While the Colorado State Rams offense may have their share of immaturity and unanswered questions, the defensive side of the ball looks as solid as any time during the Steve Fairchild era.
Both CSU coaches and players admitted their excitement over having so much depth and maturity on defense. Ricky Brewer, a linebacker, said the Ramsâ€™ defense is able to do more things because of their experience, using the linebacking corps as an example.
â€œItâ€™s less learning and more just execution at this point for the first team defense and the second team,â€ the senior said after a Saturday morning practice at Hughes Stadium. â€œWeâ€™ve got guys like James Skelton and Davis Burl, guys who stepped up last year when we had injuries. Weâ€™ve got experience all the way down to the third team, and when you have depth like that, offenses are going to be in trouble.â€
Nine of the 11 anticipated CSU defensive starters for the upcoming season have had significant playing time. Headlining what appears to be a formidable unit stands the Ramsâ€™ linebackers, including seniors Alex Williams and Brewer who return to the field after a one year suspension, and junior Mychal Sisson.
CSU defensive coordinator Larry Kerr explained that the defenseâ€™s experience has already allowed him to implement schemes he would have been hesitant to try in previous seasons.
â€œWeâ€™ve actually done a lot of things and experimenting with some new things weâ€™re trying to take a look at,â€ Kerr said. â€œSometimes when youâ€™re experimenting, you have to keep doing it and keep doing it until you get it right, but with some of the veteran guys, I feel like I can do a couple of those things.â€
Safety and two-year starter Elijah-Blu Smith said that having so much defensive experience will ultimately benefit the Rams offense, a group with relatively little experience at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line. The junior said that the better the defense, the more they can help the offense.
â€œWe want to give them maximum reps just to help the young guys learn,â€ Smith said. â€œWe definitely want to go out and give it our hardest every time just so they can get a sense of how the game is going to be and how it is playing in college in general.â€
Working hard Early
The Rams had their longest and most intense practice of the spring season Saturday morning at Hughes Stadium.
Head coach Steve Fairchild estimated the Rams ran 230 plays Saturday, the most during his three-year stint as head coach. The former CSU quarterback said that the offense especially needs that many reps due to their inexperience.
â€œWe need to work with our line and quarterbacks, obviously, given how young we are on offense,â€ Fairchild said. â€œThere is a lot of good work. Weâ€™re still sloppy, which is to be expected, but there was a lot of good work done out there.â€
True freshman Pete Thomas took the majority of reps at quarterback during the nearly three-hour long practice. T.J. Borcky, usually the first team quarterback, split time between quarterback and wide receiver Saturday.
Fairchild explained heâ€™s just looking to see where the junior can best benefit the team.
â€œT.J. (Borcky) might be our best quarterback, but we might need him at receiver too,â€ he said. â€œWe need to work that dilemma out so to speak. Heâ€™d been at quarterback most the time. Today we just decided to put him at wide receiver. Heâ€™ll be back at quarterback and weâ€™ll do this all spring long.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.