Spring is in the air!
The clouds are clearing, the Rockies are playing and spring football is officially in full swing in Fort Collins.
Now, I know that most of you are thinking about the end of March Madness and the beginning of baseball season, but football is a year round kind of sport so it is never too early to talk Rams football.
Fort Collins is certainly not as football obsessed as college towns like Tuscaloosa, Alabama or Ann Arbor, Michigan, but there is much excitement around the future of Colorado State football and plenty of chatter about the highly anticipated 2017 season.
As the Rams inch closer to August 26 and the opening of the on-campus stadium, a project that has been the talk of the town for the better part of the last five years, excitement for this program will only heighten.
With a fancy new home comes the possibility of a brighter future. For a program that is trying to elevate itself to the next level, nothing could be more thrilling.
CSU has reached a bowl game in four consecutive seasons, but with a record of 1-3 in those post-season games and zero Mountain West championships banners to boast, fans of the green and gold are tired of hearing “we are close.”
The truth is that the football program is in a significantly better position to compete than it was just a few years ago. Led by the highly respected head coach Mike Bobo, revamped uniforms and a strong recruiting class, the Rams are legitimately on the college football map, as far as mid-majors go.
However, after finishing last season with a record of 7-6 in a year that will be remembered for a team that continually came up short in the big moment —losing to Boise State, Colorado, Wyoming and an embarrassing performance in the Idaho Potato Bowl — this is a program that has yet to reach its full potential and will be expected to produce better results this season.
The Rams return a pair of capable starting quarterbacks in redshirt senior Nick Stevens and true sophomore Collin Hill on offense. With WR Michael Gallup on the outside and one of the most experienced backfields in the conference (Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews), the expectations for this unit have not been this high since 2014.
Defensively the Rams return nine starters. Notably senior linebacker Deonte Clyburn, who missed the 2016 season with blood clots. In 2017, Clyburn returns as one of the team’s most prominent vocal leaders. If Clyburn’s play on the field parallels his leadership off of it, the Rams will be in good in shape up front.
There are questions around the secondary and who will replace the production of Tyree Simmons, but those will be answered in camp this August.
Ultimately this is a team that has been on the verge of winning the conference for the last four years. Now heading into Bobo’s third season as head coach, the Rams have an opportunity to take that next step.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.