After installing a new off-season workout program in late January, new CSU football coach Steve Fairchild and his staff will get to evaluate the Rams on the football field for the first time this afternoon when they begin spring football practice at 3:30.
The team will practice Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays on the fields south of Moby Arena for the next month leading up to the annual spring game on April 19.
And there’s sure to be plenty of competition.
An unofficial depth chart was released two weeks ago, but coaches say they will use it only as a starting point.
“Obviously we want to get across to the staff that we want to establish some competition,” Fairchild said at a press conference Monday. “There’s going to be a way and a tempo that we expect in the practice. We obviously won’t get that done all in one day. (But) we’ll try to establish that starting (today).”
Of the 22 starters on offense and defense to be determined, one of the most intriguing competitions will be at running back, where seven players are listed in the spring practice media guide.
Overseeing the running backs will be first-year coach Anthoney Hill, who returns to CSU after guiding the Rams to 10-2 record and a No. 16 national ranking in 1994 as a senior quarterback.
“We’ve got a lot of bodies and few opportunities for them to get them in there, so we’re gonna have our work cut out for us trying to get them in there,” said Hill, who spent last fall as a head coach at a high school in San Diego, Calif. “They know that it’s an open competition. Guys that put in the work and know their responsibility and can execute it are going to be the ones out in the field.”
Senior Gartrell Johnson rushed for 126.1 yards per game in seven games as a starter last season and is listed first. Fellow seniors Kyle Bell and Michael Myers have both enjoyed success in the Rams’ backfield and will give Johnson more than enough competition. Sophomore John Mosure and junior Alex Square could also be in the mix.
“I hope those guys just go play. I won’t put any more added pressure on them than there already is to play Division-I college football – just know your assignments and get the job done, that’s the bottom line,” Hill said.
Though he has never been a running backs coach before, Hill feels he’ll be just fine – noting that coaches on all levels have never played the positions they coach. In fact, the 36-year-old Hill said he was willing to coach just about any position when he was hired as Fairchild’s final assistant at the end of January.
“It was pretty wild because I had been told by coach Fairchild that I didn’t have the job initially . a week later coach Fairchild called me up and said it’s still open asked if would be interested,” Hill said. “I said, ‘coach, I’ll coach field goal kickers if you let me. I’m all over it.’ It worked out for me. I guess everything happens for a reason.”
The opening was created when Curtis Modkins left to coach for the Kansas City Chiefs less than two weeks after being named the offensive coordinator.
On the defensive side of the ball, the cornerback position figures to be one of the more interesting ones this spring, where three out of the top four players listed on the unofficial depth chart are freshmen. But as mentioned, that is likely to change in the next month.
New defensive coordinator Larry Kerry, who returns to CSU after coaching the Rams’ defense from 1993-2002, said he is pleased about the effort and excitement he has seen from his players thus far, but that he will wait to make any kind of an evaluation.
“Until you actually get out there and practice and put them in situations where you see how they do, in the game itself, it’s hard to give an evaluation. I’d rather wait until the end of spring football to do that,” Kerr said.
Sports editor Sean Star can be reached at email@example.com.