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2011 Colorado State Preview
Colorado State RB Pete Thomas
Colorado State RB Pete Thomas
Posted Jul 21, 2011 2011 Preview - Colorado State Rams

Colorado State Rams

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Steve Faichild
4th year: 13-24
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 18, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Colorado State Players
1. QB Pete Thomas, Soph.
2. LB Mychael Sisson, Sr.
3. P Pete Kontodiakos, Jr.
4. C Weston Richburg, Soph.
5. SS Ivory Herd, Sr.
6. RB Raymond Carter, Sr.
7. WR Lou Greenwood, Jr.
8. LB Mike Orakpo, Soph.
9. CB Elijah-Blu Smith, Sr.
10. OT Paul Madsen, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 at New Mexico
Sep. 10 Northern Colorado
Sep. 17 Colorado (in Denver)
Sep. 24 at Utah State
Oct. 1 San Jose State
Oct. 15 Boise State
Oct. 22 at UTEP
Oct. 29 at UNLV
Nov. 12 San Diego State
Nov. 19 at TCU
Nov. 26 Air Force
Dec. 3 Wyoming

It’s not like head coach Steve Fairchild isn’t trying, tweaking, massaging, and doing whatever he can to make Colorado State football relevant again.

With a move to the 3-4, Fairchild is trying to get more production out of a defense that finished 102nd in the nation against the run and 118th in pass efficiency defense. He’s trying to finally make the offense as physical as he has wanted it to be, and with a running game that finished 103rd in the nation last year, there’s still a lot of work to do. He’s trying keep the spirits up after starting out strong last year with a 3-0 record, only to go 3-18 over the next 21 games, but he needs a little luck. He’s trying.

Life isn’t going to get any easier for the Rams with Boise State joining the fun this year and all the top programs from the WAC ready to roll next season, but there’s no reason and no excuse to not be the among the best of the lot. There’s a good history at Colorado State and enough of a tradition to expect more production out of a program that used to be a Mountain West superstar. Fairchild knows it’s possible to do big things in Fort Collins, and in his fourth year and with just 13 wins under his belt, it’s time to start doing them.

Everything starts and ends with the franchise quarterback, Pete Thomas, who took his lumps last year but still put up decent numbers. He’s the bomber to work everything around, but he needs a veteran line to give him time and to help balance things out with the ground game. Fairchild preached from the first day he got the job that he wanted his offense to beat people up, but instead, his lines have been awful and his quarterbacks have gotten killed. That has to change.

Fairchild has also preached the idea of being more aggressive and more dominant on defense, looking to start hitting more and being more disruptive. His defensive lines have been pushed around way too easily and the points have been flowing in bunches to the better teams, giving up 51 to Nevada last year, 49 to Air Force, and 59 to Utah. With little pass rush to help the cause, the secondary that has had to cheat up way too often to help out against the run has been burned time and again by the more efficiency quarterbacks. That has to change.

But more than anything else, through all the things Fairchild has done to shake things up and get the Rams out of the rut, the experience has to come through in key places. Thomas needs to play like a crusty veteran, four starters are back on the O line, and the defense has enough upperclassmen to start making more noise and being more consistent. Something has to start going right and some of the pieces of the puzzle have to start to fit, because another 3-9 season isn’t going to get it done.

Even with TCU leaving for the Big East next year, the conference isn’t going to get any easier. Fairchild has to come up with a bounceback year to suggest that he’s the one who can turn the program around, or else there’s going to be another big change and it’s going to come up top.

What to watch for on offense: The blocking. Considering Fairchild wanted the strength of his team to be the offensive line, it’s been a miserable failure so far. The Rams were 118th in the nation in sacks allowed and did nothing for a ground game that averaged a measly 113 yards per game. Four starters return with a strong talent in tackle Paul Madsen to work around. Center Weston Richburg is a 302-pound sophomore who’ll end up making an all-star team or two by the time he’s done, and there’s good bulk and strength across the board. Also adding to the mix of physical play is Crockett Gilmore, a former defensive end who’s moving to tackle. While he’s a pass catcher, he’s physical and will start blasting away a bit. There’s speed in the backfield and a talented quarterback in Pete Thomas to work around, and now the line has to do its job.

