By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
Eds. note: Herald writer Aaron Swaney visited Mount Vernon training camp early Wednesday morning.
What’s new: Tristan Brock, QB
Through all of the transition last year, Mount Vernon knew it could count on it signal-caller, senior Bennett Gibson.
Now the gunslinger is gone.
“(Bennett) could throw the ball great but it was more than that,” said second-year head coach Jay Silver. “He understood the offense completely.”
In his place Mount Vernon will start Tristan Brock, a stocky junior who made his name last season as a linebacker and the leader of the Bulldogs defense. Brock has a strong arm but not the same command of the offensive playbook and the experience to know exactly where a receiver will be on a certain play.
One positive is the fact Brock got some playing time behind center when Gibson went down with an injury late in the season. Brock actually led Mount Vernon to its only Wesco 4A North victory, helping the Bulldogs beat eventual champs Monroe.
“I think it’s going to be huge,” Silver said of Brock’s spot duty last year. “When you have a guy like Bennett the tendency is no one else gets to play, and it was unfortunate for Bennett that he had to sit out a game and a half, but it was tremendous for Tristan because he was a sophomore. It was a huge confidence building for him to know that he could come in and play at the varsity level.”
Brock will lean heavily on the running game, led by junior running back Brandon Hayman, and experienced receivers like first-team All-Wesco wideout Melvin Walser and Miles Witt.
“I feel pretty comfortable throwing to those two,” Brock said.
Returning All-Wesco players
First team—Melvin Walser, WR/DB; Max Salgado, OL; Tristan Brock, LB
Player to watch: Melvin Walser, WR/DB
Ask Melvin Walser what his best attribute is and he looks down at his hands.
Those hands did a lot of work last year.
Standing 6-foot-4 and with a quick burst, Walser used those hands to reel in 55 catches for 948 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Melvin is spectacular. He can pretty much go up and get anything,” Brock said.
Mount Vernon head coach Jay Silver said that Walser is far from the prima donna stereotype of most wide receivers and that the senior just loves to play the game.
“He never went out last season and said ‘I need this many catches or I gotta do this,’” Silver said. “He just wants to compete and go all out. He’s got a tremendous football knowledge and that makes him valuable on both sides of the football.”
One thing that makes Walser valuable, not only in playing wideout, but in helping a new quarterback learn the ropes, is the fact he’s played quarerback before.
“He understands coverages, he understands where the quarterback is going to be looking, where to sit down and all that stuff,” Silver said.
Fresh face: An’dre Triplett
When Jerry Jensen took the head coaching job at Archbishop Murphy he created a hole at Mount Vernon. The former UW standout linebacker was Silver’s defensive coordinator a year ago and his loss means more changes on that side of the ball for the Bulldogs.
Silver said he’ll share defensive coaching responsibilities with An’dre Triplett, a former Eastern Washington football player and Western Washington coach.
“The biggest thing is it’s a transition again for the kids and you don’t like to see that from year to year,” Silver said. “We have to adjust things to the personnel that we have. The kids are learning something different again. But they had a really good focus on that in the spring and they adapted to it really well in camp.”
Silver said that the defense is simpler and should be easier for the players to grasp.
“It’s a little bit more simple and they understand it a little better. So they can just go out and play a little bit faster,” Silver said.
The old tradition of ringing a bell on campus after any win — either home or away — took a hit last year when the bell broke after one of Mount Vernon’s victories.
This year they’ve made “Ring the Bell” their mantra.
“It’s not so much about winning but rather being the ultimate citizen, student and competing not only on the field but in the classroom,” Silver said. “We talked about wanting our community to have pride in us so I asked them, ‘What are we doing to have the community be proud of us?’”
Silver is going into his second season as Mount Vernon’s coach and it’s the Bulldogs second season in Wesco. Last year Mount Vernon struggled, going 2-6 against the tougher competition in Wesco. But not everyone felt that was a bad thing.
“In some ways it was easier because we had to come to play every week. The challenge was consistent,” said Bulldogs senior WR Miles Witt.
This year will be no different. Mount Vernon will have to get first-year QB Tristan Brock up to speed quickly if they want to compete with the likes of Lake Stevens, Arlington and Snohomish.