2011 Colorado State Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Colorado State Ram Offense
Colorado State Rams
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
The offense is making a bit of a shift to try to take advantage of its star. The coaching staff has wanted to get back to the good old days of CSU football by pounding the ball, but the offense finished 118th in the nation in sacks allowed and the running game didn't do much. Now there will be more of a pro-style look with sophomore QB Pete Thomas on the verge of becoming a big-time player. He needs time to work and needs to cut down on his mistakes, but he also needs help. Lou Greenwood leads a decent receiving corps that needs to find the end zone, while former UCLA transfer Raymond Carter needs to provide some semblance of a ground game. Four starters return to a line that has to be night-and-day better.
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Pete Thomas
Passing: Pete Thomas
253-391, 2,662 yds, 11 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Chris Nwoke
74 carries, 357 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Lou Greenwood
34 catches, 474 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior RB Raymond Carter
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Weston Richburg
Best pro prospect: Thomas
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Thomas, 2) Richburg, 3) WR Lou Greenwood
Strength of the offense: Line Experience, Thomas
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Receivers
State of the Unit: The Ram coaching staff wants to be physical and wants to run the ball, but it was also looking for more of a deep-threat type of bomber to work the passing game around. The program took its lumps last year turning to a true freshman, and now the hope is for the payoff to come after a decent, but expectedly inconsistent season.
After a battle for the starting job, true freshman Pete Thomas was the choice, and he showed why early on with a 305-yard day against Miami University and a 386-yard, three score performance in the win over Idaho. At 6-5 and 219 pounds, he has prototype size, a terrific arm, and the pro-style passing skills that could quickly make him a hot prospect with a little more time and seasoning. He completed 65% of his throws for 2,662 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he threw 13 interceptions. Youth and inexperience were a problem, but he didn't get any help behind a porous offensive front, and his receiving corps was mediocre. He's the franchise now, and everything is going to be geared around making tapping in to his immense talent.
There's no developed depth whatsoever, but the hope is that junior M.J. McPeek can step up right away and be a reliable No. 2. The 6-4, 244-pound bomber from Kansas State doesn't have Thomas-like skills, but he fits the system and he has enough of an arm to get the passing game going if needed. True freshman Garrett Grayson, a 6-2, 206-pounder brings more mobility to the equation. He might be used from time to time simply to throw a wrench into opposing defenses, but he's no threat to Thomas for the starting job.
Watch Out For … Thomas to take another big step up in his progression. How high is the limit on his potential? The coaching staff had Phil Rivers come in as a tutor and to give pointers on how to run the attack. There's a chance Thomas goes from promising to tremendous in a big hurry.
Strength: Thomas. He might have struggled throughout the season, and more is expected out of him, but he has all the tools to be great. With a year of experience under his belt, he's ready.
Weakness: Depth. Nico Rainey, who was in the hunt for the starting job last year, transferred, and Klay Kubiak decided he was done playing football. Now it'll be sink-or-swim with McPeek or Grayson if something happens to Pete Franchise.
Outlook: It would be nice to see what Thomas could do with a real, live No. 1 receiver and a line that wasn't turning him into roadkill. Even with the rest of the issues on the Ram offense, Thomas has to be better, sharper, and has to make the team his from the start. If he's not great, the Colorado State season won't be, either.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: It's not like the Rams were Wisconsin running the ball, finishing 103rd in the nation, but it's still a bit of a stinger to lose the top runner (Leonard Mason) and the speedy third down option (John Mosure). The offense will revolve around Pete Thomas and the passing game, but Steve Fairchild continues to have a dream of running the ball with power. Unless the offensive line improves, though, that's not going to happen.
It's time for senior Raymond Carter to finally produce. The tremendously talented UCLA transfer was supposed to take the CSU running game by storm after sitting out all of 2009, but he was never healthy last year and ran for a disappointing 235 yards and a score in eight games of work. At 6-0 and 216 pounds he has nice size, great quickness, and great straight-line speed. He tore his ACL for the Bruins and never got into the mix, but the sprinter who was fast enough to be in the World Junior Olympics has all the ability to be a breakout star if, and it's a huge if, he can stay healthy.
