Apr 052012
Authors: Kevin Lytle

At the halfway point of spring practices, fans of CSU football will get their first good look at the team in a scrimmage at Hughes Stadium Friday afternoon.

Coach Jim McElwain said he plans to run around 115-120 plays with all the units getting an equal amount of plays.

Here are three key areas to focus on when watching the newest edition of Ram football.

The 3-4 defense

The coaches have said that they will run “multiple” front defenses that have either three or four down linemen based on the offense, but players have all said that they are running the 3-4 (three down linemen, four linebackers).

That makes sense for the personnel available. CSU returns three starting linebackers in Mike Orakpo, James Skelton and Shaquil Barrett. Aaron Davis, possibly the fourth starter, played in 11 games last season as a freshman.

Broderick Sargent, a former defensive end, has been switched to linebacker as he recovers from knee surgery.

The biggest question is who will fill the middle of the line. Nordly Capi and C.J. James will man the ends, but there is no clear candidate to start at nose tackle.

How well CSU fills that hole and adapts to the new system will go a long way in determining the success the Rams have in McElwain’s first season.

Wide receivers

Probably the most often–criticized unit on last year’s team was the wide receivers. Of those still on the team, the wide receivers accounted for only 51 receptions, 705 yards and three touchdowns.

The focus in camp from the coaches has been teaching the small details. Wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted said that there is good talent in the unit; they just need better attention in getting out of cuts and running sharp routes to improve their productivity.

Whitted singled out senior Marquise Law as someone who has all the tools necessary to be a dominant player and has shown the leadership necessary to take on that role.

Another player to watch is Thomas Coffman. He had a knack for the big play last year, averaging almost 18 yards per catch, and is expected to be a bigger part of the offense this year.

How this group performs with quarterback Garrett Grayson will be vital to the Rams’ offense.

Chris Nwoke’s backup

There is no doubt who will be the starting running back for CSU. Chris Nwoke was second-team all-conference as a sophomore and rushed for 230 or more yards twice.

But the big question will be who will help ease the load on the junior. There appears to be four candidates, three of whom are currently in camp.

Donnell Alexander, Dorian Brown and Davon Riddick, all redshirt freshman, are fighting for the job right now. Brown is the highest touted of all, listed as one of the best backs in the nation in high school before tearing up his knee. He is now fully recovered and ready to try to earn carries.

The last candidate is a transfer from Texas A&M — Mister Jones, who went to high school in Littleton.

Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

The scrimmage
When: Friday, 3:45 p.m.
Where: Hughes Stadium
Price: Free to all fans

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