Spring means a number of different things to Coloradans – a chance to dust off the bike stored in the garage, play some golf, or go running in 75 degree days that start with an inch of snow on the ground.
For the CSU football program, spring means the first chance to get back to what football players do best – namely, knocking other football players down.
In front of crowd of fans large enough to require a handful of yellow-jacketed event staff, next year’s football team got its first taste of full-contact over the weekend. The team, which began spring camp with a shorts and helmets light practice last Tuesday, was out in full gear on Saturday for a brief scrimmage and some long-anticipated hitting drills.
Senior middle-linebacker Jeff Horinek said that he was excited to get back to the field, and that the scrimmage was a good way to get everyone excited in practice.
“It felt good, usually we always wait (for full contact practice),” Horinek said. “It was nice. As soon as we get our pads on, people start getting antsy. They let us go ahead and hit.”
The scrimmage bounced between being disorganized (jumbled sets and impromptu teaching timeouts) to official (complete with a team of referees and a scoreboard tracking winning plays for the offense and defense alike).
Without a third-down or goal-line offense in place yet, the scrimmage ran just 28 plays, ending in a 14-14 offense-versus-defense tie.
The team stuck pretty rigidly to the previously released depth-chart, without many surprises. For the positions in the hottest water this spring, little was settled on Saturday.
Billy Farris is still running the first team offense at quarterback, with junior Grant Stucker backing him up. Matt Yemm seemed to move up a bit on the wide receiver chart, running with the first group alongside Dion Morton and Rashaun Greer.
On the defensive side, redshirt freshman Brandon Owens and junior Nick Oppenneer started at corner. Still, according to first-year coach Steve Fairchild, all races at all positions remain “wide open.”
Fairchild said after practice that he was pleased with the scrimmage and the opportunity to see the team play at full speed.
“I like the way we’re working,” Fairchild said. Of the quarterback situation, he added, “we’ll have a good running game to help our guy out. I’m confident we’ll develop a quarterback.”
The good running game made its mark Saturday, with seniors Gartrell Johnson, Kyle Bell, Michael Myers and sophomore John Mosure all finding seams in the defense for big gains. Bell, who punctuated one of his runs by steamrolling a defender for an extra two yards to the cheers of his teammates and fans, said after that he was feeling good this year and expected the competition this spring to be fierce.
“It felt good to go live . it’s good to get out and play some real football. To hit and get that contact felt good,” Bell said. “There’s a lot of things we need to clean up before the spring game, but that’s kind of a given. I thought the energy was good and we got a lot done.”
The team has 10 practices over the next three weeks before the annual spring game on Saturday, April 19.
All practices are open to the public. The team’s next scheduled practice is Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. on the fields south of Moby Arena.
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.