FB: NM State adds assistant coach from FCS power

Courtesy: NMStateSports.com

In an announcement made Thursday by NM State head football coach Doug Martin, Kevin Maurice has joined the Aggies’ staff where he will serve as an assistant coach. Maurice, who spent the last five seasons at NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program Eastern Washington, is set to take over as the Aggies’ tight ends coach.

Helping to craft one of the most potent offenses on the FCS scene, Maurice oversaw a talented crop of backfield rushers through his half-decade in Cheney, Wash. This season, the Eagles (5-1) have a good chance to receive an at-large berth to the FCS Playoffs behind thanks to the play of Tamarick Pierce and Dennis Merritt in the backfield.

Last season, Maurice’s running back corps included second team All-Big Sky selection Antoine Custer Jr., who finished 2019 with the eighth-best rushing total in school history with 1,228 yards and scored 16 touchdowns to rank fourth. Custer ended the season ranked 15th in FCS in rushing (102.3 per game) and 11th in rushing touchdowns (16), and closed his 47-game career with 3,045 yards to rank fourth all-time at EWU and 39 touchdowns to rank second.

With Custer Jr., on their side, the Eagles led FCS in total offense for the third time in school history with an average of 524.8 yards per game. Eastern was the only team in the division to rank in the top 24 in total offense, passing (317.1, fifth) and rushing (207.8, 19th), and were second in scoring (40.6). Eastern finished the 2019 season 7-5 overall and 6-2 in the Big Sky to finish with at least five league wins for the 13th-straight season.

In 2018, the Eagles finished 12-3 overall and 7-1 in the Big Sky Conference to share the league title with Weber State and UC Davis. The Eagles won their last four games of the regular season, then hosted three fellow conference champions in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs – knocking off Nicholls, UC Davis and Maine to advance to the NCAA Division I Championship Game versus North Dakota State.

The Eagles set school records in 2018 offensively for total points (647) and most games of 50 points or more (6, tied with the 2014 team), Eastern finished as the only school to rank in the top 20 in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in total offense, rushing and passing. The Eagles averaged 528.2 yards on offense to rank third in FCS, averaging 255.9 rushing (10th), 272.3 passing (20th) and 43.1 points per game (fourth).

Led by a stable of talented running backs, Eastern had a school-record 6.62 average per rushing attempt to rank second in FCS and break the previous school record of 6.41 set in 2001. The Eagles also broke EWU records for rushing yards (3,839) and rushing touchdowns (41).

Becoming EWU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2013, senior Sam McPherson finished with 1,510 yards on the season to rank fourth in single season school history and finish with 2,159 career yards. A second team All-Big Sky selection, he was fourth in FCS for average per carry (7.40), 20th with an average of 100.7 yards per game, 10th with 13 rushing touchdowns and third with 1,510 total rushing yards.

Besides McPherson, EWU’s other four running backs averaged at least 6.4 per carry — Custer averaged 6.4, junior Tamarick Pierce was at 7.86, junior Dennis Merritt had a 7.86 average and true freshman Isaiah Lewis finished at 7.4 during a redshirt season that saw him play in three games. The school record is 7.88 set by Taiwan Jones in 2010, with the minimum number of carries to qualify being 45 (Pierce was at 70 and Merritt was at 43).

Maurice spent three previous seasons as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at former Big Sky Conference program North Dakota, and was victorious versus his former team on Nov. 11, 2017, when the Eagles triumphed 21-14 in his former home of Grand Forks, N.D.

His tenure with the Fighting Hawks included the 2016 season when both North Dakota and Eastern Washington shared the league title with identical 8-0 records to advance to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, and the Fighting Hawks featured pair of All-America running backs.

Maurice spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons at Purdue where he began his tenure as a graduate assistant before being named director of player personnel. In February of 2013, he was elevated to assistant recruiting coordinator at the Big Ten school for head coach Danny Hope.

Prior to his two years in West Lafayette, Ind., Maurice made stops at three other FBS programs, with the latest coming as an offensive graduate assistant at Nevada in 2011. He briefly served as a recruiting assistant at Miami (Fla.) before joining the Wolf Pack staff. Maurice spent the 2010 season as a recruiting assistant for head coach Butch Jones at Cincinnati.

Before making the move to the FBS level, Maurice spent a season as the running backs coach at Midwestern State (Texas) in 2009 and was an offensive coordinator at North Miami (Fla.) High School in 2008. The Miami native played collegiately at UTEP for two seasons in 2003 and 2004 and finished his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at St. Joseph’s (Ind.) College in 2006, then received his master’s degree in sports management from Concordia University-Chicago in 2017.