The 2004 CSU Rams defense is getting a boost from its secondary, one anchored by a pair of upperclassmen safeties.
Adam Lancisero, a senior recently moved from linebacker to strong safety, made 21 tackles and pulled in two interceptions in five games last year after joining the team as a walk-on at the season’s beginning. Ben Stratton played all 13 games as a cornerback last season, pulling in four interceptions, good enough for first on the team, and 79 tackles, which was third on the team.
In a 2003 practice, Stratton was shifted to free safety, and he has frequented the spot ever since. Now he is Lancisero’s counterpart and is looking forward to being a staple in the secondary. Despite this being their first season playing together at the safety positions, they seem to be feeding off of each other’s confidence and skill level.
“This is his first time at the strong safety position,” Stratton said. “He is normally a linebacker, but he is playing at a really high level, and he has stepped up in practice. We seem to be gelling really well.”
The safeties will be asked to lead a secondary featuring young cornerbacks Brandon Cathy and Liddon Levine. Cathy is a returning sophomore letterman from Liberty, Mo., and Levine is a redshirt freshman from Oakland, Calif.
Although he is only a junior, Stratton is emerging as a leader on the team. He said head coach Sonny Lubick had not said anything to him personally, but this is an unspoken role he is expected to take.
“I know I am the oldest (player) in the secondary,” Stratton said. “I’ve started all the games, and I have the experience to help out the younger players.”
Lancisero also spoke of his confidence in the younger secondary players.
“I am real comfortable with the guys we have back there. Brandon (Cathy) is out right now, but should be back for the CU (game). I have a high level of confidence in my teammates.”
The Rams have begun two-a-day practices as they gear up for their opening game on Sept. 4 with in-state rival Colorado. The Buffaloes defeated CSU in a 42-35 offensive show last year as CSU fell to 20-53-2 in the overall series. The Rams are 7-31-1 on the road against CU all-time.
The Rams understand they will be dealing with a very hostile environment, shifting gears from Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High to Folsom Field in Boulder.
“I am very excited for the CU game,” Lancisero said. “It’s going to be in a whole different atmosphere, and most of them will be CU fans.”
The Rams also play a very tough non-conference schedule featuring the top-ranked Southern California Trojans at the L.A. Coliseum in week two. Also on the non-conference schedule is No. 23 Minnesota.
“I am pumped up for the USC game in Southern California,” said Lancisero, an Orange, Calif., native. “That is where I am from, so there will be a lot of family and friends at the game.”
The Rams have 15 returning starters on the roster this season, with three of them being on the defensive side of the ball. The Rocky Mountain Showdown is at 6 p.m. on Sept. 4 at Folsom Field in Boulder.
*Editor’s note: Justin Goldman contributed to this story