I have been putting this article off for awhile now, the CSU defense isn't exactly a fun topic. The defense has been bad, bad, and worse lately. I personally believe a lot of that is scheme and play calling and less actual talent. The Rams are no Horned Frogs when it comes to personnel but they should be better then they have been of late.
The last time the Rams allowed less then 4500 yards on the season was back in 2006 with a very solid 3964 yards. Twice in the last three years they have given up 5000+. Their average yards given up per play is floating around 6, it doesn't take a math major to realize that's not a recipe for success. The worst part is I don't see this changing at all since defensive coordinator Larry Kerr is still around and there have been no announced changes on scheme.
So I am going to rate the separate units and list a stand out player. Catch it after The Jump!
Defensive Line - This is no doubt the position where the Rams could use a breakout stud. It probably won't happen but the depth here is better then years past. At DE the Rams have CJ James who has been up and down in his first two years, not quite reaching expectations but could be the Rams best past rusher if his talent comes through. Big man Nuku Latu could help clog up the middle. For freshman I am going to throw out the name Justin Hansen. I have no idea if he is good but at near 300 pounds he can clog a gap. OVERALL - C The Rams will struggle with pass rush from their front four as they have in the past. The run defense could be improved with the bigger bodies in the middle.
Line Backer - This unit will once again be a strength for the Rams. There have been quite a few great LB the last few years. Unfortunately due to injuries and suspensions they haven't been out there for a full year. The stud of the group, after he led the nation in forced fumbles, is Mychal Sisson. He should be a 1st team all conference player and will be looked at by some NFL teams. Mike Orakpo will be next to Sisson after playing safety last year. Freshman Aaron Davis showed something to the coaches in the off season and will get some playing time. OVERALL - B+ Orakpo and Sisson will be studs, the third spot will be filled with Kawulok, Favors, and Skelton depending on injuries and such. Time will see if Orakpo is the next in line of stud LB's behind Sisson, Brewer, and Williams.
Corner back- The Rams will be young but should do well. I am going to talk about one guy though. Shaq Bell. Not a name many outside and even inside of Fort Collins know. He played the majority of the second half last year as a freshman. I thought he was the best CB I have seen at CSU in years. He wasn't a huge INT threat last year but covered as well as anyone and wasn't afraid to make a tackle. Shaq Bell was a bright spot that should improve as he gets use to the speed of the game. He led all freshman in tackles for the Rams last year with 39, tops for a CB on the team. Those didn't all come from targets on his man. No freshman CB are listed on the roster as of now. Overall- B- I think with moving Elijah Blu-Smith back to CB and Bell coming back the Rams will be better then in years past.
Safety- The move of Blu-Smith and Orakpo will hurt the safety position. The only returning starter is Ivory Herd, he should hold his own like in years past. The Rams have 7 freshman listed on the roster as safeties. Not exactly a position you want to be super young at. The Rams wouldn't have moved Blu-Smith if they didn't think freshman Austin Grey and Kevin Pierre-Louis could handle it. OVERALL- C? Hard to tell with so many freshman, but the rest of the defense will need to step up and play big to take the pressure of Herd and the young-ins.
Coaching - Larry Kerr... Fail. He does get an easy landing to break in the freshman and try out play calling from the booth with New Mexico, No. Colorado, CU, and San Jose State. The scheme needs to not be so vanilla and easy to pick apart. Kellen Moore might set a few NCAA records if the safeties and Kerr don't get something figured out by their 5th game.