In football, it all starts up front, or so they say.
Nobody knows that better than the members of last year’s CSU football team, whose ineffective running game forced the team into a one-dimensional offensive approach and just four wins last season.
Fortunately for the Rams, things seem to be shaping up nicely for this year’s offensive line. Given the 2.5 yards-per-carry average (for a league-worst 76.5 yards per game) and 41 sacks allowed last year, the team has very few places to go but up.
To help bring the line back to where they need to be this off-season, coach Sonny Lubick rehired Dave Lay to be his co-offensive coordinator and line coach. Lay returns to CSU for the third time, having served as the offensive line coach from 1982-1985 and as offensive coordinator under coach Lubick from 1993-1996.
An Arizona native, Lay brings experience and a history of success to the program, having coached the back-to-back conference champion Rams in 1994 and 1995. This year’s co-offensive coordinator job is the 10th stop in a career that spans more than 40 years as a football coach for Lay.
“He’s pretty steady,” Lubick said of Lay. “There is no grey area. There is no in between. You block and knock them off the ball or you don’t get it done.”
Junior tackle Dane Stratton agreed with coach Lubick’s analysis of Lay, saying that the way that the preseason camp has been run so far will only help to make the team better on game day.
“He’s a stern guy. He wants things done right, down to the littlest thing. Because if the little things are right, the big things will be even better,” Stratton said.
In his combined eight years at CSU, Lay has coached some of the greatest offensive lines to come through the program. From 1993-96 he had four players selected to the first-team all-conference list.
Lay said it is difficult to compare his current team with the teams of the past, but that he feels like this year’s squad has progressed well throughout camp.
“They’re coming along,” Lay said. “They’re working like hell to be physical. They are young, but we are not going to use that as an excuse.”
Senior center Nick Allotta, one of the most experienced members of the offensive line with 20 starts under his belt, said he thinks things are starting to come together for the team.
“We’re not there yet, but people are starting to rise to the top, they are showing what they can do,” Allotta said.
Coach Lay said there is no timeline for choosing a starting five, so long as the team is ready to go by Sept. 1 for the Rocky Mountain Showdown.
“They are good kids, they work hard to get better every day,” Lay said.
Still, fans and members of the program have approached the progress thus far with a certain guarded optimism. If there is anything that last season taught Ram fans, it’s that things can fall apart very quickly.
“I think they are going to be good for us,” Lubick said. “They just have so much room for improvement.”
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at email@example.com.
By the numbers
0- number 100-yard rushing games by the CSU running backs last year
2.5- yards-per-carry for the Rams last year, ranked 113 out of 119 teams nationally.
3- times Lay has been hired as a CSU coach
4- All-conference offensive linemen coached by Lay
5- Bowl games Lay has coached in