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2008 Colorado State Preview - Offense
Colorado State RB Karsten Sween
Colorado State RB Karsten Sween
Posted Apr 21, 2008 2008 Preview - Colorado State Ram Offense

Colorado State Rams

Preview 2008
- Offense

- 2008 Colorado State Preview | 2008 Colorado State Offense
- 2008 Colorado State Defense | 2008 Colorado State Depth Chart
2007 CFN Colorado State Preview
| 2006 CFN Colorado State Preview 

What you need to know:
The offense was a disappointment yet again, but at least this year it knows what it's going to be. Forget about anything cute; with a big, beefy, veteran line, and the powerful 1-2 rushing punch of Gartrell Johnson and Kyle Bell, the Rams are going to try to flatten defenses. It has to with the passing game a potential mess. The line hasn't protected the passer in years, and it has to be better with a new quarterback to work with, likely career backup Billy Farris, and a dark green receiving corps to break in. Any consistency out of a passing game that was efficient last year will be a plus when the offense isn't pounding away.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Billy Farris
9-20, 91 yds
Rushing: Gartell Johnson
181 carries, 957 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Dion Morton
20 catches, 183 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Gartrell Johnson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior WR Rashaun Greer
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Mark Starr
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Kory Sperry
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Johnson, 2) Sperry, 3) RB Kyle Bell
Strength of the offense: Power running, experienced line
Weakness of the offense:
Wide receiver, experienced quarterback


Projected Starter: The offense needs to first be secure at quarterback where long-time starter Caleb Hanie is gone. It'll be up to senior Billy Farris, who patiently waited for his turn at bat and only got a little bit of garbage time work over the years. At 6-3 and 220 pound he has good size to go along with a live arm, but he needs all the reps he can get after completing nine of 20 passes last season for 91 yards and 11 of 19 two yards ago. He's mobile for his size and he's ready to hit the ground running and be the leader of the attack, but he'll have to win relatively early on to keep the job.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Grant Stucker has had a few years of practice time to work and get ready, and now he'll have a fight on his hands just to keep the No. 2 job. A big recruit for the program a few years ago, he hasn't progressed and he hasn't seen any real playing time. At 6-2 and 201 pounds he has decent size and he's one of the best athletes among the quarterback prospects.

6-4, 227-pound sophomore Nick Neuenfeldt was an Arizona high school all-star who has the size. the skills, and the upside to be in the mix for the starting job, but he'll have an uphill battle to get playing time. Extremely strong and with tremendous athleticism, he could eventually turn into a dangerous tight end if the quarterback job doesn't work out.

A pair of left-handed prospects will get every opportunity to win the starting job. Redshirt freshman T.J. Borcky is a phenomenal athlete who could add another dimension to the offense. He's a tall, thin player who can be a dangerous runner. New recruit Klay Kubiak is the son of Houston Texan head coach, Gary. While he's not at all that big at 6-0 and 200 pounds, he's a very smart, very efficient passer who'll get a long look at playing time early on, but he'll probably end up redshirting.

Watch Out For ... the quarterback situation to be unsettled for most of the year. Farris has looked great in practices, but there are several good young prospects who'll see time if the offense isn't performing up to snuff.
Prospects. There are four interesting options behind Farris to develop. While there might not be a true superstar, there are some very successful high school winners who can play.
Proven production. Farris hasn't had to do anything in live action, and no one else has any experience whatsoever. It's not that bad a problem considering the team is looking to build and grow, but to win now, Farris will have to shine right away.
Outlook: Farris will be a good producer who could be efficient, but he'll have to be fantastic with a new receiving corps to deal with. There are several good prospects who could see time early on to get ready for next year, or take over the starting job entirely. Fairchild has said it's an open competition for the job. It's there for the taking if someone can step up and knock off Farris.

Running Backs

Projected Starter: While everyone was waiting for Kyle Bell to be Kyle Bell again, senior Gartrell Johnson carried the Ram running game with a monstrous second half of the season. After only getting 20 carries in the first five games, he tore off five 100-yard days in the final seven, with 95 against Utah and 72 against BYU, highlighted by a 31-carry, 172-yard performance in the loss to New Mexico. He finished the year with 957 rushing yards and six scores. At 6-0 and 227 pounds he's a tough back who's great at pounding the ball inside, and he has enough of a burst to average 5.3 yards per carry. While he's not a great receiver, he can be used to catch defenses off guard catching 12 passes for 103 yards and two scores.

