Colorado State Football: 2020 Defensive Preview
The CSU Rams defense looks to take another step forward
Can the Rams defense match up with the offense?
The Colorado State Rams defense was a tale of two cities in 2019. They were ranked 7th in pass defense, but ranked 104th in rushing defense. Teams discovered they could run almost at will against the Rams, so they didn’t bother to pass as much.
CSU’s defense has some hype behind it coming into the 2020 season as Phil Steele has named Colorado State as the most improved defense for 2020. If the defense can find a way to match the production of the offense, this Rams team will surprise some people.
Now lets breakdown the talent Defensive Coordinator Chuck Heater will have at his disposal.
The CSU defensive line had lofty expectations in 2019 with a lot talent and experience. And while team had success in some areas, they failed in others. In 2019, the defensive front had 29 sacks, but gave up 196 rushing yards per game.
Both of the Rams starting defensive tackles are back in Devin Phillips and Ellison Hubbard. Hubbard had a decent total in 5.5 sacks last season, but his biggest contribution was his ability to consistently cause problems for opponents. Phillips didn’t make a big leap statistically, but the experienced he’s gained (22 starts in his career) will pay dividends for the Rams these next two seasons.
At the defensive end position, Manny Jones will be the senior leader along the line. He’s the guy that offensive coordinators game plan around. The question for the Rams will be who starts opposite of him. Both Jalen Bates and Jan-Phillip Bombek graduated, but Miami grad transfer Scott Patchan could be the one to step into that starting role.
We can’t forget the other Rams in the rotation and the newcomers to the team. Toby McBride, if healthy, could be a big factor as he can play both inside and outside along the line. Livingston Paogofie is a consistent force in practice and on gameday. And then we have the newcomers including JUCO transfer Brandon Hickerson-Rooks along with RS freshman Aidan Cullen and true freshman Casey Irons Jr.
Dequan Jackson and Cam’ron Carter had some big shoes to fill in 2019. Tre Thomas and Josh Watson both ended 2018 with over 100 tackles each. Neither Jackson or Carter reached those lofty goals, but both were an integral part of this defense.
Jackson finished with 87 tackles and Carter finished with 65. Both of them know they need to step up further if the defense wants to take that next step as a whole. They both have a good relationship and connection with each other and they need to use that this upcoming season.
After these two, the linebacking corps is kind of thin. One could arguably call this the weakest position group for the Rams. The only player returning with starting experience is Mohamed Kamara who had four starts and 22 tackles as a true freshman.
The two deep is wide open and we could see multiple freshman in the rotation including Tavian Brown, who redshirted after three games in 2019 and was raved about by the defensive coaches. Other freshman who could see playing time, if they step up, include Bam Amina and Sanjay Strickland.