Apr 252010
 
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

For the first time in the Steve Fairchild era, CSU got the most important part of spring football right.

Playing a spring game.

The first two years were nothing more than glorified practices at Hughes Stadium, but playing a true Green and Gold Game, like most top programs across the country do, is a big step in the right direction for the Rams.

Obviously, the point of spring football isn’t to have one scrimmage in front of fans, it’s there to start shaking off rust from the offseason and giving a team a sense of what exactly they have to work with with new position battles due to graduating seniors.

On top of that, if you’re lucky enough to have signees who graduate high school in December, like CSU defensive end CJ James in 2009 and quarterback Pete Thomas this year, it gives them a jump start within your system to learn the play book and get acclimated with playing at the next level.

But the importance of a spring game cannot be overlooked. It’s a chance for new starters to feel the pressure of playing in front of fans, a quarterback to shed his unique jersey and see what it’s like to take a hit and perhaps the most important thing: finish the spring season having fun.

If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?

It’s not just me who recognizes the importance of this game, even if only 1,500 people showed up to watch. Senior linebacker and team captain Ricky Brewer wanted to make a point to the student body, so on Wednesday he contacted me to ask if he could write a letter in Friday’s Collegian encouraging the student body to come support the team.

This initiative by Brewer is unprecedented in the three years I’ve been at Colorado State. Not having Brewer’s leadership in 2009 on the field damaged the core strength of the CSU defense –– just hearing him on the field, helping to call audibles and act as a player-coach for younger guys shows his dedication to this Rams football program.

His letter was just another example of his determination.

Beyond having a good time, the spring game is a chance for well-balanced teams to face off and see who becomes a play maker.

While senior walk-on slot receiver Tyson Liggett stole the show with two touchdowns and the game-winning two-point conversion, he’s the guy majority of fans know and look forward to seeing in the fall.

What about the players who might be flying under the radar like redshirt freshman Joe Brown?

Even though Brown’s Green team lost 18-17, they did have the best offensive showing and “The Judge” was a big part of that.

The tight end/fullback hybrid had the best receiving day of any player, bringing down three catches for 52 yards, highlighted by a 25-yard snag that had him breaking tackles and dragging defenders. But these kind of plays are nothing new for the Wichita, Kan., native.

Brown was a stud at Bishop Carroll, playing the same role there as he is at CSU. Granted, he was aided, being thrown to by 4-star quarterback Blake Bell, the son of Ram great Mike Bell, watching Brown’s tape and talking to him on the phone over a year ago during his recruiting process, it was easy to see he had the tools to be a star.

Even if he is a Kansas State fan and mocks my Kansas Jayhawks hats, sometimes you just can’t hold it against a guy.

Leaving spring football, CSU only has one truly visible problem.

Despite the inexperienced offensive line, young quarterbacks and receivers who tend to be inconsistent, the biggest issue is having too many good tight ends.

Eric Peitz is clearly the best complete package on the end and moving Adam Seymore to defense helps pave the way for younger guys, but what about Cameron Moss, who is a great possession guy?

And in the fall when both Kivon Cartwright and Crockett Gillmore land on campus?

Redshirting is a quick fix, but this issue will eventually come to light in practice rather than theory.

Luckily for the Rams, this is a good problem to have. Without spring football, more specifically the Green and Gold Game, pressing issues like this, or having two capable freshman quarterbacks, might never have come to light.

Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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