6-0, 214-pound sophomore Chris Nwoke is the team's leading returning rusher, and the hope is that he'll be the thunder to Carter's lightning. Nwoke ran for 357 yards and a score, and caught 17 passes for 75 yards, as a spot starter. Now he'll be even more of a complementary role player with good power and the potential to be the regular hard-yard runner between the tackles.
Combining forces in a backup role will be Derek Good, a walk-on special teamer who turned in some phenomenal performances as a kickoff returner, averaging 25.8 yards per try. The 5-10, 200-pound senior will work with true freshman Dorian Brown, an excellent talent who came to Colorado State early last year but hasn't seen action in a few years after tearing his ACL as a junior. The 6-1, 237-pounder would've been a good recruit for most Big 12 schools, and was growing into a hot property, before the injury, and now the Rams hope they got a steal.
6-3, 232-pound sophomore Joe Brown is the team's top fullback option with Zac Pauga, a four-year starter, gone. Pauga wasn't much of a runner, but he was third on the team with 33 catches for 308 yards and a score. Brown will be used in the same way, but he'll also get a few carries. Redshirt freshman Kivon Cartwright has a knee issue, but the 6-4, 226-pounder will be used in a variety of ways as a blocker and like a tight end at times.
Watch Out For … Carter to be fed the ball early and often. The talent is there, but the line isn't. So much attention and so much pressure will be put on Pete Thomas and the passing game that Carter should get a little room to move.
Strength: Potentially good depth. If Brown gets healthy, and it's asking a lot considering how long it has been since he played, and if Good can provide a speedy spark and Nwoke can still bring the power, the Rams should have the potential for a nice rotation.
Weakness: Production. The poor offensive line was part of the problem, but the Rams haven't been close to coming up with a good running game over the last few years. They only averaged 3.5 yards per carry and netted 1,356 yards. Carter has to go from good to phenomenal for the production to finally come.
Outlook: The idea will be to have a balanced attack with the ground game taking control early, but the running backs need room to move and they have to produce when they get their chances. This won't be one of the better ground games in the Mountain West, but it can be more effective if Carter starts to play like the prospect he was supposed to be at UCLA.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: The receivers were okay, but they weren't explosive and they didn't score. Of the 11 touchdown passes, just four went to wide receivers and none went to the team's leading target, Tyson Leggett. He's gone, but the passing game will spread the ball around and will bring in several options into the mix. It would be nice, though, if a No. 1 target could emerge right away.
Leggett might have led the team in receptions, but Lou Greenwood led the way in receiving yards catching 34 passes for 473 yards and two scores. Originally a running back, he quickly turned into a 6-0, 181-pound receiver and now the junior will be the main go-to target. With the wheels to be a deep threat on the outside, and the toughness to make things happen across the middle, he'll be used in a variety of ways. He'll likely start out on the X.
It'll be a battle for the inside X position with 6-4, 199-pound junior Marquise Law getting a long look with good size and nice skills. The Miami native was wanted by Wisconsin, Ole Miss, and several other BCS schools, but he has yet to show off much with just 16 catches for 173 yards last year. He'll battle with T.J. Borky, a 6-4, 206-pound senior who made 18 catches for 157 yards with a score. Purely a possession receiver, the one-time quarterback can find the holes and runs nice routes, but doesn't do anything deep.
If Greenwood doesn't work at the F position, former quarterback Matt Yemm will get the call after finishing fourth on the team with 21 catches for 265 yards and a score. Extremely quick, he has the potential to make big things happen when he gets the ball on the move. If Yemm isn't working at the outside X, 5-10, 172-pound redshirt freshman Thomas Coffman, the teams' fastest player, will get a look, while junior Byron Steele will try to get back in the rotation after finishing fifth on the team with 20 catches for 313 yards averaging a team-leading 15.6 yards per catch. He has had shoulder problems, but he's good enough to get more passes thrown his way.
Eric Peitz is gone at tight end after catching 15 passes for 187 yards and three scores. Stepping in and trying to take over will be Crockett Gilmore, a defensive end by trade who became a surprise this offseason on the offensive side. At 6-6 and 241 pounds he has the size, and he's physical enough to provide a pop for the ground game. Also making the move was Ben Tedford, a 6-6, 254-pound junior who started out his career as a defensive lineman before moving over to the offense. He has decent hands, but his worth will be as a blocker and a physical short-range target. Also in the hunt for time will be sophomore Cameron Moss, a 6-5, 245-pound target who's trying to get past a knee injury to be the pass catcher who stretches the field.
