The Colorado State football team is coming off a couple of seasons led by arguably the worst coach in CSU history. After a mediocre tenure at Boston College, the hire of Steve Addazio was almost unanimously criticized at the time, and proved to be an even worse fit than the pundits predicted. Addazio didn’t recruit well, he didn’t make any effort to connect with the Fort Collins community, and he installed a boring offensive system that looked like it came straight out of a playbook from 1965.
Steve Addazio was a disaster as the head coach of CSU, there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Fortunately, where there once was darkness, Colorado State football fans have reason to believe a bright light has emerged in Fort Collins, and his name is Jay Norvell.
Coach Norvell comes over from conference rival Nevada, bringing energy and optimism about the future of the program with him. Norvell also brings an impressive resume of recruiting, having done a superb job with limited resources at Nevada. Most importantly for 2022, Jay Norvell and his staff brought in experienced transfers, from Nevada and beyond, to hopefully field a competitive team right away.
The 2022 Colorado State Rams are a bit of a mystery. Let’s break it all down:
Reasons for optimism: The Air Raid offense has come to Fort Collins! That alone is reason for optimism among the Ram faithful. The last few years under Addazio had to have been the most boring brand of football in the entire country. It would have been kind to say that offense lacked creativity. How engrained is Jay Norvell and his staff in the Air Raid offense? Matt Mumme, Colorado State’s new Offensive Cordinator, is the son of the man who created the devastating attack! Oh how filled with joy I am that we get to witness CSU score points again!
This all fails to mention what kind of players you need to exceed in this system. Fortunately, the Rams have some pretty damn good athletes on that side of the ball.
roll the tape. pic.twitter.com/KVunV7USCX— Colorado State Football (@CSUFootball) August 10, 2022
This catch made it’s way through Rams Twitter, and for good reason. That’s true freshman Justus Ross-Simmons, who’s been opening eyes during fall camp.
CSU also has proven veterans like Dante Wright and Tory Horton (Nevada transfer) on thier recieving corps, ready to put up big time numbers.
QB Clay Millen is another player Ram fans should be really excited about. He’s already been named the starting quarterback for the Rams as a Redshirt Freshman, as he backed up Carson Strong last year at Nevada, and was a highly touted recruit that HC Jay Norvell and OC Matt Mumme landed out of highschool. He’s young, but he can sling it.
Up front, the offensive line is certainly experienced, starting 95 games between the 5 of them.
Cause for concern: Inexperience at key positions. The Rams will be starting a Redshirt Freshman at quarterback, and a Redshirt Sophomore at left tackle. They’ll also weave some young guys in and out of the recieving group.
Another cause for concern is the fact that a lot of these offensive guys are going to be learning a completely new system. Nevada transfers like Clay Millen, Tory Horton, and WR Melquan Stovall will be helpful in teaching the others the Air Raid, but there will be a learning curve early on.
Key stat: Tory Horton had 52 receptions, 659 yards, and 5 TD’s last year for Nevada. That’s a lot of production the Rams are bringing into thier offense. The Rams recievers should be a major strength for this team, and Horton is a huge reason why.
Wildcard: Mekhi Fox. While only a True Freshman, Fox is the 2nd highest recruit CSU has ever landed. He’s a freak athlete and should get opportunities to shine not only in the passing game, but on kick and punt returns as well
Reasons for optimism: New Defensive Coordinator Freddie Banks loves putting pressure on teams, and the Rams have two guys in Mohamed Kamara and CJ Onyechi (transfer from Rutgers) who excel in getting after the quarterback. The Rams also have depth on the defensive line, with Coach Banks already stating he could be rotating as many as 11 guys up front becuase he’s been impressed with so many of his defensive lineman.
Jack Howell was the best player for CSU on defense last year as a true freshman, and is primed to be even better this year. The safety is, of course, the son of CSU legend John Howell.
Cause for concern: This defense is VERY young. There’s experience at defensive end and inside linebacker, but the rest of this unit is really going to have to learn on the fly. Out of the 19 defensive backs listed on CSU’s Roster, 14 of them are Freshman or Sophomores. Out of the 16 defensive lineman, 10 of them are Freshman or Sophomores. And out of the 12 linebackers listed, 8 of them are underclassman. Suffice it to say, it’s a fresh group.
Key stat: DC Freddie Banks comes to CSU from Montana State, where he led a defense that was top 20 in FCS in turnovers forced. Expect an aggressive defensive system from the Rams in 2022.
