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2006 CFN Colorado
What you need to know: There's no reason for the Ram offense
to be far, far better. Nine starters are back, led by the return
of power back Kyle Bell from a knee injury to save a ground game
that was among the worst in America. Caleb Hanie is a veteran
passer with one of the Mountain West's best receiving corps at
his disposal. It all comes down to a line that gets the interior
back, but has to find consistent tackles who can protect Hanie.
Keeping Bell healthy is also vital. There was no rushing
production two years ago when he wasn't on, and there was
nothing happening last year with him on the sidelines.
Passing: Caleb Hanie
209-342, 2,427 yds, 11 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Gartell Johnson
109 carries, 305 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Johnny Walker
58 catches, 586 yds, 0 TD
Star of the offense: Junior RB Kyle Bell
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
OT Cole Pemberton
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB John Mosure
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Kory Sperry
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bell, 2) Sperry, 3) C
Strength of the offense: Wide receivers
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line
Forced to do everything last year with no help from the running
game, senior Caleb Hanie struggled. He completed 61% of
his passes for 2,427 yards, but he only threw 11 touchdown
passes with 12 interceptions. He's a 6-2, 236-pound bomber who's
been a major factor in the offense for the last three years.
While he's getting better at spreading the ball around, he has a
hard time consistently moving the offense, failing to throw for
300 yards even though everything revolved around the passing
game. Worse yet, he struggled mightily against the top Mountain
West teams down the stretch. Even though he might not be a
runner, he'll take off now and then and make things happen.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 212-pound junior
Billy Farris has a live arm and good potential, but he's the
clear number two behind Hanie. He saw a little bit of time
completing 11 of 19 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown with an
interception, and he showed off good mobility with 68 rushing
yards. The odds on favorite to be the 2008 starter, the more
work he gets this year will be a big plus.
Sophomore Grant Stucker was a big recruit for the program
a few years ago, but he hasn't been able to get out of the
number three spot. He's 6-2, 201 pounds and can move. The best
athlete among the quarterbacks, he'd provide a change of pace in
an emergency situation.
Watch Out For ... consistent play from Hanie.
Getting Kyle Bell back will help the running game out, taking
some of the pressure off Hanie and the passing attack. He won't
have to force things.
Strength: Arms. Hanie, Farris and Stucker can all throw.
The backups have been around long enough to not be cold if they
have to play, while Hanie has been a part of the mix for the
last three season.
Weakness: Production. When the offense needed Hanie to shine and
to carry the offense, he didn't. If he doesn't show a spark of
something special right away, will the coaching staff pull the
plug to get Farris and Stucker more meaningful work?
Outlook: It's time for Hanie to grow into a (sorry
for the cliché) game manager. He has the receiving corps. He has
an improved line. He has a running game. Now he has to use all
his weapons and everything around him, including his experience,
to put points on the board. Farris and Stucker are good backup
options to keep developing.
The Ram running game appeared to be on the way to being
tremendous, and then Kyle Bell tore up his knee late in
fall practices and missed the entire season. The 6-2, 232-pound
junior ran for 1,288 yards and ten touchdowns in 2005 showing
off the power and speed to make him one of the Mountain West's
premier players. Can his knee hold up? That's the question mark
going into the season, but after having more than 12 months to
heal, he should be fine. While he's not going to catch many
passes and won't tear off many big runs, he'll be a tough power
back and will provide some desperately needed balance to the
Projected Top Reserves: 230-pound junior
Gartrell Johnson led the team in rushing, but he only tore
off 305 yards. A pure short-yardage back who's great around the
goal line, scoring six times, his longest run was just 15 yards.
He'll likely serve more as a fullback or a blocker for Bell than
as a pure tailback.
Johnson will be in a dogfight with 208-pound junior Michael
Myers and 190-pound redshirt freshman John Mosure for
the number two gig. Myers was the team's third leading rusher
with 179 yards in a limited role, but he didn't do much to make
plays on his own and only had one big performance (rushing for
68 yards against San Diego State). Mosure was a runner-up for
the 2005 Mr. Florida award and was one of the stars of spring
ball. He's not necessarily a speed back, but he has a nice burst
and is productive; he's always coming up with positive yards.
Watch Out For ... Mosure. The only thing missing
is experience. After Myers and Johnson didn't do anything last
year in Bell's absence, Mosure will likely get the benefit of
the doubt as a number two back.
Strength: Power. Between Bell and Johnson, coming up
with the hard yard or two won't be a problem. Even Myers and
Mosure can bang through the line.
Weakness: The backups. Just because there are veterans among the
backups, that doesn't mean they can play. Hence, the emergence
of Mosure, but he doesn't have any experience.
Outlook: The return of Bell will save the nation's
113th ranked running game. An improved offensive line will help
the cause, but it's Bell who'll make the ground game sink or
swim. Several backup options are ready to see time, but they'll
only get in if something happens to the star.
The team's leading receiver last season was senior Johnny
Walker with 58 catches for 586 yards. As good as he was as a
steady receiver, after making ten catches for 158 yards early on
against Colorado, he didn't get into the end zone. While he can
be a big-play threat, he hasn't done enough to stretch the field
and he hasn't been dangerous enough to scare anyone as a number
Back at flanker is senior Luke Roberts, who made 23
catches for 309 yards and two scores. At 6-2 and 206 pounds, he
has a big frame and can provide matchup problems, but he
regressed a bit last year after breaking out as a deep threat as
a sophomore. The offense will start getting him the ball deep on
a more regular basis.
