’t really have time for guys to compete for jobs. We have to concentrate on installing the offense and defense,” Bramante said. “The guys we expect to win jobs need to get in the reps more than anything.”
Twenty-one players are active on game day, with four inactive each week. Positions up for grabs are on both lines and at running back.
A key addition to the Stars is Kasey Peters, the QB with the long blond locks who was the LSFL’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year while with New Mexico in 2013. Last season, he played with the LSFL’s West Texas Wildcatters but suffered a season-ending Achilles injury early on. Bramante said Peters now is ready to go.
“Kasey brings experience at the quarterback position,” Bramante said. “He’s got size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds), athleticism, he’s got a good arm and he’s smart. “Because of his experience, he can read defenses. He reacts quickly. And he’s got a fan base out here.”
Said Peters earlier this fall: “There’s a definite group of fans I stayed in touch with and it’s another big draw for me to come back and play in front of them.”
Bramante also went back into the Stars’ archives to sign running back Seth Smith, a New Mexico State alum who played with the team in 2012-13.
One of the key reasons Smith is back is because of the differences in the playing rules. Bramante said his team likely will be running about 40 percent of the time this year, instead of less than 15 percent under LSFL rules in 2014.
“In the (LSFL), the fullback was basically another lineman,” Bramante said. “But with these rules it is a running back. Now you can add the option the power game.”
THE STAFF: Bramante is bringing two new assistants to be coordinators: Carl Madison of Pensacola, Fla., a former USA Today Prep Coach of the Year, as offensive coordinator, and Mike Coleman of Atlanta, who will assist on defense and be special teams coordinator.
It’s still to be determined whether longtime assistant Matt Caward will return.
CAWARD’S ROLLER-COASTER MONTH: Caward remains flabbergasted by what took place Jan. 28 at a Stars news conference to announce the signing of two players when he said he was blindsided by the news, told to him by the Journal, that he wasn’t going to be the team’s GM.
He had said owner Tracy Duran had offered him the job in previous meetings. Caward even said he was told to write up a contract and hand it in.
But that went poof!
At the news conference, Duran, who said he owns the team along with wife Crystal, told the Journal : “Matt will not be part of the organization as of today in any way, shape or form.” He didn’t elaborate.
That seems to contradict text messages Caward said he received from Tracy Duran less than two weeks earlier.
Said Caward, reading from stored texts: “On the 19th of January, he (Tracy) stated that he had signed a contract with another sponsor and also stated in a text message that it’s coming together, the whole team coming together. And then he stated, and I quote, ‘We cannot tell you enough how appreciated you are in this organization. We couldn’t do it without you.’ ”
Duran did not immediately return calls Thursday for comment.