What to watch for on defense: The 3-4. The defense was supposed to be improved last year after returning nine starters, but it didn’t quite work out that way. While the defense will still have a 4-3 look from time to time, the coaching staff is trying to shake things up a bit with a 3-4 to get more speed and more athleticism on the field. Losing linebacker Michael Kawulok to a knee injury isn’t a plus, but it’s still going to be an athletic front seven that should get into the backfield on a regular basis at outside linebacker. There might be problems now and then against the more physical teams, but the change should be a plus against the spread.

The team will be far better if … it can score. The defense needs to force more turnovers, the line has to stop allowing so many sacks, and the run D has to stop someone, but the biggest issue for the Rams is an offense that can’t seem to put points on the board on a regular basis. The Rams hung up 43 on UNLV, 38 against New Mexico, and 36 against Idaho, all wins, and scored a grand total of 81 points in the other nine games, all losses. Since losing to Navy 51-30 in the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl, Colorado State is 12-1 when scoring 30 points or more. Just averaging more than 16.5 per game, like the O did last year, would be a nice start.

The schedule: There’s no reason the Rams can’t turn things around thanks to a schedule that should promise a hot start. While New Mexico will also be looking to make an early splash with a home game against the Rams to start the season, CSU has to get through the trip to Albuquerque before getting Northern Colorado, at Utah State, and San Jose State before an off week. Throw in the date in Denver against Colorado, and the Rams should be no worse than 3-1 before hosting Boise State. Getting San Diego State and Air Force at home is a huge break, but going to TCU after facing the Aztecs will be a battle. As long as there’s a nice base of wins before going into November, the season should be solid.

Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Pete Thomas. There wasn’t any question going into last season who the most talented quarterback on the team was, but there were plenty of concerns about whether or not Thomas could handle the workload as a true freshman. At 6-5 and 219 pounds he has NFL size, a great arm, and the passing skills to push the ball all over the field, but he needs time to work. Not a runner, he’s not going to take off for yards on a regular basis and he needs a pocket to get comfortable in and good receivers to make things happen. If his line gives him any semblance of time, something he didn’t have last year, he should be a 3,500-yard passer.

Best defensive player: Senior Mychal Sisson. He’s not all that big at a safety-like 5-11 and 207 pounds, but he’s tough as nails with the ability to work in the middle or on the weakside. On a defense that struggles to generate a pass rush and doesn’t come up with enough big plays, he’s the guided missile who makes things happen. Now he needs the line play to be better so he doesn’t have to try to do everything himself.

Key player to a successful season: Senior RB Raymond Carter. Star recruit Kapri Bibbs didn’t qualify academically and will go the JUCO route. Leading rusher Leonard Mason is gone, as is speedy third down option John Mosure. That means Carter, a former UCLA Bruin, has to finally play up to his promise and potential. Never healthy last year, he only ran for 235 yards and a score, but now the running game will fall on his shoulders and he has to produce. He has the 6-0, 216-pound size, and he has the speed, and now he needs the production.

The season will be a success if … The Rams go bowling. There’s absolutely no excuse to not win at least six regular season games and get to a bowl for the first time in three years. Any schedule with New Mexico, Northern Colorado, Utah State, San Jose State, UTEP, UNLV, and Wyoming on it is a dream, and while the Rams might blow at least one of those relative layups, they should be good enough and experienced enough to upset a San Diego State or an Air Force at home.

Key game: Sept. 3 at New Mexico. For a program that needs to see something positive after the disaster of the last two seasons, losing to the woeful Lobos in the season opener would be a nightmare. The Rams won last year 38-14, but gave UNM its only win of 2008 in a 29-27 road loss. A win, with Northern Colorado to follow, would mean an almost certain 2-0 start going into the Colorado showdown.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Opponents 44 for 244 yards – Colorado State 21 for 155
- Third Quarter Scoring: Opponents 122 – Colorado State 36
- Field Goals: Opponents 13-of-13 – Colorado State 16-of-22

- 2011 Colorado State Preview | 20110 Colorado State Offense
- 2011 Colorado State Defense | 2011 Colorado State Depth Chart