Colorado State Football: Three Questions for Spring Training

The Rams had a difficult 2022, so solving some big issues this spring could help them take a big leap forward in the fall.

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The next step starts now.

The Colorado State Rams started spring training yesterday to build on the potential they showed last season. It wasn’t always pretty, but Jay Norvell’s team showed they should at least have one of Mountain West’s best quarterback-receiver connections, a solid running game, and a very promising secondary. But there is still a lot of work to be done.

How much can the offensive line be improved?

When he had time to pitch, Clay Millen seemed perfectly capable of living up to the hype that took him from Nevada to Fort Collins with Jay Norvell. The problem in 2022 was that he rarely had that: His average throwing depth was just 7.7 yards because the Rams’ offensive line allowed a 15.7% sack rate, the worst mark in the country.

Are they back to square one in the trenches? Pro Football Focus notes that seven players had at least 100 snaps up front last season, but only two — Jacob Gardner and Keegan Hamilton — are listed on the current spring football roster. Brian Crespo-Jacquez’s return to health will help after an injury wiped out almost all of his first year as a starter, making center and both tackle spots look like they should at least be in reasonable shape.

With plenty of spots up for grabs on the two-deep, however, some other players with a strong spring could be pushing for a starting appearance. After all, the team added ten new offensive linemen as part of its recent recruit class, and some, like Drew Moss and Oliver Jervis, bring previous starting experience from the FCS level to the roster. It is no secret that this will be the key to the success of the CSU in 2023.

Who will stand up and help improve the pass rush?

It took a while for that to materialize, but defensive coordinator Freddie Banks put together a respectable pass rush by the end of the 2022 season. The Rams had 11 of their 24 team sacks in four November games and finished with a 5.8% sack percentage, but now, with the departure of CJ Onyechi, how will they bolster that element of defense around Mohamed Kamara.

The hope is that last year’s growing pains will translate into better results from the younger veterans at the top, particularly Grady Kelly and Mukendi Wa-Kalonji. Older reinforcements like Troy Golden, James Mitchell and Cam Bariteau are all back too so hope is certainly there that irons will sharpen irons on both sides of the ball here.

How much improvement can be made to Special Teams?

If you wanted to know how much of a difference a literal punt god could make, the answer is 11.8 yards. That’s the difference between Ryan Stonehouse’s yards per punt (50.91) in 2021 and Paddy Turner’s (39.11) from last season, the latter of which finished last at Mountain West.

The Rams’ special team problems in the kicking game weren’t as disastrous as they sometimes were in 2021 — remember the Utah State game? — but Michael Boyle only scored 10 of 13 field goals overall, and CSU is starting over at that position too, with three options on the current list to replace him. Whether it’s Henry Katleman, Ashton Wolff or Bryan Hansen emerging from the competition, expectations should be higher for the new kicker.

More State of Colorado!

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Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire

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