Three months removed from another record-breaking season, the CSU football team is ready to strap it up again.
The Rams return to the practice field for spring practice Saturday in hopes of laying the groundwork for a fourth consecutive bowl trip in 2002.
The CSU coaching staff will use the NCAA limit of 15 practices and the annual Green and Gold game at the end of spring practice to evaluate their players and begin filling the spots vacated by 22 graduating seniors.
“Spring ball is a time to really evaluate our team,” said head coach Sonny Lubick at a press conference on Thursday. “It’s a lot harder to do that during the season when you have to prepare for a game two days after playing one. Spring ball gives us a chance to really see what we’ve got.”
The Rams will look to solidify several positions during the spring, including quarterback. Sophomore play caller Bradlee Van Pelt, who was involved in an intense battle with former CSU quarterback D.J. Busch for the starting spot last spring, will be back, this time as the incumbent starter. He will, however, be pushed by heralded redshirt freshman Justin Holland.
“Bradlee improved a lot toward the end of last year, so right now he’s the guy,” Lubick said. “Bradlee would have to screw it up to lose it. But Holland is going to get a chance to play, no question.”
They will also look at wide receiver, where they lose three seniors, including NFL hopefuls Dallas Davis and Pete Rebstock.
“We’re losing some good, experienced guys, but I feel good about Joey Cuppari, Chris Pittman and Eric Hill,” Lubick said. “They are some big, strapping wide receivers.”
Running back figures to be a strong spot for the Rams. Senior Henri Childs, last year’s leading rusher with 841 yards, returns, as does 2000 Liberty Bowl MVP Cecil Sapp. Sapp, who missed all of last season due to a leg injury, is back at full strength.
“Cecil is good to go,” Lubick said. “He didn’t waste anytime getting in shape over the off season and is as strong as ever. With him and Henri, plus (freshman redshirt) Uldis Jaunarajs at running back, we’re going to be pretty good back there.”
Defensively, all-conference performer junior linebacker Drew Wood, who was second in the league in tackles despite starting only nine games, leads a youthful yet experienced defense. Defensive ends Peter Hogan and Wallace Thomas will anchor the defensive line.
The Rams’ biggest concern might be the secondary, where they lose five seniors, including three starters. The only remaining starter back from last season is junior cornerback Dexter Wynn. To provide more depth, junior running back Rashaan Sanders has been moved to safety along with senior linebacker David Vickers. Those two, along with redshirt freshmen David Foley and Miles Kochevar, sophomore Landon Jones and junior Jason Hepp, will all battle for playing time.
Lubick said Sanders was happy with the move.
“Rashaan took the attitude that wherever he can get on the field, he’ll give it a chance,” Lubick said. “He knows there is no guarantees, but we feel he can help us there a lot more than he can at running back, where we have Henri Childs and Cecil Sapp back for another year.” n