Apr 262004
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

Before the start of last season, many Ram fans and columnist

Woody Paige of The Denver Post predicted that the CSU football team

would go undefeated.

I responded in a column on Aug. 28 by showing that the Rams’

strength of schedule was underrated and explained how hard it is to

go undefeated. Then I dropped the quote that my buddies are still

giving me crap about, “A 12-0 season for the Rams is about as

likely as a 6-6 season, but you never know.”

Of course, the Rams finished 7-6 after their 35-21 loss to

Boston College in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. I thought

the Rams would win nine or 10 games, but many problems contributed

to last season’s record.

This season, I believe the Rams will improve on last year’s mark

and win another Mountain West Conference title.

Now, a lot can go wrong between April and October and November,

when the conference games are played, but here are my reasons CSU

will win the Mountain West Conference next season:

Justin Holland at the helm

The all-time leading passer in Colorado high school history will

have his chance to be the starting quarterback after two years

behind Bradlee Van Pelt.

“When he’s behind the center, boy, he can make a lot of good

things happen,” head coach Sonny Lubick said after Holland went

17-for-22 for 218 yards in Saturday’s spring game.

A pure drop-back passer, Holland has the arm and the mind to

lead the CSU offense to a big season. His style will allow the Rams

to revert back to their old style of off-tackle runs, play-action

passes and utilizing the backs in the passing game.

Offensive firepower

The Rams could have the best set of players at the offensive

skill positions they have ever had.

At running back, Marcus Houston looks as relaxed and confident

as I’ve ever seen him since he started playing. When a media member

told him offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said there was

only one running back to fumble in spring drills, Houston replied

with a chuckle, “It wasn’t me!” He and Jimmy Green are solid.

At receiver, David Anderson returns for his junior year after

setting the CSU record for receptions in a season. The little man

will make big plays for the Rams all year. CSU will also have the

best tight ends in the Mountain West, Lubick said Saturday. If Joel

Dreessen stays healthy, he could be in the top echelon of tight

ends in the nation. Matt Bartz and Clint Oldenburg are also solid

blocking and receiving ends.

Defensive gaps filled

Lubick knew defense would be an off-season priority with seven

starters leaving or switching positions. He responded by landing

six junior-college players on defense to blend in with the small

group of young talent CSU returns.

Coaching continuity

Last year, the Rams had three new coaches, including defensive

coordinator Steve Stanard. This year there is only one new man,

Dave Arnold at special teams-tight ends coach, and Lubick worked

with him at Miami.

Conference outlook

Defending champion Utah will likely be the favorite in the

Mountain West. CSU will have to travel to Salt Lake City to play

the Utes. The conference as a whole is getting better, and CSU will

be tested in every conference game. But the Rams always perform

best when they are not the favorites, and they could be picked

third or fourth in the conference this year.

I still maintain that an undefeated season is highly unlikely,

especially considering the Rams play at defending national champion

Southern California. But they have the talent and coaching to top

the Mountain West again.

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