We did a breakdown of the quarterback position earlier this week, which you can find here.
Garrett Grayson, Conner Smith, Nick Stevens
Perhaps the least dramatic position battle on the team, the offensive line is filled with experienced upperclassmen left to right. After a disappointing first half of the season, the group turned it on leading the Rams to an average of 161 rushing yards a game in the final six games. Senior Weston Richburg is the leader of the group at center and is going into his third-straight season on the Rimington Trophy watch list. In addition to Richburg, fellow seniors Jared Biard, Jordan Gragert, and Brandon Haynes look to continue their late season momentum with a full year under McElwain's offense.
LT: Tyler Sambrailo, Nick Callender
LG: Haynes, Mason Myers
C: Richburg, Fred Zerblis
RG: Gragert, Mason Myers
RT: Biard, Mason Hathaway
One of the strongest positions on the team, Colorado State has two running backs, Chris Nwoke and Donnell Alexander, combined for five 100 plus rushing performances in 2012. The dismissal of dynamic backup Tommey Morris hurts, but junior college transfer Kapri Bibbs has the talent to replace his production. Early reports from camp are that true freshman Bryce Peters will play this year, which is a huge endorsement given the talent in front of him. Davon Riddick will also look to make contributions after sitting out all of the 2012 season with a broken wrist. No matter how the depth chart turns out, expect each back to see carries in a rotation heavy offense.
Projection: Alexander, Nwoke, Bibbs, Peters
A strong Rams' tight end corps is lead by junior Kivon Cartwright and second team Mountain West player Crockett Gillmore. After a breakout 2011 season in which Gillmore earned his Mountain West honors, he struggled to produce in 2012, only catching nineteen passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Cartwright picked up some of that lost production finishing third on the team in receptions and hauling in three touchdowns. Both should see improvement this year with increased talent at the wide receiver position to draw defenses' attention away. Another player to watch is junior college transfer Martavious Foster. Foster saw reps with the first team in spring practices and will provide the Rams with a solid blocking tight end.
Projection: Gillmore, Cartwright, Foster
McElwain made it a strong point of emphasis to shore up the receiver corps with his first two recruiting classes. And that he did with the addition of Sammie Long, Xavier Williams, Rashard Higgins, and Elroy Masters; all of whom are 6' 2" or taller. Those players will look to complement a talented, but undersized group of returning players led by junior Charles Lovett. Lovett led the Rams in receiving yards last year and paired with sophomore Joe Hansley (fourth in receiving yards) are speedy threats in the slot. With better deep threats on the outside, Lovett and Hansley should be able to sneak past defenses and show off their speed.
Two players looking to make contributions for the Rams are redshirt freshman Jordon Vaden and junior Austin Gray. Gray has played the past two years at safety, but after suffering from several concussions during the 2012 season, he was moved to wide receiver to for his safety. He played wide receiver in high school and has the skill to be a solid receiver for the Rams if he can stay healthy. Vaden used his redshirt his first season on campus and has the potential to be the Rams leading receiver. Despite several drops in the spring game, Vaden showcased his ability to burn opposing corners down the field. If he can shake off his freshman jitters, he can easily be an all Mountain West player.
X: Rashard Higgins, Austin Gray
Y: Charles Lovett, Joe Hansley
Z: Jordon Vaden, Thomas Coffman