Those of you who wave off and dismiss the Colorado State football team, you can forget that thinking. Its not in the cards. CSU Coach Steve Fairchild, himself a former Rams quarterback, is confident of that as well. In the three seasons Fairchild has been the team's head coach, his combined record is 13-24, with one winning season, but this season is shaping up great for the Rams. They have all the ingredients to roll to another winning season.
"I've been really happy with this spring," Fairchild said recently on the team's website. "We're not game-ready. There are still some areas we've got to develop in a hurry, but this has been a very productive spring. Best spring since I've been here."
The Rams might not be "game-ready" but spring ball brought them a long way toward the end zone. One of those areas that needed to be answered was how to fix the O-line. Fairchild and his assistants have worked hard and it shows. At the April 23rd Green and Gold spring game CSU gave the fans a look at some of the Rams improvements.
The Rams 2011 season to this point has been all about the quarterback. During the recent spring game all eyes were on sophomore quarterback Pete Thomas, 6' 5" 218 lbs. Last season he threw for an impressive 2,662 yards on 392 tries with 252 completions. But his inxperience led to 13 interceptions and just 11 touchdowns. This year he is a seasoned player. And more confident. You can bet his 64.3 percent pass rating will be much better and perhaps his running game as well.
"We've got a quarterback that now we can really get into some of the situations, some of those two- minute things. Things where we were just hanging on for dear life last year," Fairchild said of having a returning starter at QB. "Because of his experience, now we can start working at it. Anytime your quarterback's back, from an offensive standpoint, that's very positive."
With Thomas as the starter, it looks like he will be backed up by quarterback M. J. McPeek, 6' 4" 224 lbs. The junior QB, who transferred to CSU from Kansas State, did well with his Ram team in spite of an early struggle before ending with a pair of impressive drives.
The coaches have not just been focused on the QB situation. They have been giving the receivers a close look as well, watching to see who will be the players to help the QB's this year. Receivers such as WR Lou Greenwood, 6' 0" 186 lb., WR Bryon Steele, 6' 3" 215 lbs, and freshman wide receiver Thomas Coffman, 5' 10" 170 lbs. And they are only three mentioned here who might be stepping up. The jury is still out on redshirt freshman WR Brett Etherton, 6' 3", 207 lbs. who played well in the Spring Game. And look for WR Matt Yemm, 5' 11" 200 lbs, to not only receive but work with the special teams again this year as the primary holder.
Last year, the rushing attack for Colorado State was dreadful after early predictions suggested it would be dominate. But if CSU's spring game this year is any indication of the running game the team will be rolling downfield with the ball. Two of the backs who showed they can carry the pig this spring were RB Chris Nwoke, 6' 0" 215 lbs and RB Dereck Good, 5' 10" 193 lbs. They are proving they can be tough and gritty.
Crockett Gillmore, 6' 6" 235 lbs, is a big, physical TE who caught a lot of attention during spring ball. The Texan has shown he has good hands and able to play DE with good blocking as well. Coach Fairchild calls Gillmore one of the top 22 players on the team. The Rams have a number of other big guns in their arsenal: senior linebacker Mychal Sisson, 5' 1''" 207 lbs, whose 95 tackles were among the team leaders last season; sophomore linebacker Mike Orakpo, 6' 1" 215 lbs, should see plenty of action. Then there is safety Ivory Herd, 5' 11' 196 lbs could be a playmaker this year on defense and cornerback Bernard Blake,6' 0" 179 lbs, the team’s fastest player, who is back to do even more damage to opposing offenses this season.
That is just a sampling of the players who tore up up the field this past spring. And you can look for more players to show what they can do when fall ball practice begins and Fairchild puts the final polish on this year's Ram team. Already the fans are thinking about the coming season an making predictions. And the media is beginning to buzz. But not in a negative way as they did last year---the "year of the boomerang" when the Rams were expected to bounce back---when the Rams finished in ESPN's Bottom 10. The 2010 season was a tough, humilating year that was capped with the 44-0 beatdown at Wyoming. It was not good and not pretty.
But this year is shaping up better even schedule wise. The Rams open play at New Mexico, and the Lobos were another team in ESPN's Bottom 10 with an even worse record. Then they play Northern Colorado at home, before facing the University of Colorado. The following week they play at Utah State where they face an Aggie team that went 4-8 last year. Then they get San Jose State at home. The Boise State game is next, but right afterward they play UTEP who went 6-7 last year. Then UNLV. Those are a lot of winable games.
The end of the season will be tough with SDSU, TCU, and Air Force on the ticket. But the season finale will be the annual "Border War" with Wyoming---this time at home. Wyoming went 3-9 last year and the only big win was against the Rams. With a motivated, revenge-minded Ram team chomping at the bit, the Cowboys will be hard pressed to repeat that win this year at Fort Collins. When you look at it, there are just too many "wants" at stake: The CSU fans all want that Bronze Boot back. The Ram's football team want some payback.
And Coach Fairchild wants a post-season bowl game.