CSU’s running game destroyed CU in the red zone last year as Cecil Sapp scored twice and Bradlee Van Pelt scored the winning touchdown on a 23-yard run. Van Pelt rushed for 819 yards last year and counts on running as an important part, if not the most important part of his arsenal. If Van Pelt can keep CU’s defense guessing as a true threat throwing and running, he should keep them off-balance enough to be successful.
The vacancy left by Sapp, who was second in scoring and total offense for the team last year, will be hard to fill. Even so, the Rams’ backfield looks promising with the acquisition of Marcus Houston and returning running backs Rahsaan Sanders and Tristan Walker.
Houston, one of the finest performers in state history during high school, accumulated 513 career-rushing yards as a Buffalo and has rushed for 124 yards combined against CSU in two previous Rocky Mountain Showdowns. If Houston can stay healthy and play well against the Big 12’s Buffs, he will prove to every defense that he is a force to be reckoned with.
Sanders, the lone senior running back, ran for 311 yards last season and provides the experience that the Rams need. Though injured in 2001, he has put up consistent numbers since his first year and has 1,303 total rushing yards. Sanders has delivered in the past and, given the opportunity to carry the ball more often, he could become a pivotal part of the offense.
The freshman Walker rounds out the backfield rotation and could provide the surprise attack against CU. He only played in one game last year, rushing for 24 yards on four carries, but was considered one of the best running backs in the country and attracted national attention during high school in California.
Even though there are no returning starters except Van Pelt to run the ball, the threesome is not lacking the experience to deliver in pressure situations.
Depth is an issue, but with four starters returning from 2002, including center Mark Dreyer who is a preseason candidate for the Dave Rimington Trophy, which is presented to the nation’s most outstanding center. Joining Dreyer on the line are returning starters Albert Bimper, Michael Brisiel and Erik Pears. Seniors Zeke Hacker and Jamie Amicarella round out the slim depth chart. According to co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach John Benton the line is strong and experienced and will be the key to the Rams season and their rushing attack.