The Pete Thomas era is officially underway at Colorado State.
Rams coach Steve Fairchild announced on Aug. 16 that the 6-foot-5, true freshman will be the starter for the upcoming 2010 season, which begins Sept. 4 against CU-Boulder.
Thomas, a native of El Cajon, Calif., was the Ramsâ€™ most highly touted recruit this offseason.
In his final two years at Valhalla High School, Thomas torched opposing defenses for 64 total touchdowns while throwing just 11 interceptions. His prep success earned him a four-star rating by Rivals.com, making him the Ramsâ€™ highest-rated recruit since fullback Tristan Walker in 2002.
Now that the job formally belongs to him, Thomas is intent on using the next 10 days to get the Rams in a position to win.
â€œIâ€™ve got to start working even harder now,â€ Thomas said. â€œI have to perform; thatâ€™s the bottom line.â€
The announcement validates Thomasâ€™ decision to attend CSU, which came after he deferred on an earlier commitment to Arizona State last winter. Thomas enrolled a semester early in order to be a part of the teamâ€™s spring practices, a move that helped him familiarize himself with the speed and style of the college game.
Prior to naming Thomas the starter early last week, Thomas and redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri had been in contention for the starting position throughout training camp. Fairchild explained that Thomas earned the job thanks to his consistency.
â€œAll summer long and all spring heâ€™s been great,â€ Fairchild said. â€œHe had enough consistent practices to where he earned the job.â€
In the season opener against CU-Boulder, Thomas will become the Rams first true freshman to start a game at quarterback since 2004, when Caleb Hanie, now with the Chicago Bears, replaced the injured Justin Holland and led the Rams to a 30-7 defeat of Wyoming.
Thomas has the opportunity to start all four years of his collegiate career, something very few quarterbacks get the chance to do.
â€œThis is why I graduated a semester early, to come here and play as a true freshman,â€ Thomas said. â€œNow I just want to go out and help this team in any way I can. Hopefully I can do that.â€
Fairchild, along with other members of the coaching staff, met with the Rams quarterbacks early last week to inform them of the decision. The early choice comes in direct contrast to the quarterback competition of a year ago, which featured five contenders and was not decided until a week before the season began.
Fairchild cited the ability to get Thomas more reps during practice as his main motive for making the prompt decision this season.
â€œYou need to give him a lot of reps,â€ said Fairchild, who is entering his third season as the Ramsâ€™ head coach. â€œHe still hasnâ€™t played a down of college football, so Iâ€™m sure thereâ€™s going to be some ups and downs.â€
Despite losing his bid for the starting spot, Ranieri remains focused on being ready for any opportunity.
â€œI canâ€™t dwell on this. Iâ€™ve just got to keep playing my game,â€ Ranieri said. â€œWhen my number is called, Iâ€™ll be ready.â€
Fairchild expects that, at some point this season, or at some point down the road, Ranieri will get the chance to win the job again, either through injury or underperformance on the part of Thomas.
â€œNico has been having a good camp, and he will have his chance Iâ€˜m sure,â€ Fairchild said. â€œThings change, and regardless of how good Pete does this (competition) will be opened up again next spring.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.