Dec 112011
 
Authors: Kevin Lytle

The CSU football team doesn’t know who its coach will be when the Rams take the field to begin the 2012 season.

The Rams don’t even know what their style of play will be.

And while the new staff will get a recruiting class signed before the season begins, CSU’s success next year will rely on the players already on the roster.

Here’s a breakdown of the strength’s and weaknesses for the Rams.

Offense

First the good. CSU has found its feature running back for the next two years in sophomore Chris Nwoke.

He ran for over 1,000 yards and was one of only six players in the nation to have multiple 200 yard games on the season. He will enter spring practice as the undisputed No. 1 back.

The offensive line he runs behind should be solid as well. The Rams lose second-team selection Paul Madsen and backup center Tyler McDermott.

But tons of injuries on the line this year forced players like Mason Hathaway and Ty Sambrailo into action. While that may not have been good for CSU this year, those players will have experience to help them grow into the dominant line that former coach Steve Fairchild said all season they could become.

The receiving corps will retain most of its key players, but will need more consistency from them.

Lou Greenwood had dominant games, but disappeared in others. Marquise Law was mostly irrelevant all season while Byron Steele struggled to be impactful after returning from a three game suspension.

Freshman Lee Clubb and Charles Lovett showed flashes and it can be expected that they will make a push get more touches.

And of course, the biggest question on offense is at quarterback.

Pete Thomas didn’t make the expected strides in his sophomore season before missing the final three games of the season with a knee injury.

In his place stepped Garrett Grayson. The freshman played very well at times, most notably at TCU. But also looked every bit of a freshman sometimes.

Expect the two to battle it out in spring ball for the starting job.

The direction of the offense will be hugely influenced by the style of the new coach, but there’s no doubt that the talent cupboard is not bare. But the Rams must find their quarterback before they can hope to move to the top of the conference.

Defense

The CSU defense will lose three senior starters (Nuku Latu, Myke Sisson and Ivory Herd), but are stacked with young, impact players.

Sophomore Nordly Capi was named to the Mountain West first-conference team at defensive end. He notched 10 sacks and forced seven fumbles on the season.

And the Rams have a perfect complement on the other side in C.J. James, who recorded five sacks.

CSU will have holes to fill on the interior of the line. Latu will graduate, leaving the undersized John Froland, Curtis Wilson and Te’Jay Brown to hold down the inside.

At linebacker the Rams are set.

They lose Sisson, but James Skelton, Shaquil Barrett and Mike Orakpo are all returning after starting most of the season as a unit while Sisson was hurt.

Skelton and Barrett were named honorable mention all-conference and Orakpo was third on the team in tackles with 87.

The secondary will have to improve after giving up big plays at the most inopportune of times, such as a 38-yard touchdown in the final minute to lose against San Jose State.

Starting cornerbacks Shaq Bell and honorable mention all-conference member Momo Thomas both return and will likely be pushed by Bernard Blake for time.

At safety Austin Gray should be better with a year of experience under his belt and special teams standout Drew Reilly will likely step into Herd’s starting position.

Freshman Trent Matthews should also push for time at safety.

As a whole, the defense should be stout at linebacker, so much so they may look to move to a 3-4 defense. The line will be able to pressure the quarterback, which should help the secondary.

Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 11:28 pm

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