The Rams secondary ranked in the bottom third of the country last season, finishing 89th out of 127 teams surrendering 250.2 yards per game through the air and giving up 8.2 yards per attempt in the process. This year won’t be any easier. Seven defensive backs transferred out of the program this offseason and the highest ranked secondary recruit, Lathan Adams, didn’t make it to campus.
The Rams defensive backs might be in a similar situation to the linebackers last season. But they’ve added a little more help. Rashad Ajayi, Logan Stewart, and Marshaun Cameron are the leaders of the Rams secondary. These three play hard and look to bring the under classman along with them.
“We made the most progress in the back-end,” Steve Addazio described to the Reporter Herald. “You knew we had a good defensive front, but the back-end wasn’t where it needed to be last year. Now I feel really good about it. Tywan (Francis) and Henry (Blackburn) stepped up and had great springs. I just really like all those guys. Our secondary came a long way.”
CSU also added Temple transfer Linwood Crump to along with returning producers Tywan Francis and Henry Blackburn. Another transfer is Manny Jones brother, Titus, who transferred from Alabama A&M. Up and coming freshman include Brandon Guzman, Jack Howell, and Langston Williams.
The Rams achilles heel last season and head coach Steve Addazio took full blame for the failure. “Completely preposterous,” Addazio exclaimed following CSU’s Nov. 12 defeat at Boise State. “I’ve got to do a better job preparing these guys. I’ve never seen anything like that before. It’s totally unacceptable, and I’ve got to make sure that gets fixed.”
The COVID pandemic played havoc with getting the coverage units set. Players being shuffled in and out every week didn’t allow for the cohesion necessary for the team to operate at the optimum efficiency. With a full spring, summer, and fall camp, special teams should be less of an issue this season for the Rams.
— Colorado State Football (@CSUFootball) June 11, 2021
As for the actual specialists. The best punter in the country returns to Fort Collins in Ryan Stonehouse. The current NCAA career leader in yards per punt, at 46.8 yards per punt, looks to stamp his mark on the record books and earn the Ray Guy award. Long Snapper Ross Reiter looks to help him along the way.
Kicking wise, true freshman Robert Liss did alright last season. He was only 4-of-7 on field goals, including the game winner against Wyoming, but he went 11-for-11 on extra points. The Rams also have an insurance policy in Cayden Camper if Liss were to go down. Returner wise, Dante Wright looks to cement his status as one of the most dangerous punt returners in the conference, while Thomas Pannunzio holds down kick return duties.
The Rams defensive line and linebackers held their own last year and look to do the same again this season. The biggest question marks lie with the defensive backs and special teams. If those two units can put something together, this defensive unit could become a dominant force in the Mountain West.