To get the offense to power the ball like the coaching staff would like, 6-0, 243-pound sophomore Zac Pauga will play an even bigger role after growing into the job by the end of last year. He didn't get any carries, but he caught 11 passes for 102 yards and turned into a sledgehammer of a blocker. While he's hardly a speedster, he could lineup as a slot receiver, or an extra tight end, from time to time depending on the situation.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 231-pound senior Kyle Bell cranked out 1,288 yards and ten touchdowns in 2005 showing power and speed to make him one of the Mountain West's premier players. And then he missed all of 2006 after suffering a preseason knee injury. While he was used early on last year gaining 135 yards and a touchdown against Colorado and 102 yards and two scores against California, it took 66 carries to do it. He didn't have nearly the same burst through the hole and wasn't nearly the same player. While he finished the year with 691 yards and four scores, he gave way to Johnson and turned into a second option. When he's right, he's a powerful back who can carry the offense for stretches. Now he'll be part of the rotation again until he can show his old form, if he can show his old form.

6-1, 207-pound senior Michael Myers finished third on the team with 148 yards and three touchdowns seeing spot duty over the second half of the season. He has the speed to go along with a little bit of power, but he'll have a hard time cracking the regular rotation if Johnson and Bell are doing their jobs.

Sophomore John Mosure ran for 40 yards in garbage time, but he has the skills to potentially be a major playmaker. The runner up for the 2005 Mr. Florida award has been a practice star since coming to Fort Collins, but he hasn't seen enough action to make an impact. While not necessarily a speed back, the 5-10, 198 pounder can move.

Backing up Zac Pauga at full back is 6-2, 229-pound sophomores Mile Tamminga. More like a tight end playing fullback, he could grow into a niche player in passing situations and could end up playing in two tight end sets.

Watch Out For ... A power punch of Johnson and Bell on a regular basis. With the passing game likely to be a work in progress all season long, the coaching staff will use the horses to pound and pound some more. Bell has played well enough to be the starter ahead of Johnson at some point, but the two will work in tandem.
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.
Burst. Johnson had a few nice runs and had a gaudy 5.3-yard-per-carry average, but it's not like there are any true speed backs who can take it to the house at any time. Myers has wheels and Mosure can run, but they're not going to keel defensive coordinators up at night.
Outlook: The running game got a lot better last season with some real, live production after a a disastrous 2006, and now it should be even better with Bell's knee now two years removed from surgery and Johnson looking like a possible All-Mountain West back. The coaching staff wants a physical running game, and it'll have it with these two. It would be nice to find a speed burst and a third down-type back somewhere, and the job will be open for the taking.


Projected Starters: The receiving corps is starting from scratch and desperately needs junior Rashaun Greer to play up to his potential. One of the fastest players in the Mountain West, he's a star hurdler on the CSU track team, he has the elite-level wheels, and the 6-1, 198-pound size, to be a matchup nightmare. It hasn't translated to the field yet with six appearances last year and no catches. If he doesn't break out and become a deep target, the Rams will have to scramble.

5-10, 162-pound Dion Morton, the brother of Damon Morton, last year's leading receiver, needs to blossom after finishing fourth on the team with 20 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown before getting knocked out for the year with an ankle injury. The junior is a quick target with great open field ability, even if he didn't show it off last season. Most dangerous as a kickoff returner, he needs to bring those skills to the receiving corps.

6-6, 254-pound Kory Sperry is a special tight end when healthy, but that's a question mark after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. He's expected to be ready by the start of the season, but he still has to prove it. Used as a hybrid tight end and fullback in the old Ram offense, he's a great target in the red zone and is a fantastic route runner catching ten passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns before getting knocked out for the year. A nice blocker, but not an elite one, his worth is as a big receiver.

Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Greer on the outside is sophomore Brett Willis, a 6-3, 210-pound target who's big, physical, and good. While he's not a blazer like Greer, he has enough speed to stretch the field and become a factor in three-wide sets.

Behind  Morton will be Matt Yemm, a quarterback who'll move to receiver to add some more athleticism to the mix. He's not that big a 5-11 and 178 pounds, but he's very, very fast. A smart player who should quickly pick up his new position, he's a sleeper to  blossom into a major playmaker.

