From the loss of star receivers Rashard Higgins and Joe Hansley to the departure of eight senior defensive starters – in addition to a new defensive coordinator – the Rams have plenty of questions that need answering before the 2016 season.
Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo, as well as offensive coordinator Will Friend and new defensive coordinator Marty English, addressed the media Tuesday prior to the beginning of spring camp Friday.
In what is shaping up to be a transitional spring, Bobo enters his second season at the helm with a full recruiting class and a year of experience behind him. Last year, Bobo was excited about the chance to take over a team and get his team on the field, but this spring brings new challenges for the second year head coach.
“The excitement this year is due to the fact of picking up where we left off,” Bobo said. “Seeing if we can learn and grow from what we did right and what we did not do well enough to win football games.”
Experience gained from last season should enable his players to make a smoother transition into this season, but throughout the press conference he stressed that the spring ball focus will be on the little things.
With an emphasis on cutting down on the penalties and turnovers that plagued it last season, the team will spend the spring working on the details and discipline needed for a more fundamentally sound season in 2016.
“Don’t leave any stone unturned as a football coach, or take anything for granted,” Bobo said. “We have to be attentive to those details.”
With the loss of experience and play makers on both sides of the ball, the coaches are also placing their spring focus on identifying new players they can depend on to step up and fill the shoes of the departing players.
Bobo expects that through the spring competition, players will take hold of their opportunities to prove to the coaches that they are not only dependable, but can make those game-breaking plays that were in abundance two seasons ago, but were fewer and further between last year.
With numerous positions to fill, expect plenty of competition across the board as practice begins.
“Anytime we have chance to compete we need to compete,” Bobo said. “You’ve got that first guy, and who you think that guy is, but you have to develop player two and player three to create the competition and create depth.”
Bobo believes that the individual competitions will create much needed depth on his team, but he expects his full recruiting class to come in and have an immediate impact in that competition and depth, especially the junior college signees.
“That’s why we signed 26 guys, that’s why next year I am going to try to sign 25 guys,” Bobo said. “I don’t want to recruit somebody who is as good as the guy we have here, I want to recruit somebody better. They are going to push each other.”
The team also enters spring ball under the direction of new DC Marty English who takes over after Tyson Summers left to take the head coaching job at Georgia Southern.
English served as the co-defensive coordinator prior to Bobo’s arrival, and remained on the staff last year as the linebackers coach. As he takes charge of the defense, the Rams will shift from a 4-3 defensive front back to the 3-4 they played with during its 10-win season in 2014.
English expects the transition to the new defense to pick up quick, especially for those who had already employed it under the previous coaching regime.
“I am counting on some of the guys who were sophomores in that time to relay it,” English said. “But for who we have and what we need to do I think they are going to pick it up pretty fast and run with it.”
Even though the Rams are losing a huge chunk of their defensive contributors, the switch to the new defense allows for a fresh start on the defensive side of the ball.
“It is going to be exciting to see some of the new faces and see how they handle the transition and that type of stuff,” English said. “We lost a lot of kids, but that’s okay because we are approaching this very positively and we need to get going with it.”
Spring practice officially begins Friday as the Rams take the practice field for the first time in preparation for the 2016 season.
The 6-foot-3 Jordon Vaden will convert to cornerback for his senior year. Over the last three seasons, Vaden has totaled 38 catches for 481 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver.
Marcus Wilson will switch sides of the ball as well, going from cornerback to wide receiver. Wilson has not seen any action in games as a cornerback over the past two seasons. He played both receiver and cornerback in high school, where he helped lead Valor Christian to three straight Colorado 5A state titles.
Collegian Sports Reporter Eric Wolf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.