If youâ€™re a Colorado State football fan, thereâ€™s no way around it. The 2009 season was a total disaster. Iâ€™m not talking an â€œOh, basketball lost again, weâ€™re used to that,â€ disaster. I mean a full-on rager.
One year removed from the first bowl victory in seven years, the Rams started off hot with three consecutive wins and things were looking strong.
You know the rest.
Rashaun Greer dropped passes. Tyson Liggett surprised, Air Force dressed up as a passing team on Halloween and then there was that whole New Mexico embarrassment.
It still remains a mystery why Ryan Gardnerâ€™s career was completely wasted and can someone tell me why the play selection the second half of the season turned in the opposite direction of Grant Stuckerâ€™s strengths (running and throwing deep)?
Despite all that, CSU was able to land a top 60 recruiting class. You know how much that effects the 2010 season? Little to not at all.
So let us work with what we already have to turn last yearâ€™s sophomore slump into the comeback of the year (cue the Fall Out Boy).
Much like Gardnerâ€™s lack of playing time last season, Hickman is another player who canâ€™t seem to find the field as much as one might expect. In my personal opinion, heâ€™s one of, if not the best, wide receivers the Rams have on roster. You could argue that my analysis is incorrect, but on several occasions Fairchild has said that Hickman could play just about anywhere in the country, and CSU was lucky to land him three years ago out of junior college.
Itâ€™s now Hickmanâ€™s final year of eligibility, so the clock is ticking. Heâ€™s finally at full strength health wise â€“â€“ assuming that awkward landing on his shoulder Sunday didnâ€™t do too much harm â€“â€“ so why not give him a chance?
Best linebackers in the MWC
One of the biggest blows the Rams took last year on defense was Ricky Brewer sitting the entire 2009 campaign due to suspension for reasons that were never officially released. I donâ€™t know what Rick did, Iâ€™m sure it was dumb, but I dare anyone, including myself, to say theyâ€™ve never done anything they regretted. The past is gone.
Now Brewer is back to fill the outside linebacker spot opposite of Myke Sisson. Add a dose of Alex Williams and Chris Gipson alternating at Mike linebacker (or both in a 3-4 set), and thatâ€™s going to be hard to run against.
This teamâ€™s biggest strength is its linebacker corps. Strong and versatile, perhaps the only schools who might challenge the Rams for having the best linebackers in the conference would come from the Beehive State â€“â€“ but I doubt BYU or Utah can stack up.
Quarterbacks still need work
Third year of the Fairchild era, and the quarterback spot is virtually the same song as the previous two with one exception â€“â€“ there are more than two kids competing to start.
Now, I agree that the spring isnâ€™t the time to name a starter, but it would be nice to have a general idea. Iâ€™ve attended both practices that have been open to the media and T.J. Borcky, Nico Ranieri and Pete Thomas have all taken significant snaps with the so-called â€œfirst team offense.â€ And just as each has taken snaps with the firsts, so have they with the seconds and thirds.
Why? Because no one looks consistent. No one can connect with a wide receiver in stride on a fade route, and no one can hit a guy on a 10- to 15-yard sideline pattern in the chest with any consistency.
Did I say â€œno oneâ€ enough in that last paragraph?
Itâ€™s way too early to have this be a big concern. There have only been three practices to knock off rust, but these guys still need work.
I realize everyone is an all-star when youâ€™re just wearing shorts and helmets, but UCLA transfer Raymond Carter looks like a combination of Barry Sanders and Darren McFadden with his ability to shift from east to west and run you over.
Safe to say this position battle has gone Hollywood.
Fun in the sun
I hate to finish this column off with this, but it has to be said. The main element of spring practice thus far that gives me hope for CSU football in 2010 is that these guys are having fun. Not just, â€œOh yea, I like football, fun times, yadda yadda â€¦â€ but actual fun. These guys seem to be having the time of their lives out there right now and thatâ€™s not something that was apparent last spring or in 2008.
Even Fairchild, who outside of press conferences you donâ€™t see smile much, has been laughing and walking around with a big grin on his face ÂÂâ€“â€“ÂÂ not all the time, but enough to notice.
To me, that says, â€œHey, weâ€™re doing this right. There might be issues, but weâ€™re quickly fixing them. This is how CSU football is meant to be.â€
Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.