JUCO transfer Ryan Gardner will get every chance to see immediate action. He's still learning the ropes as a football player after originally starting out playing basketball, and he has 4.3 speed and a jaw-dropping 42-inch vertical that makes him play even bigger than his 6-1, 180-pound size. While he's raw, he has too much upside to keep under wraps.

If there are any problems with Sperry's knee, senior Chris Kawulok should be able to step in and produce. While he's nowhere near the receiver Sperry is, catching just four passes for 33 yards, he wasn't awful as a spot starter throughout last year. A physical blocker, he'll be used in running situations.

Watch Out For ... someone to emerge from out of nowhere to become a key starter. With almost no real experience throughout the corps, the opening is there for a young player like Blake Swain, Phillip Morelli or Brett Willis to become a major factor. It's an open casting call for receivers.
Speed. There's plenty of speed and quickness to stretch the field. There might not be any sure-thing to count on, but everyone can run.
Proven players. There's Morton, who caught 20 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, and that's about it as far as anyone who has done anything. That's not to say there aren't players, but there are a ton of unknowns.
Outlook: Last season's receiving corps was supposed to be among the best in CSU history, and it was decent, not special. Now the receivers are starting from scratch with no real experience, absolutely no depth, and a whole bunch of issues. There's a lot of speed, good size, and plenty of upside. Now someone has to prove it and produce.

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: Can Mark Starr handle the work? The 6-5, 285-pound sophomore started his career at tight end and saw time late last year at tackle. The new weak tackle is an athletic blocker who can get downfield and has great potential. Now he has to prove he can become a steady pass protector.

With Mark Starr moving to the outside permanently, junior Adrian Martinez can play his more natural guard position. The 6-4, 302-pounder bounced back from a dislocated kneecap to be a steady run blocker at right tackle, but he couldn't handle any skilled pas rusher. He belongs on the inside and he should shine at the strong guard spot.

Back at strong tackle is junior Cole Pemberton after starting for most of last year. Thrown to the wolves, he did a decent job considering his inexperience and showed great potential before getting knocked out late in the season with an ankle injury. At 6-7 and 327 pounds, he has tremendous size and is great at locking on to defenders, but he has to be far better in passing situations.

6-4, 298-pound junior Shelley Smith is still a work in progress, but he's expected to grow into a good one on the weak side. A physical blocker who's great for the ground game, he'll be one of the key blockers on big short yardage plays.

Junior Tim Walter is back at center after getting nine starts despite having ankle problems. With good size at 6-6 and 289 pounds and the experience from last year, he's expected to grow into a leader of the line and one of the team's steadiest starters.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for time at strong guard is junior Scott Benedict, who could step in and start if Adrian Martinez moves back to tackle. The starter last year, he suffered a foot injury and was knocked out for the year. While the 6-4, 298-pounder isn't the steadiest pass protector, he's a good run blocker.

6-5, 306-pound sophomore Brian Lepak is a bigger option at center than Tim Walter, and he's also one of the team's most versatile linemen. Able to play tackle or center, he saw time in every game, mostly on special teams, and has the talent to eventually become a starter somewhere.

Able to step in and start at either tackle spot is 6-5, 307-pound Dane Stratton after playing in every game last year as a reserve. The 6-5, 307-pound senior has the size to be a good blocker, but he hasn't had to do more than play on special teams. He'll start out behind Pemberton at strong tackle.

Watch Out For ... Starr. His emergence at tackle allows the line to put the best players in the right spots. If he struggles, then Adrian Martinez might end up moving back to the outside and the problems of last year could kick in again.
Experience and depth. Technically, all five starters return and there's good depth to provide options and a rotation. This is a good-sized line that should be punishing for the running game.
Pass protection. The line was abysmal in pass protection for the second year in a row. After giving up 41 sacks in 2006, the Ram front five allowed 37 last year. With a new starting quarterback and new starting receivers, being better at keeping the quarterbacks clean will be job one.
Outlook: The line took a major step forward last year blasting open holes for the running game on a consistent basis for the first time in years. Now the the front five has to keep the quarterback from being a grease spot. There's more than enough size, depth and experience to be even better, and it has to be one of the team's strengths. The goal is to be more physical, and this group will be.