It’s definitely springtime on CSU’s campus. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping – the pads are crunching.
Ram football took to the practice fields last week to prepare for the 2006 season that starts on Sept. 2 against Weber State. After refining their fundamentals with individual drills, the team started seeing some live action on the field this week that will reach its peak with a situational scrimmage scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday.
The team finished Wednesday’s practice early and will not practice today – a little incentive for the enthusiasm they’ve shown.
“It was a good practice today,” said head coach Sonny Lubick. “I know the kids probably wanted to scrimmage but we do enough banging around during the other stuff. You see a few of the guys are limping. We don’t have to go out and knock the hell out of them.”
While it may not be what Lubick wants, knocking the hell out of each other seems to be something the Rams have gotten pretty good at. Senior safety Ben Stratton is still recovering from a preseason knee injury that prevented him from seeing a single snap last season. Cornerbacks Darryl Williams (shoulder) and Robert Herbert (leg) are both watching from the sidelines this spring, as well as Nnamdi Oheari (leg) who decided to move back to his original position at cornerback after seeing limited carries in the backfield last year as a halfback.
“It’s tough without them out there because they’re all great players,” said safety Klint Kubiak about his injured teammates. “But I think they’ll flow right back in when they get back.”
Even with the majority of its veterans sidelined from injury, the youthful secondary has been more than just young this spring. Freshmen Kubiak and Mike Pagnotta have approached the spring practices as upperclassman, not missing a step in the secondary.
“Other guys are getting real comfortable in the defense, they’re stepping right in,” Kubiak said. “The coaches are giving me a great opportunity and I’m not going to give it up. “I’m not nervous. I’m excited more than anything.”
While the defense has been hit hard with injury, the offense will try to recover from graduation. The offensive line said goodbye to three starters in Albert Bimper, Brandon Alconcel and Mike Brisiel. Seniors Clint Oldenburg and Josh Day will be expected to lead the new offensive line that will feature Nick Allotta and Dane Stratton, who both saw time last year, in more prominent roles.
The most significant loss the offense will suffer is the graduation of quarterback Justin Holland and wide receiver David Andersen, a tandem that has tormented Mountain West Conference defenses for the past two years.
Junior Caleb Hanie is the frontrunner to succeed Holland for quarterback position. After starting five games for the injured Holland as a freshman, Hanie knows a thing or two about leading a team already.
“I’m really trying to get better and establish myself as a leader,” Hanie said. “You got to go hard on every play and earn the guys’ respect. Then you can try to start to do it vocally. I’m working into that role. Slowly but surely.” The Rams now look forward to their time off today before going back at it on Friday. Lubick said that this day off has been well earned.
“We’ve had good practices, they’re playing hard,” said Lubick. “We’ve got to throw them a bone once in a while.
Brett Okamoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.