The CSU football team has just completed the worst season in the 11-year history of the Mountain West Conference. After starting 3-0, the Rams lost their final nine games of the season, which included eight against league foes, making them only the second school to go winless against MWC opponents in a single season as Wyoming suffered the same fate in 2000 and 2001.
What makes CSU’s performance (or would it be lack thereof?) worse than their Border War rival’s? During the first six years of the MWC there were only eight universities as TCU didn’t join until the 2005 season; therefore, the Pokes were only 0-7 in conference play compared to the 0-8 by the Rams.
Even though I surely turned away about half of my hard working student audience here at Colorado State known as the football team with my negative lead to this column, I feel like making some way too early projections and analysis for the 2010 season.
Note to the ignorant: My remark about the football team being hard working was not sarcastic. Even with the 3-9 record, those young men are the hardest working people on campus. The chips just didn’t fall favorably.
So without further adieu, I give you my four premature keys to CSU football making it back to a bowl game in 2010:
Running backs galore
I don’t think there’s any question that heading into next season, Colorado State has the best and deepest running back corps in the Mountain West Conference. John Mosure seems to be the hardest working player on this team — no player carries the football with more force than Mosure. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in pure will.
Mosure and Leonard Mason will both be seniors next season. Combined, they had 1,406 yards nine touchdowns rushing in 2009 (766, 2 and 650, 7, respectively).
Lou Greenwood, who will be a sophomore in 2010, is guaranteed to be a star in this league. This season, he had 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns to go along with 221 yards and two scores on the receiving end of things.
Add these three with the bruiser, who is Chris Nwoke and my pick to be number one on the depth chart next year, UCLA transfer Raymond Carter, things are looking strong.
A consistent quarterback
During the first five games of the season Grant Stucker was shaping up to be a great MWC quarterback. It wasn’t until the Utah game when things started to go downhill. After that we never saw good quarterback play from anyone until Jon Eastman’s game against Wyoming in the Border War.
A successful offense needs a consistent quarterback. He doesn’t have to be the greatest, but as a coach, you need to have an idea what you’re going to get on a regular basis from under center.
I know a lot of people want redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri to start next year, mainly because of the promise a four-year starting quarterback can bring to a program. But the truth is, that might not be the best option for next season.
Jon Eastman made a great case from himself against Wyoming and assuming T.J. Borcky makes the transition back to quarterback in the spring, it’s going to be a tight battle between the two of them. If Ranieri wins the starting job, power to him, but picks are between Eastman and Borcky for the time being.
Colorado State was blessed with a strong and experienced offensive line during the 2010 season. The issue now: four of the five starters up front will be graduating either in December or May.
That means it’s up to guys like Mark Starr, Paul Madsen, Connor Smith, Jake Gdowski and others to pave the way. The Rams need production from their front five next year.
Welcome back, Mr. Brewer
The CSU defense had its fair share of struggles this season, especially in conference play. It didn’t help matters when Ricky Brewer, ranked second on the team in tackles in 2008, was suspended last off-season. In his place Michael Kawulok was called to step up and did so, but suffered a season-ending injury during the loss against San Diego State.
I really feel like Kawulok proved himself worthy of a starting job for this CSU team, and Klint Kubiak’s graduation opens up things for a new starter at strong safety in 2010. At 6-foot-2, 211 pounds, a hard hitter and a smart ball player, I think Brewer could be a prime candidate for the job and could really complement Elijah-Blu Smith in the secondary.
So, there you have it. My four keys to success next season. Too bad we’ll have to wait until spring to see whether or not they start to go into effect.