2015 Colorado State Rams Football Preview

Team Info
Colorado State Rams
Head Coach: Mike Bobo
2014 record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 Mountain West Mountain
2014 Postseason results: Lost to Utah 45-10 in the Las Vegas Bowl
2015 returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense

Betting Info
Odds to win 2016 College Football  Championship game: 7000/1
Odds to win 2015 MWC Championship Game: 23/1
Regular season wins: under 7 -180 /over 7 +150
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Colorado State looks to stay competitive in the Mountain West with new coach Mike Bobo.
Colorado State looks to stay competitive in the Mountain West with new coach Mike Bobo.

Colorado State went 10-3 last year including 6-2 in the Mountain West Mountain Division. It was the first 10 win season for the program since 2002. The Rams started off the season 10-1 including a 9 game winning streak. However, the season ended with two straight losses to rival Air Force and former conference rival Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Utah destroyed Colorado State 45-10.

The Rams did face a distraction in that game as coach Jim McElwain accepted the head coaching job at Florida before the bowl. Dave Baldwin served as the interim coach for the bowl. Colorado State went back to SEC country for McElwain’s replacement when they hired Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. McElwain had previously been the OC at Alabama before becoming head coach at CSU. Bobo gets 14 starters back. He has never been a head coach before at any level.

Offense

Colorado State averaged 481 yards per game on offense, including 322 passing and 159 rushing yards. The Rams averaged 34 points per game. CSU was #19 in total offense and #8 in passing nationally. Bobo hired Will Friend as the offensive coordinator. Friend had been the offensive line coach and running game coordinator at Georgia. Six starters are back for the rams on offense.

Quarterback Garrett Grayson is now with the New Orleans Saints. Grayson threw for 4,006 yards with 32 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Sophomore Nick Stevens will take over for Grayson at quarterback. He threw for 136 yards with a touchdown in limited action last year. He only attempted 25 passes last year. Freshman Coleman Key is the back-up.

Running back Dee Hart has graduated after he had 194 carries for 1,275 yards and 16 touchdowns, and making 18 catches for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns. Purdue transfer Dalyn Dawkins was very impressive in the spring and distanced himself from senior holdovers Treyous Jarrells and Jasen Oden, Jr. Dawkins, now a sophomore, sat out last year but rushed for 115 yards on 32 carries in 2013 for Purdue. Jarrells had 87 carries for 450 yards and 6 touchdowns, plus 11 catches. Oden, Jr. had 46 carries for 276 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus a touchdown catch. Deron Thompson could also get some carries. Nolan Peralta will start at fullback, a new position under Bobo’s pro style system.

Junior receiver Rashard Higgins had 96 catches for 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was a Biletnikoff Award Finalist given to the nation’s best receiver. Joe Hansley is also back after making 35 catches for 540 yards and 2 touchdowns. Xavier Williams also returns after making 30 catches for 430 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight end Steven Walker had 30 catches for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns. Another tight end Kivon Cartwright was granted a sixth year of eligibility after making only one catch in 2014. He has 57 career catches for 857 yards and 9 touchdowns. He and Walker will make a dangerous duo at tight end if they can remain healthy.

Three starters are back on the offensive line including left tackle Sam Carlson and right guard Fred Zerblis. Center Kevin O’Brien might lose his starting spot to sophomore Jake Bennett.

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Defense

Colorado State allowed 425 yards per game on defense, including 224 passing and 201 rushing yards. The Rams allowed 25 points per game. Bobo hired Central Florida defensive coordinator Tyson Summers for the same position in Fort Collins. Eight starters are back, but Summers will switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense in 2015.

The front seven struggled in both run stopping and getting pressure in the backfield last year. End Joe Kawulok and tackles Terry Jackson and Justin Hansen are all back for their senior seasons. However, they will be asked to make more plays in 2015.

Senior outside linebacker Cory James has 21 sacks in the last 3 seasons including 6.5 last season. The Rams only had 19 sacks as a team. Officially, Kevin Davis and Deonte Clyburn are new starters but both played a lot in 2014.

All four starters are back in the secondary.  Safeties Trent Matthews & Kevin Pierre-Louis, along with cornerback Preston Hodges were the three leading tacklers for the Rams last year. That should tell you that CSU gave up way too many big plays last year especially on the ground. The other corner is Tyree Simmons who looked much improved in spring practice.

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Special Teams

Freshman kicker Wyatt Bryan has some big shoes to fill as kicker Jared Roberts graduated with 270 career points. Punter Hayden Hunt is back for his junior season after averaging 43.8 yards per punt. Deionte Gaines will likely return kicks and Hansley will return punts.

Schedule

Colorado State opens the season with home games against Savannah State and Minnesota, before the neutral site game in Denver against rival Colorado. The Rams close out September with a trip to UTSA. In October, CSU travels to Utah State, then hosts Boise State, Air Force and San Diego State. That is a brutal stretch against arguably the four best teams in the Mountain West. However, three of them come to Fort Collins so we will see. The schedule is much easier in November with road games at Wyoming, New Mexico and Fresno State, and a home game against UNLV.

Outlook

The Rams must break in a new quarterback and running back, all while learning a completely new offensive system. The defense should be improved under Summers, one of the brightest young defensive minds in the country. If the Rams can survive the tough September-October gauntlet at 4-4, then they have a good shot at 8 wins. However, I think six or seven wins is more likely with a bowl berth.

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