Rusty Stivers is attacking the field in more ways than one. The first year head football coach at Modesto Junior College, and Hilmar native, is looking to make a difference that hasn't been seen before—increase student transfer rates.
To do so, Stivers has a steady schedule that arranges a morning lift session followed by classes and then practice.
“Going forward I told the guys that our number one goal is student transfer rate, so our goal is to transfer 100 percent of our students,” said Stivers. “We will check their attendance so everything is geared towards increasing student transfer and I think as we increase transfer, then everything will take care of itself.”
Heading into the 2015 season, Stivers has also tweaked things at practice a tad bit, not to mention speeding up the spread offense tempo, ran by one of two returners on offense in quarterback Trey Cooper.
“I modified things a bit. The practices are a little faster overall,” said Stivers. “I spent three years watching Nate Costa at Spring ball and I saw a lot of what they do. As far as tempo and style, its heavily influenced from that respect, so that is different this year for sure.”
There is no question that the MJC Pirates are a very talented squad going down the right path with their star quarterback Cooper, who returns after ending the 2014 year by amassing seven touchdowns in their final game against Delta College.
Behind Cooper, the only other player returning on offense in the 6-foot-4, 335-pound left tackle in Niles Graham.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Pirates return six players from last year, including former Pitman linebacker, Justin Van Fleet.
“Justin has been pretty consistent for us at the linebacker position,” said Stivers. “He’s done a great job kind of running the defense.”
There are a total of 10 players on this year’s roster that previously hailed from Pitman, Turlock and Hilmar, including two redshirt players from Turlock in Patrick Green and Johnny Padilla.
Wyatt Clapper and Nick Renteria are the other Pitman alumnus and Andrew Olson is the lone Hilmar representative.
From Turlock, Deshawn Holcomb and Ryan Murphy are part of the offense with Jevan Hogan and Andy Jennings making strong impressions.
“Jevan Hogan is in the mix and has made quite an impression,” said Stivers. “The most impressive kid coming out of high school has been Andy Jennings. All the kids have been here for a year at least and Andy is doing the best out of all the newcomers. He is doing great.”
The team’s strong focal point will definitely be the safety tandem in Tyler Johnson and Herman Harris.
“We have a strong defense because we have those two sophisticated smart players right there,” Stivers said. “So with our experience we are definitely looking better than our offense in that respect.”
However, on the defensive side of the ball, the team has five starters currently out after sustaining injuries during the team’s first scrimmage last weekend.
“Hopefully by the time our first game is here those guys should be back,” Stivers said of his injured players.
The first game for the Pirates of MJC will be at home against American River College at 6 p.m. Sept. 6.
“Luckily for us and the thing with American River is that they run offensively very similar to ours which is good in respects to our defense and their formation,” Stivers added.