Fifteen starters will return to the football field for the Rams this year, but they are looking to some younger players to help carry the load. Twenty-six redshirt freshmen joined the CSU squad this season. They come from as far away as Anchorage, Ala. and as close as Fort Lupton, Colo.
There are All-State, All-Conference, All-League, All-District and All-American players, but they are all Rams now.
The college football world awaits them and it can be a tough show. The talent gap is smaller than in high school and these players have to earn everything this year. They have to earn their spot on the team, their teammates’ respect and then begin trying to earn a spot on the field.
“It is definitely a different level. It’s fun, but kind of a realization of where you are at and what your potential could be,” said freshman lineman Nick Allotta after practice on Tuesday. “To see the guys in front of you and learn from them, I love it.”
Freshman cornerback Liddon Levine looks to have earned his spot as a starter for the Rams this year. He has journeyed from Skyline High School in Oakland, Calif. to play at CSU. Levine made 56 tackles, 11 for loss, with five interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two sacks his senior year. He also competed in track and field where he finished second on the team in the 100-meter and 200-meter and third in the 400-meter run.
“Of course there is going to be a lot of pressure, trying to step up being a redshirt freshman,” Levine said. “But you got to step up to the opportunity.”
While they are making the transition to college football, the freshmen will not be left on the field alone. They have their teammates and upperclassmen to look to for leadership and help, both on and off the field. Players like Joel Dreessen, Ben Stratton, Justin Holland and David Anderson, just to name a few, are examples of players who have walked the field before.
“I look to Ben Stratton and Justin Holland, those are two of the leaders, the veterans, that have played for a while and who help me with what I do,” Levine said.
The older players on the squad seem very comfortable with the younger guys who just arrived this year. They have faith in their teammates and the plays the younger guys will have to make and the positions where they will make them.
“I am very comfortable with the guys we have back there,” said senior safety Adam Lancisero. “I have a high level of confidence in my teammates.”
The players just finishing two-a-day practices this past week and began regular season practices with the beginning of class on Monday. Adjustments have been key for these young players in their first two weeks of practice. They must get familiar with the offensive and defensive scheme and also prepare for the University of Colorado-Boulder on Sept. 4. With the preparation, comes a certain comfort level with which the players will also be building with their teammates and within the system.
“I don’t think I myself was doing good at first,” said Levine when asked about two-a-days. “But now I feel more relaxed and I am getting more rest so I think I can compete better.”