Nick Stevens has handled adversity his entire collegiate career.
The redshirt junior quarterback has battled for his role on the team ever since arriving in Fort Collins. He beat out Craig Leonard for the backup role behind Garrett Grayson in 2014, and beat out Coleman Key for the starting gig in 2015. So, with Faton Bauta gunning for his job in 2016, it is business as usual for Stevens.
After leading his team to a bowl game in his first year as the starter, Stevens is fine tuning his game, and continuing to grow as a leader of the team. Costly errors and ill-timed turnovers hurt the Rams in multiple games last season. When asked on how the offense can improve in 2016, the California native explained that attention to detail is key this offseason.
“I think we need to work on the details,” Stevens said.
It is about the little things, according to Stevens.
“It may be a play here and there, but that could be the difference in really good preparation and just okay preparation,” he said. “We want to have the best preparation we can. I think that gives you the best chance to win. So, yeah, definitely I’d say the little things and the details are what we need to work on as a team.”
The highs and lows of last season has resulted in a team that is hungry to compete for a conference title, along with creating a bond that has brought the players closer together than ever.
“I think that even though we’ve been around each other for three years now, we kinda have a special chemistry within the offense,” Stevens said. “We had our struggles together, and then kind of figured it out towards the end of the season. Now, I almost feel like (we are) veterans.”
As a veteran leader of this team, Stevens has handled the competition well and has shown extreme signs of maturity and poise throughout this offseason. As talented as Bauta is, Stevens is a proven winner and leader of this team. The bond within the locker room is sacred and should not be overlooked in this position battle.
In Stevens’ first year as a starter, he had to both learn a new offense and beat out Key for the starting job.
In 2016, Stevens once again has to win the job, but familiarity within the offense should help him this time around. The receivers know how his ball comes in, the offensive line understands how he works in the pocket. Ultimately, his greatest advantage is that the team is used to working with him under center and they trust him to be “the guy”.
Stevens feels the struggles and growing pains that came with the Bobo regime in year-one has brought the team closer together. This offseason and and early stages of spring ball has been a continuation of that growing process, as the team prepares for this fall.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a good atmosphere for the guys coming in this fall,” Stevens said. “I definitely feel like everyone is a lot closer as a team than we were last year at this time.”
Cohesion and chemistry can do incredible things in the world of sports. On many occasions, the most talented team loses to who gives the best team effort. The 2016 Rams appear to be closer than ever as a group, and that will pay off come game day.
With an experienced quarterback duo in Bauta and Stevens, CSU has a surplus of leadership in their locker room. Both of these student athletes are putting in the work on the field and in the film room. No matter who wins the job, it will not be from a lack of effort or leadership from the counterpart.
Collegian Sports Reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JustinSportsCSU.