For college football fans, the first Wednesday of February offers a respite in the long lull between the National Championship game and the opening of fall camps in August.
Yes, National Signing Day is here, and the Colorado State Rams closed the 2017 recruiting season with 26 athletes now calling Fort Collins home.
According to Scout.com, CSU currently pulled in the 64th ranked class in the country, ranked second in the Mountain West behind 59th ranked Boise State. On Scout, the Rams received commitments from 14 three-star athletes, the most in school history.
CSU’s class includes athletes from 12 different states, a University of Tennessee transfer in Preston Williams and four juco players.
“I thought we addressed a lot of needs and we were able to add depth to this football team,” coach Mike Bobo said during Wednesday’s signing day press conference. “(We got) a lot of quality young men that are not just outstanding football players, but outstanding people that we are looking forward to coach.”
With the loss of starters Fred Zerblis and Nick Callender on the offensive line, and probable 2017 starters Trae Moxley, Zack Golditch and Jake Bennett set to be seniors, the Rams went hunting for offensive lineman in the 2017 recruiting class.
In addition to three-star juco offensive tackles, Tyler Bjorklund and Benjamin Knox, who committed to the team in December, the Rams added two more tackles to the class on signing day.
Joctavis Phillips, a 6-foot-5 275 pound two-star offensive tackle out of Neville High School in Monroe, Louisiana, and three-star 6-foot-6 312 pound John Blasco out of Stadium High School in Tacoma Washington, both made their pledges official.
CSU rounded out a strong offensive line pull with the addition of three guards in three-star prospects Scott Brooks (6-foot-4 280 pounds) and Luis Lebron (6-foot-5 355 pounds), and Kieran Firment, a two-star 6-foot-4 298 pound lineman out of Imperial, Pennsylvania.
With the inexperience behind the three aforementioned seniors, and junior Colby Meeks, it is certainly possible that any one of the seven lineman could make an early impact.
“We felt we needed to obviously improve the needs (on the offensive line) by the number, and we were able to get seven guys,” Bobo said. “Two of them (Bjorklund and Knox), who are juco guys, hopefully can provide depth immediately for us. And then, five high school guys that I wouldn’t rule anything out as far as being able to come in early and play. The number one thing you will see is the size. We have gotten bigger with the size of our offensive lineman.”
The Rams did lose some firepower to the offensive line class when longtime verbal commit, Sincere David, flipped to Ole Miss on Wednesday.
David, a 6-foot-3 315 pound offensive tackle, was not the only target the Rams lost to Ole Miss on Wednesday, as four-star athlete Braylon Sanders out of Callaway High School in Hogansville, Georgia pledged to the Rebels over the Rams.
“I would be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt,” Bobo said about losing commits last second. “But, at the end of the day, it’s their decision that they have to make. I always say we are going to sell Colorado State. We are going to sell what we have to offer, and I want guys who want to be here for the right reason.”
After pulling in just two Colorado high school signees last year, defensive lineman Toby McBride and tight end Isiah Pannunzio, the Rams signed three local products in the 2017 class.
Two-star linebacker Corte Tapia out of Windsor High School joins CSU after a high school career in which he became the all-time sack leader in Colorado prep history. Alongside Tapia is a pair of three-star Mullen High School products, running back Marcus McElroy and safety Christian Cumber, who also made it official on Wednesday.
“It is very, very important,” Bobo said about signing in-state players. “You start with your state first and you try to address your needs and improve your depth with your in-state guys. Corte Tapia right down the road, Marcus McElroy (and) Christian Cumber are three guys we have known about for a long time.”
On Wednesday, Bobo added that he counts linebacker Patrick Moody out of Vero Beach, Florida as a “Colorado kid,” bringing the in-state number to four in his mind.
Moody spent his first two years of high school at Chaparral High in Parker, Colorado.
The Rams may have played nine true freshman last season, but on Wednesday Bobo said that he thought that the team’s 2017 group was stronger initially than the 2016 class.
Time can only tell, and the signees have a lot to live up to after what freshman like Collin Hill, Toby McBride, Arjay Jean and Jamal Hicks did during the 2016 campaign, but by all indications, including those of coach Bobo, the Rams are headed in the right direction into 2017.
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5