Wildcard: Drew Kulick was a walk-on linebacker who impressed the coaches enough through Spring camp to steal the starting spot from incumbent starter Cam’Ron Carter. Kulick should play most of the snaps alongside Dequan Jackson, an excellent player coming back for the Rams.
- SEP 3 @ MICHIGAN
- SEP 10 - MIDDLE TENNESSEE
- SEP 17 @ WASHINGTON STATE
- SEP 24 - SACRAMENTO STATE
- OCT 7 @ NEVADA*
- OCT 14 - UTAH STATE*
- OCT 22 - HAWAII*
- OCT 29 @ BOISE STATE*
- NOV 5 (SAT) @ SAN JOSE STATE*
- NOV 12 - WYOMING*
- NOV 19 @ AIR FORCE*
- NOV 25 - NEW MEXICO*
*denotes conference game
Home games in bold
Thoughts: The first game that sticks out to me is the home game on Nov. 12th against rival Wyoming. CSU’s previous two coaches were putrid in rivalry games and this will be a good test for Jay Norvell in his first year against a good Wyoming team. A win in this game would go a long way in Coach Norvell gaining favor in Fort Collins.
I also think this schedule plays well for the Rams for what can sometimes be a brutal Mountain West travel schedule. Thier first home conference game against Utah State comes after what isn’t a terrible travel week at Nevada, they get to play Boise State after what should be one of thier easier games at home against Hawaii, and the Air Force game comes the week after a short trip up to Laramie.
Not having to play SDSU or Fresno State is also obviously a huge bonus.
Best case scenario: Colorado State shocks the football world and defeats Michigan in the first game of the season. They go on to an undefeated season and win the National Champtionship.
I mean, we are talking BEST CASE, right?
In all seriousness, it’d be nice to be somewhat competitive in that first game against Michigan. Losing by less than 3 touchdowns to the Wolverines would be a win in my book.
After that, I don’t think it’s outrageous to predict a win at Washington State, who was 7-6 (6-3) in the Pac-12 this year.
Best case scenario in CSU’s out of conference schedule is a 3-1 record.
In conference, the Rams come out firing against Nevada, rubbing salt in the wound of Jay Norvell’s exit.
I don’t see the possibility for a win against 2021 MW champion Utah State. Too much inexperience on the Rams side going up against a seasoned Aggies squad.
After CSU takes care of Hawaii in impressive fasion, they lose their 3rd game of the season to Boise State on the road. The Broncos are just too much to handle for the Rams at this point in Jay Norvell’s tenure.
The Rams then go on the road again to beat a San Jose State team that has trouble keeping up with the Air Raid.
In rivalries, anything can happen, and Coach Norvell proves to Ram fans that he’s the real deal. CSU beats Wyoming at home and Air Force on the road in consecutive weeks.
The Rams then blow out New Mexico, who doesn’t belong on the same field as CSU at this point in the year.
Colorado State goes bowling with an impressive 9-3 record. Jay Norvell announces he’ll never leave CSU’s program, even for the top job at Michigan or Alabama, because he loves Fort Collins so much and wants to see CSU become THE premier college football team in the country. He means it too.
Worst case scenario: Coach Jay Norvell proves to be a bust. His genuine, caring demeaner goes completely out the window after he goes 1-3 in out-of-conference play. He blames the players and takes no responsibility for anything going on inside his program. He yells at the media asking him questions after losses like they’re the ones to blame. CSU wins a couple of easy in-conference games, but then loses it’s last 6 in embarrassing fasion, with Norvell getting kicked out of the last game before halftime of a 42 point loss.
Oh wait, that was actually just CSU’s 2021 season under Steve Addazio.
Worst case scenario, right?
I’m definitely not still scarred from that experience...as you can tell.
What’s probably going to happen:
By the end of the year, CSU looks like a team headed in the right direction. They get punched in the mouth thier first game at Michigan, and lose another tight one to either Middle Tennessee or Washington State, but come out of non-conference play having 2 wins and 2 losses. In-conference, there’s some ups and downs, but the Rams end with a respectable 4-4 record, bringing their overall record to 6-6. They have a happy ending by participating in a bowl game for the first time since 2017. Considering the disaster that was 2018-2021, the Fort Collins community views this as a win and is ready for bigger and better things to come in the next few years.