The CSU football team practiced in pads for the first time of the spring this week and for new Head Coach Jim McElwain, spring practice provides him with the challenge of turning a 3-9 team with a losing culture into a winner.
McElwain has stressed the importance of his team learning how to practice better every day and slowly changing a losing attitude into a winning mentality.
â€œIt is changing a culture and changing an attitude and changing a mindset,â€ said McElwain after his second spring practice last Friday, adding on Monday, â€œIt is baby steps. Have you ever seen the movie â€˜What About Bob?â€™ Baby steps.â€
One way the Rams can start moving forward in McElwainâ€™s offense is by finding leadership and consistency out of whomever their starting quarterback will be.
CSU lost four games by seven points or less last season en route to dropping eight straight at the end of the Steve Fairchild era.
Garrett Grayson, then a freshman, struggled last year after taking over for an injured Pete Thomas at quarterback, throwing six interceptions and two touchdowns in four games of action.
New quarterbacks coach Billy Napier, who worked on McElwainâ€™s offensive staff at Alabama, said he thinks Grayson or senior M.J. McPeek could be the leaders the new offense needs.
â€œBoth Garrett (Grayson) and M.J. (McPeek) are a little bit older, have a little more experience under their belts,â€ Napier said. â€œThose guys in particular have done a really good job of grasping concepts, but we have a long way to go as far as deciding and defining who that guy will be.â€
While the Rams hope to improve the production they get out of the quarterback position, they will also look to maintain one of their strengths from last year, the play of the defensive line, despite being relatively undersized.
â€œItâ€™s not really what you play, itâ€™s how you play,â€ defensive line coach Greg Lupfer said. â€œAs long as weâ€™re playing harder and faster and more aggressive than our opponent, then I think weâ€™ll be OK.â€
The defensive line has added depth as well moving sophomore Alex Tucci from the offensive line to the defensive line. The 6-foot-3, 289-pound Tucci will add size at defensive tackle, and compete for the starting nose tackle position this spring.
â€œHeâ€™s improved all three practices,â€ Lupfer said. â€œHeâ€™s right now the biggest guy we have on the defensive line.â€
The Rams will have pads on in their four remaining practices before their first scrimmage of the year April 6, according to McElwain.
Football Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Player profile: Alex Tucci
Â· 6A first team all-state in Florida as a high school senior in 2010
Â· Redshirted as a freshman in 2011
Â· Switched from offensive to defensive line in 2012