The bad news for football fans: The season is still four months off.
However, the CSU football team held its first organized scrimmage of the spring practice session Saturday morning on the practice fields south of Moby Arena, giving fans and coaches a glimpse of what the team may look like next season.
Played at full intensity – the game was complete with real Mountain West Conference referees and a play clock – coaches and players agreed on one thing about the day.
"The defense had the best (performance) of the day," said head coach Sonny Lubick. "Defensively, today was the best we've shown all spring."
The one highlight for the offense was the running of Kyle Bell. The sophomore said the defense's play made it hard for the offense to run.
"They came out really fired up. We couldn't get a whole lot going early on," Bell said. "You have to give them credit, that was their focus. Offensively, we just have to meet them in the middle and get ready to play."
Offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said the defense play had the offense on its heels early on.
"They came at us quickly," Hammerschmidt said. "The running backs didn't have a ton of room to run."
Hammerschmidt also said the quarterbacks needed to be protected better and make better reads to receivers. Unofficially, the CSU defense racked up four sacks on the day.
However, the play of Bell, who has asserted himself as a challenger for the starting running back position next fall, was the highlight for the offense on the day. However, Bell felt his performance didn't separate him from the rest of the pack competing for the starting running back position, which includes Jimmy Green and Gartrell Johnson.
"We're kind of down to just the three of us working," Bell said. "We've been competing like heck all spring, but we're not really focused on who's climbing to the top. We're all on this team together."
Lubick praised the running game and the run defense, two areas the Rams struggled with last season and were determined to improve on in the spring. He pointed out the play of the linebackers, especially the play of senior Jahmal Hall and junior Jon Radford.
"I think the linebackers are tackling a lot better," Lubick said. "I saw a lot of positive parts. There was a lot of good, hard hitting."
The hitting and physical play – two points of emphasis for CSU this spring – were present on the field. Lubick praised a variety of young defensive linemen for their performance.
"Jessie Nading is playing very well. He's going to be good for us," Lubick said.
The play of Erik Sandie and Matt Rupp, both redshirt freshmen, also pleased Lubick.
"They're going up against 300-pound linemen, and they're playing very well," Lubick said. "It's all about mental confidence. Sandie's playing a lot better, and Jessie is an all-different player now."
However, the success of the defense meant the offense had under-performed. Still, Lubick expressed confidence in the offense.
"I would like to think that the offensive line, on paper we should be as strong as any offense line in the conference," Lubick said.
Hammerschmidt agreed and praised the play of Bell and redshirt freshman quarterback Billy Farris, as well as the development of some younger offensive linemen. The Rams are without injured starting senior tackle Michael Brisiel for the remainder of spring practices.
NOTES: Junior Terrance Carter, a projected starter on the defensive line next year, sat out Saturday's practice with an injury to his left ankle. He will miss the rest of spring while wearing a hard cast over it … Senior tight end Matt Bartz missed Saturday's practice, still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season. He will be limited in the rest of spring practices … The Rams remained relatively injury-free during the day, with only offensive lineman Brandon Alconcel getting injured late in the practice. He was carted off the practice field and into the training room in Moby. The extent of his injury was not known … The Green and Gold Game, the official end to spring practices, will be held this Saturday at French Field, just outside of Rocky Mountain High School at the corner of Shields and Swallow streets. Game time is set at 11 a.m., and admission is free. Fans will only be allowed on the stadium's west side.