Watch Out For … Greenwood to be the head-and-shoulders No. 1 guy. The coaching staff will move him where needed to provide the best matchup, and he'll be the first option for Pete Thomas whenever possible.
Strength: Spreading things around. While Greenwood should be the main man and the team could use a dangerous threat that everyone worries about, over the last few years, the passing game has used several players to keep things moving. If Greenwood rocks, everyone else will benefit.
Weakness: Touchdowns. Greenwood caught two touchdown passes, but no other receiver caught more than one. The receivers haven't done enough over the last few years to make big things happen when they get the ball in their hands.
Outlook: The passing game should be better with more of an emphasis on a pro-style attack, but the receivers have to come through. Pete Thomas is a strong enough quarterback to keep everyone involved, but Greenwood needs to be a star and more pop is needed from the rest of the corps.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: On the plus side, four starters are back up front. On the down side, four starters are back up front. The Rams were miserable last year as they had to rebuild after losing Shelley Smith, Cole Pemberton, and several key veterans, but they can't be much worse after finishing 118th in the nation in sacks allowed while failing to do much of anything for the ground game.
The best of the returning lot is Paul Madsen, a 6-4, 313-pound senior who beefed up over the last two seasons to become a strong blocker at either tackle spot. Very athletic and with good lateral movement, he has the skills to be a star, and while he has earned all-star recognition, he needs to be far more consistent in pass protection and has to do far more to be the one to run behind for the ground game.
The quarterback up front is sophomore center Weston Richburg, a big 6-4, 302-pound blocker who earned CFN Freshman All-America honors after starting every game working early on at guard and later at center. He's big, smart, and still emerging. The biggest hitter for the ground game, he played like a seasoned veteran and wasn't the issue for why the line was so mediocre.
Also returning up front is Joe Caprilglio, who'll move to tackle replacing Mark Starr after spending last year at guard. At 6-6 and 318 pounds, the junior was out of place on the inside, and now he has a chance to shine at a more natural position and he could be one of the breakout stars up front. He got a lot bigger after coming to the school as one of the top recruits, and after blowing off places like Nebraska and Michigan State, it's his time to emerge at weak tackle.
With Capriglio moving over, 6-4, 294-pound sophomore Jordan Gragert will take over at strong guard after spending last year as a reserve. He saw just enough time in ten games to be ready to step in and produce right away, while the hope will be for senior Jake Gdowski to be 100% healthy after having problems with a shoulder injury. Very smart and insanely strong, he can bench press the stadium and he should be the anchor for the running game. He's also one of the unquestioned team leaders starting every game at weak guard.
With Gdowski hurting, 6-4, 292-pound senior Connor Smith should be a bit of a factor at weak guard. He can play either guard spot and has seen a little bit of time. Smart, strong, and tough, he's just good enough to step in and produce if needed. While Smith is a sure-thing backup at one guard, 6-2, 302-pound senior Josh Tashiro brings decent size at strong guard and 6-3, 282-pound redshirt freshman Alex Tucci is a good, promising prospect who'll see plenty of work in the rotation.
6-7, 288-pound sophomore Justin Becker is a tall, athletic option at weak tackle, and he'll be the main man at the spot next year when Paul Madsen is done. On the other side, 6-7, 322-pound sophomore Jared Biard played in five games last year and can see time at either tackle spot.
Watch Out For … Caprioglio at tackle. With tackle size and without the ability to bury people in the ground game, he was out of his element at guard. He has the frame and the feet to shine on the outside.
Strength: Size. This is an extremely tall, very large group with just about everyone checking in at 6-4 or taller and 305 pounds or heavier. With experience, size, and the right frames, this group looks the part.
Weakness: Blocking. The pass protection was solid in 2009 and a complete and utter disaster last year allowing 44 sacks. The run blocking was mediocre, too, as there wasn't any cohesion. However, it's not like the play of the skill players helped the cause.
Outlook: Expect a big improvement. The Rams should benefit from four returning starters, and just as big deal is the developed depth with so many young players seeing time last year. This is a very big, very promising line that should be good this year and terrific in 2012.
Unit Rating: 5
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