Next man up.
That mantra has been forced upon the CSU football team this season.
The team refuses to use them as an excuse, but the fact is that this team has been ravaged by injuries to key players.
Twelve injured Rams have accounted for 41 games lost and 28 missed starts.
The missed starts stat is the key. These are top players going down, and oddly, the injuries have been concentrated in three spots: offensive tackle, defensive line and linebacker.
Starting right tackle Joe Caprioglio has missed the last three games of the season and is expected to be out for the year.
Backup tackle Jared Biard was hurt late in fall practice and will miss the season.
And last Saturday, starting left tackle Paul Madsen went out with a knee injury. He wonâ€™t play this Saturday, but coach Steve Fairchild does expect him to be back before the end of the season.
Those injuries mean that two redshirt freshman, Ty Sambrailo and Mason Hathaway, will get significant starts much earlier than projected.
â€œI think theyâ€™re a great example of where weâ€™re at,â€ Fairchild said. â€œYou talk about the fourth and fifth tackle, and I think both those kids are going to be outstanding football players, I really do. Are they ready to be in there full time right now? Weâ€™ll see.â€
The defensive line has also been decimated. Broderick Sargent, Nuku Latu and John Froland, all starters, have missed a combined eight games. Sargent is out for the year while Latu and Froland are both questionable to play Saturday.
And the linebacker position has seen a complete transformation from spring camp.
At that time the projected starters were Mychal Sisson, Michael Kawulok and Mike Orakpo.
Sisson and Kawulok have since suffered serious injuries. Kawulok is out for the year while Sisson hopes he can return late in the year.
Now Orakpo will have to pass concussion tests in order to play on Saturday.
Those injuries have forced freshman Aaron Davis to get significant playing time. He will start if Orakpo isnâ€™t cleared, when coaches would have preferred to redshirt him.
The defense wonâ€™t change its game plan with the injuries. Rather, extra practice time is the only answer to help the young players.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to get them a lot of repetitions and looks,â€ defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said.
â€œTheyâ€™ve got to see the picture over and over so they can play a little bit faster. The game experience comes by being in the game.â€
And with that game experience comes an opportunity for the next man up to prove their worth.
â€œItâ€™s so exciting,â€ Hathaway said. â€œI get thousands of texts from guys who are like â€˜oh I heard youâ€™re starting.â€™ It just makes you really happy and proud. It just really boosts your confidence.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.