Sometimes, all you have to do to know the story is look at the statistics.
The opposing team earned 221.7 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per rush. Stats of a defense that got steamrolled at times by opposing teams' running backs last year.
While the football season is still more than four months away, spring practices have given the CSU defense a chance to make needed progress toward stopping the run. Last season, the Rams were 0-5 when giving up more than 200 yards rushing.
"The numbers don't lie," said senior linebacker Jahmal Hall. "Last year a lot of people just ran the ball down our throats, and we have to step up this year."
A key cog of the CSU defensive machine is the linebackers. Last season, the linebacking core received criticism for poor tackling and for not being physical, both diseases that plagued CSU.
With the losses of senior defensive linemen Patrick Goodpaster and Jon Simon to graduation, the linebackers will be called on to play a more prominent role. Last season, junior Luke Adkins led all linebackers with 57 tackles, but he was only fifth on the team. The top four tacklers were all defensive backs.
The Rams will return all three starters – Adkins, Hall and senior Courtney Jones – for the 2005 campaign, but spring has also given other players opportunities to impress coaches.
"We're getting some young guys a lot of reps," said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Stanard. "They're all battling at will.
Stanard said players such as Jeff Horneck, John Nichols, John Witt and Chris Davis have been impressive in practice.
Adkins, recovering from off-season surgery, has not practiced this spring. He is expected to be ready for fall two-a-days, however. All other healthy linebackers have participated in scrimmages and drills emphasizing physical play and stopping the run.
Jon Radford, a transfer from Northeast Oklahoma A & M junior college, is getting time behind Jones at middle linebacker.
"It's a big transition from (junior college) to Division-I football," Radford said. "I'm already playing my hardest. I see what I can do and do the best I can."
Stanard said that the coaching staff was trying not to overwhelm the linebackers, instead just making sure basic schemes were sound.
"We're just not putting a whole lot of stuff in," Stanard said. "We're making it very basic this spring to get good at the fundamentals across the board."
Run defense has also been an emphasis of daily drills. Hall said that the goal is to return CSU's defense to the smash-mouth, physical style it has been in the past.
"The past couple of years we've gotten away from our basics, who we are," Hall said. "It's time for us to play Colorado State defense."