It’s the first day of school and that means new classes, new books and new professors, but most importantly a new football season.
The Rams will kick off another season with a game against Front Range rivals the Colorado Buffaloes Saturday at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium at 5:45 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN who has CSU ranked No. 25 in the country.
The Collegian will highlight some key players for the Rams every day leading up to the game. Today focuses on that all-important position, the quarterback.
Taking the snaps for CSU is returning quarterback and last year’s Mountain West Conference offensive player of the year Bradlee Van Pelt. Van Pelt has started the last 27 games spanning two seasons and has a 16-7 record in that time.
The last time that the Rams had a quarterback with that much experience was in 1997 when Moses Moreno led the team to an 11-2 season, the only 11-win season in the school’s history. The players know this and are looking forward to playing this season under Van Pelt’s leadership.
“If you look at history we always have a big year with a returning quarterback,” senior wide receiver Chris Pittman said. “The big game is definitely the Colorado game; it sets the tone for the whole season.”
Last season, Van Pelt broke his own record for rushing by a quarterback picking up 819 yards rushing and scoring 11 rushing touchdowns. He also completed 150 of his 287 passes for 2073 yards and 10 touchdowns.
If there is a weakness in his game it is his passing. He has a strong arm but his accuracy needs to be improved. Last season showed a vast improvement in that area than his first with the Rams and Van Pelt believes he is continuing to improve.
“I think that this year I’m going to show people that I can pass,” Van Pelt said. “I have been working on it in the off season but I’m not going to change how I play the game.”
There may be a good reason that Van Pelt isn’t going to change his game. In last year’s game against Colorado, Van Pelt broke out for a 23-yard, game-winning touchdown run with less than seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
This year his running game will be helped by a veteran offensive line but his passing game will be helped by wide receivers like Pittman and tight ends like junior Joel Dreessen.
Who’s Van Pelt throwing to?
Pittman led all Rams with 60 receptions and 807 yards, averaging 57.6 yards per game. Dreessen is another valuable weapon in Van Pelt’s arsenal; last year he racked up 340 yards on 29 catches and scored twice.
“It’s great playing with (Van Pelt),” Dreessen said. “He’s such a fiery guy and we all know what he is capable of doing.”
These players have helped move the ball down the field but when it comes to end zone production nobody beats sophomore tight end Matt Bartz. The young tight end led the team in 2002 with four touchdown receptions on just eight catches.
The X factor this year will be how successful senior Dexter Wynn can be at the wide receiver position. Wynn was sixth in the nation on kick returns last year and also plays cornerback.
With his success in those positions and his explosive speed Rams coach Sonny Lubick will be looking to give him 10-15 plays a game on offense. If he can handle the workload of playing offense, defense and special teams, Wynn could prove to be a deadly target for Van Pelt.
“I’m glad Wynn’s going to be playing offense,” Van Pelt said. “I think his play making ability is incredible and he’s got some great moves.”
The bottom line
Those receivers will work with Van Pelt to try and win the Rams’ fourth Rocky Mountain Showdown in five years but the quarterback will have to take control of the game.
Teammates have said Van Pelt will need to display some of the leadership and creativity that has made him a household name around the country.