Springtime in the Rockies, does it get any better?
Saturday brought warm temperatures and the first Colorado State Rams spring scrimmage of the season.
About 120 fans were in attendance awaiting for fun and exciting plays. It was evident the team has matured over the last year that head coach Jim McElwain has been in charge.
“Night and day from a year ago,” McElwain said to the media after the scrimmage. “I can’t tell you. You guys were here a year ago and I’m sure you went through the same thing I did. Yet, I saw a bunch of guys competing (today).”
Undoubtedly, there was a higher energy, a greater level of familiarity when it came to the playbook and more focus on becoming a better football team with the scrimmage, Saturday. Before they even kicked off, the sideline was electric as the young men pumped one another up as if it were a gameday in the fall.
“I thought we saw a lot of really good things from a lot of guys,” McElwain continued.
Certainly, those few of us at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium were witness to big-time plays.
Garrett Grayson, who further helped his case to be the team’s starting quarterback with a stellar scrimmage performance, played with the first team for much of the afternoon. He led the ones to two straight touchdown drives on the No. 2 defense, including the 31-yard TD pass to Charles Lovett down the right sideline. Lovett was the most productive receiver, and had multiple catches of 10 or more yards from both Grayson and Conner Smith. Smith, the backup QB, struggled a bit early, being sacked three times on his first three drives. His best drive came when the team was working in the no-huddle, as he marched the team 73 yards for a score, which was run in by fourth string running back Kapri Bibbs.
While there was a noticeable improvement from last season, the Rams were still far from gameday ready.
“Some of the obviously glaring problems were ball security, we had some balls come out,” explained McElwain. “Now, the flip side of that is our defense was doing a great job of clawing at the ball and creating those turnovers. That’s what it’s all about.”
Starting linebacker Shaq Barrett was electric; he ripped the ball from Tommey Morris as the bigger back ran down field, and he recorded a sack only a few plays later.
However, where the defense was most impressive, was up front where they recorded nearly 10 sacks in the 124-play scrimmage. “Our depth is way up there from a year ago,” said Coach Mac. “And I’m excited for this football team.”
Junior college transfer Terry Jackson recorded two of those sacks by powering through the offensive line, while Calvin Tonga had two and Johnny Schupp had a late sack as well. One of the Rams’ biggest weaknesses last season was up front on defense; they look much improved there Saturday.
Sure, it’s only the first spring scrimmage of the year, but what Colorado State showed was a vastly improved team compared to recent years. It’s becoming clear how much Ram U has benefited the players’ strength and conditioning, and McElwain’s mentality of getting better every day is paying off as well.
Next up for CSU is a public practice at Infinit7 Park of Glendale at 5:45 PM Mountain on Friday.