At the H-Back, a hybrid of tight end and fullback in the Ram
offensive system, will once again be 6-6, 260-pound senior
Kory Sperry. The team's top red-zone target with nine scores
in two years, he's a great route runner with great hands. While
he doesn't use his big body enough as a blocker, his receiving
skills, with 36 catches for 380 yards and five scores, make him
one of the key cogs in the attack.
At tight end will be junior Chris Kawulok, who started 11
games but didn't make any catches. He's a solid 6-3, 244-pound
blocker who has seen extensive action over the last two years,
but he's not involved in the passing game. Sperry is used as the
receiving tight end.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Damon Morton
isn't a starter, but he might as well be with the time he sees
in three-wide sets and in the rotation behind Walker. He was
second on the team with 48 catches for 722 yards and four
touchdowns, and while he cooled off after a great two-game
stretch against Fresno State and UNLV, he was a dangerous deep
threat. He was the team's leader in yards per catch over two
years and averaged 15 yards per catch last season.
Waiting to break out is 6-1, 202-pound sophomore Rashaun
Greer, who didn't get any work last year but will be a top
backup behind Roberts at flanker. One of the fastest players in
the entire league, he's a star hurdler on the CSU track team and
now has to bring his elite wheels to the offense to provide even
more of a deep threat than Roberts.
5-11, 184-pound senior George Hill is one of the team's
faster players and best all-around athletes, but he averaged a
mere 3.9 yards per catch on his 12 grabs. The third man in the
split end mix behind Walker and Morton, he'll see a little time
here and there.
Sophomore Kevin McPeek will be the top backup H-Back, and
could step in and start if Sperry sees time at tight end. After
missing almost all of 2005 with an illness, it took a year to
get his body up to 245 pounds on his 6-6 frame. A good receiver,
despite only making one catch for 11 yards, he'll be used more.
Watch Out For ... more deep passes. There's too
much speed and too many weapons to not start chucking the ball
downfield. The corps should average far more than the 11.8 yards
per catch it cranked out last season.
Strength: Experience. CSU gets the top three receivers
back and five of the top six. Everyone knows what they're doing.
Weakness: A star number one. Walker isn't enough of a threat to
be the go-to guy who'll scare opposing defenses. While the
passing game is good at spreading it around, it would be nice if
there was one guy who could be counted on for 7-10 catches in a
Outlook: The starters are crusty veterans, the
backups are speedy, and there are plenty of options and weapons
to work with. Overall, it's not a stretch to call this the best
receiving corps yet under Sunny Lubick with at least five
players capable of catching 30 passes this season.
Three starters return to a line that wasn't even remotely close to being
consistent in pass protection, but the two new starters are on the
outside. Junior Dane Stratton and sophomore Cole Pemberton
will occupy the tackle spots, with Stratton trying to be the starter he
was supposed to be going into last year. At 6-5 and 298 pounds, he has
decent size with good enough athleticism to be a consistent pass
blocker, but he only got one start last year, serving as a backup. The
6-7, 318-pound Pemberton is a huge blocker who spent last year learning
the ropes as a reserve. He has the frame, the strength and the size, now
he needs to prove he can block on a regular basis.
The interior is set, led by 6-3, 305-pound center Nick Allota.
The two-year starter is the best blocker up front and one of the few who
can generate a push for the ground game. He's a desperately needed
anchor for the rest of the line to revolve around.
Back at guard are sophomores Scott Benedict and Adrian
Martinez, who struggles after being thrown to the wolves early on.
The 6-4, 300-pound Martinez is coming off a dislocated kneecap that cost
him most of spring ball, but he's supposed to be back and healthy this
fall. A ten-game starter last season, he's one of the seasoned veterans
up front. The 6-4, 294-pound Benedict took over a starting spot midway
through the season, and while he had a few problems, showed great
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Marvin Arnold
started the first four games of last year before suffering a leg
injury. At 6-4 and 294 pounds, he's a smaller tackle option than
Pemberton on the left side, but if he doesn't take over the starting
job, he'll provide an excellent backup.
On the other side challenging for time is 6-5, 298-pound redshirt
freshman Brian Lepac, a rising star at right tackle who had a
great spring. A smart, tough blocker, he could see time anywhere on the
line if needed. If Stratton struggles, Lepac will quickly step in and
Watch Out For ... Lepac. Stratton has been a
career reserve who wasn't able to break through as expected last year.
Lepac, along with Arnold, might be the starters sooner than later.
Strength: Allotta. A good quarterback for the line, he's
the steady starter the rest of the line needs to make everyone around
Weakness: Pass protection. The line didn't do anything for the
running game, but CSU was a pure passing team from the start. Even so,
the line gave up way too many sacks (41) and almost got Caleb Hanie
Outlook: The line will be better, but it hasn't
been physical in several years and didn't use its overall athleticism to
do anything in pass protection. The one thing that couldn't happen last
year, injuries, did. Now it'll be up to a slew of redshirt freshmen and
untested sophomores to provide the depth, but the overall talent level
is better. As long as the tackles turn out to be fine, the line won't be
a glaring weakness.