The best recruiting class in CSU history has officially been completed. Following National Signing Day last Wednesday, the Rams inked the No. 58 recruiting class in the nation, fourth in the Mountain West Conference and first along the Front Range (eight spots ahead of CU-Boulder).
28 players in all (including grayshirt Mike Orakpo, who signed with CSU last year, but did not join the team last fall); the future looks bright for football at Hughes Stadium. Keyword: future.
Despite this outstanding recruiting class, itâ€™s important for fans to not get ahead of themselves with expectations for freshmen. While it may be the best class in history, thatâ€™s all based off of their accomplishments while at the high school level. These young men have proven nothing yet as college football players and it isnâ€™t fair to expect the Rams to finish in the top three of the MWC standings in 2010.
Itâ€™s a building process Steve Fairchild and his assistants have started at CSU, and this recruiting class will help build on the foundation that the 2009 class laid last season.
As promised last week, itâ€™s time for me to take a look at what defensive stars are coming to CSU this summer and what impact they might have.
I think we should look at corners and safeties first since theyâ€™ll most likely be the ones expected to play the earliest.
This spring, the Rams will start evaluating current talent to replace strong safety Klint Kubiak and cornerback Nick Oppenneer. While I feel that Ricky Brewer should undoubtedly be the main candidate at SS, something in my gut says heâ€™ll be back at linebacker next fall.
So what two incoming freshmen deserve the most attention once camp starts? I have to put my money on Mike Orakpo and Shaq Bell.
Orakpo is already enrolled and will begin making his mark in spring camp. He definitely fits the linebacker/safety hybrid mold at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and runs a 4.4 forty. While itâ€™s unclear exactly which position heâ€™ll play (current CSU linebacker Myke Sisson was a high school safety), Iâ€™d like to see what he can do at strong safety. Heâ€™s a strong guy with a 515 squat and 375 bench, but it would be nice to see him around 215 pounds.
And yes, in case his last name sounds familiar, heâ€™s the younger brother of former Texas Longhorn All-American and current Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo. But letâ€™s donâ€™t judge him on that, we should give him the courtesy to make his own mark as a Ram.
Bell is a kid who looks like he could play early at either cornerback or nickelback, especially with so much instability shown by Brandon Owens the past two years.
Hailing from Osceola High School in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, the same school that produced current CSU starting cornerback Momo Thomas, Bell looks like a steal of a prospect. Ranked as the No. 21 prospect in Central Florida by the Orlando Sentinel, Bellâ€™s a tall, physical corner at 5-foot-11. Heâ€™s not afraid to jam receivers at the line.
Charles Favors and Marquis Hood are two linebackers who were teammates at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, the same place that gave Ram fans redshirt freshman quarterback Nico Raneri. Theyâ€™re a deadly duo at the inside and outside spots, combing for 235 tackles as seniors.
Favors, who also held an offer from Louisville, broke the Dr. Phillips career tackle record during the first game of 2009. I would not be surprised if he saw some playing time in 2010, but he has tough competition in front of him in Alex Williams and Chris Gipson.
My favorite linebacker, though, is Eric Niederberger from Grass Valley, Calif. A three-star recruit, Iâ€™ve never (I mean never) seen a high school prospect with such great pursuit as Niederberger does. He weighs around 215 pounds and still has solid 4.5 speed.
In his highlight tape, there is one play where the opposing running back breaks a few tackles and gets into space in what looks to be a sure touchdown, and Niederberger comes from 30 yards (yes, 30 yards) behind and makes the tackle.
His pursuit is amazing and he refuses to give up on a play, and as a coach, thatâ€™s exactly what you want in a player.
Another point of emphasis the Rams addressed in this recruiting class was the defensive line, both tackles and ends, by signing four to LOIâ€™s.
The marquee name in this class is John Froland from Washington. Froland, a 6-foot-5, 250 pound defensive tackle, originally committed to Northwestern before switching to Colorado State two weeks prior to National Signing Day.
The No. 60 defensive tackle in the class of 2010, he was a borderline four-star recruit, whoâ€™s very physical on the defensive interior. His main drawback is his speed, running a five second forty-yard dash. Still, even though he isnâ€™t the fastest guy, he shows a good burst off the line, pushing offensive linemen backwards. He should make an early impact fighting for a DT spot opened by James Moreheadâ€™s graduation.
Trevor Murphy is another three-star defensive tackle in this class, but he earned his Rivals Rating as an offensive lineman. What Iâ€™ve seen from his defensive film hasnâ€™t been too impressive.
Last, but not least, is the defensive end positions, mainly Nordly Capi.
Despite being one of the last players to verbally commit, Capi was officially the first Ram to fax in his Letter of Intent Wednesday. He was a player we didnâ€™t know too much about before receiving word he pledged to the Rams, but after sending in his tape to be evaluated, he earned a three-star rating.
Capi is 6-foot-2, 220 pounds with a 4.72 forty. He looks like he could be a valuable player at defensive end with his strength, as heâ€™s able to do 20 reps with his maximum bench of 320 pounds.
As a senior in 2009 at Ocoee High School in Florida, he recorded 87 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 15 sacks.
This could be the guy Ram fans have been waiting for to dominate their defensive line, but as I said before, only time will tell. Weâ€™ll see how things pan out in a couple of years.
Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens is a recruiting analyst for Gold and Green News of the Rivals.com Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.