Coaching changes, an offseason scandal and various changes to the landscape of the team have each taken a toll on the team, but the Rams are now focused on their season opener and becoming a more mature team throughout 2012.
In order to grow as a team, the Rams have focused on cutting down on the amount of penalties they commit.
CSU was ranked tied for No. 92 in NCAA Division-I football last year in terms of least-penalized teams in the nation, a trend it would like to buck in the coming season with new coach Jim McElwain at the helm.
“We had quite a few penalties last year,” quarterback Garrett Grayson said. “(McElwain) always says, ‘just pay attention to the detail and everything will fall into place.’ Just the little things create big plays.”
Focusing on not making the big mistakes has been a focus for the Rams on both sides of the ball as CSU looks to improve from the disappointing 3-9 seasons it has turned out the last three years.
While maturing as a team throughout the offseason has been important for CSU preparing for the beginning of the 2012 season, smaller things like lining up correctly and making the right play calls have also been a process for a team learning two new playbooks since this March.
“We feel good,” said Aaron Davis, a new starting linebacker for the Rams in 2012. “I think we’re more of a family this year. We know we can trust each other to be where they need to be, you’re not nervous that someone’s not gonna be where they’re supposed to be, so I think we’re gonna be a lot better (this year).”
For McElwain, after the preparation of the offseason has built to this point, the Rams must now focus on allowing the game Saturday to come to them, and not allow the moment of entering the 76,125-seat Sports Authority Field intimidate them.
“The excitement of the rivalry, that’s gonna happen, that’s natural,” McElwain said. “The thing you don’t wanna have happen is, you know, they go out there and start hyperventilating, where it just becomes bigger than it is.”
Trying to maintain his composure will be Grayson, who will start his first career season-opener for the Rams Saturday in a game that will be on a national stage.
“I’m excited, it’s the biggest stadium I’ve ever played in — obviously — so I’m pumped, I’m ready to go,” said Grayson, who started the final four games with the Rams in 2011. “I think if I didn’t play against those guys through those last four games like I did, my nerves would be out of the roof right now, so I’m just ready to go, I’m ready to start completing some balls against somebody else.”
Football Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.