Colorado State Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice
A new era gets underway in Fort Collins, but what must the Rams do to fully turn the page and get back to competing for a division crown?
The green and gold are back in business.
After Steve Addazio ran into a Canvas Stadium tunnel in last year’s season finale, never to return, the Colorado State Rams didn’t waste much time in dusting themselves off and reaffirming their commitment to win, bringing in Nevada head coach Jay Norvell and then watching as he brought along a host of coaches and players from Reno in return.
Needless to say, the optimism in Fort Collins flows as freely as the city’s microbrews these days, but there’s work to be done for the newly christened “Fort Air Raid” to hit the ground running.
Can Norvell and Matt Mumme identify and develop the next Carson Strong?
For all of the talent that the Rams brought in through the transfer portal and Norvell’s first recruiting class, the one big question on offense regards who will be under center when the season begins in September. Jay Norvell inherited Ty Gangi when he became head coach at Nevada, but he won’t have that kind of luxury here: There are options, but they are all unproven.
Redshirt freshman Clay Millen made the jump with Norvell from Reno to Fort Collins and the assumption is that he’ll at least get a lot of runway to sink or swim during spring practices. All five options on the current roster are either redshirt freshmen or true freshmen, though, and just one, Evan Olaes, has any sort of on-field experience. If #FortAirRaid is going to get off the ground sooner rather than later, one or two in that group is going to have to prove they can manage the learning curve.
What will the defensive line look like?
One thing that worked out for the Rams in 2021 was their ferocious play along the defensive line, but that’s another area where Norvell and defensive coordinator Freddie Banks will have to start over. Among last year’s major contributors, only Devin Phillips returns.
Unlike at quarterback, however, Colorado State did bring in some transfer portal reinforcements with some track record of success. C.J. Onyechi (Rutgers) has done a little more than Teivis Tuioti (Nevada), mind you, but the experienced hands could have a leg up on youngsters who only played sparingly last year like James Mitchell and Cam Bariteau.
Is Paddy Turner up to replacing Ryan Stonehouse?
It’s not every day that a player must replace an NCAA career record-holder, but that’s exactly the situation in which the Australian Turner, who also followed Norvell from Nevada to Colorado State, now finds himself. It’s unrealistic to expect that he’ll come out and average 47.8 yards per punt like Stonehouse did in his decorated career, but you have to think an overly lackluster spring performance could force the Rams to find someone else and open the competition up, adding one more obstacle to the rebuild.