As ESPN points out what has been known around here for a few weeks and pointed out this weekend in my CSU spring recap that CSU will go with a freshman quarterback this season. Lets break the QB's down a little bit more starting with red shirt freshman Nico Ranieri.
Ranieri is an athletic QB out of Dr. Phillips high school in Florida. Ranieri is listed at 6'2, 195, 6'2 looks generous for him but its hard to size up guys with helmets and cleats on so 6'2 it is. In high school Ranieri threw for 2,496 yards and 26 touchdowns with only seven interceptions and a completion rating of 61%. He is listed as a dual threat quarterback as he ran for 9 touchdowns in high school. At the Green and Gold game Ranieri looked good and went 7-10 for 73 yards passing.
Does Ranieri fit into a Fairchild offense then? I would say he does in most regards. The arm strength is there as he puts a bit more zip on his passes then Pete Thomas does. The athleticism is there, even if the QB isn't asked to run much it can't hurt in the college game especially with a inexperienced but talented offensive line. He has jumped up the depth chart which shows he has gotten hang of the play book, no surprise with his weighted 4.0 GPA. He needs to improve his deep ball as Thomas throws one of the best deep balls I have seen at CSU in 4 years. Where he could separate himself is his speed and throwing on the run allowing Fairchild to do even more in his offense. Now a look at true freshman QB Pete Thomas.
Thomas graduated early from Valhalla High School in San Diego, Ca, the same area where Steve Fairchild grew up. Thomas was a three year starter at Valhalla, during his last two years he threw for 5,553 yards, 52 touchdowns, just 11 interceptions, and completed more than 66% of his passes. He was a 4 star recruit that originally committed to Arizona State before Fairchild and his coaching staff plucked him away.
How does Thomas fit into the Fairchild offense? About as good as anyone could it seems. He has the smarts, graduating a semester early with a 4.0 and a family history of graduate degrees. He looks to have picked up the playbook well in the spring session and jumped himself up the depth chart. During the spring game he went "just" 2-5 for 46 yards and a touchdown. I double quoted just because there was a few drops that could have added his yards to around 90 and at least one more touchdown. His reads and timing were very good, splitting the defense up the middle. Not many true freshman who should be worried about prom can throw up the middle with the confidence and accuracy he has. He has the build you want at 6'5, 215. His pocket presence was also impressive as he had a 5 yard scramble and a few good throws where he avoided pressure but stayed in the pocket and delivered strikes down field. The long ball is a staple of the Steve Fairchild offense and his could not be more beautiful and accurate. During warm ups and one in the spring game(dropped) Thomas threw a few bombs and they were spirals, high, and only where the receiver could catch them. Even Fairchild must get giddy thinking of what he can do with those after a year of watching Grant Stucker throw up ducks to Utah safety Robert Johnson.
A freshman will be getting the snaps at Invesco Field at Mile High when the Rams kick off their season against the CU Buffs. My money would be on Pete Thomas after seeing him develop from the first spring practice to the spring game. If Nico Ranieri does win the job I would have no problems with it as both look to be talented confident quarterbacks. Who ever wins the job will be the one who can win the trust of the coaching staff with their consistency, accuracy, and smarts on the field. Either way this will be a fun battle to watch for the next 4 years in Fort Collins.