Defense struggles in CSU’s first scrimmage of fall camp

Keegan Pope

Saturday was the first time Mike Bobo had seen his team in a scrimmage setting since April’s spring game. While he was impressed with the offense’s ability to move the ball, Bobo was disappointed with the energy level and intensity the defense played with during the closed scrimmage.

Here are five takeaways from our interview with him after the two-hour scrimmage:

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  1. CSU is being extremely cautious with Rashard Higgins, and for good reason. The consensus All-American battled a minor hamstring injury in the spring and is now battling a groin injury. His leg has been wrapped under his pants every day at practice and he has been held out of all special teams drills and was again held out completely from Saturday’s scrimmage. As long he remains in-shape and engaged, there’s really no reason to risk an injury before CSU’s Sept. 5 opener. Higgins is really the one player this cannot afford to lose to injury, so it will be interesting to see what his workload is over the next few weeks.
  2. The running backs were impressive according to Bobo, especially the top three listed on the depth chart. Treyous Jarrells and Dalyn Dawkins have generally been running with the first-team offense, but Jasen Oden Jr. has been no slouch, either. True freshman Izzy Matthews was also solid in short-yardage, but he’s a likely candidate for redshirt sitting behind the three players mentioned above. Unlike the past two seasons, it looks like CSU will be a team that uses a running back by committee approach, spelling Jarrells with Oden Jr. and Dawkins. During the scrimmage, Jarrells carried eight times for 59 yards and a touchdown, Oden carried seven times for 43 yards and a touchdown and Dawkins carried seven times for 33 yards.
  3. There were no major injuries to speak of from Saturday’s practice, and most of the players who were held were done so for precautionary reasons. Projected starters Kivon Cartwright and Trent Matthews were held out, while Jordan Benson and Devin Jones sat with injuries they’ve battled for the majority of camp. Safety Jake Schlager did play though, after spending a few days wearing a red jersey and sitting out of contact drills. As a whole, CSU has remained very healthy over the first 11 practices, something they attribute to their offseason strength and conditioning work.
  4. The quarterback job is still up in the air, at least for a few more days. Bobo didn’t talk much about Nick Stevens during the press availability, though he did mention that both quarterbacks played relatively well. Coleman Key did struggle with some ball-handling issues, but the offense was able to recover each ball he fumbled. At this point, it seems to be almost a given that Stevens will be named the starter, but Bobo is still hesitant to do so. Most of the things we asked about were answered by, “We’ll see once we look at the film.” Stevens finished the scrimmage 15 of 21 for 198 yards and one touchdown, while Key was 12-for-22, throwing for 213 yards and three touchdowns.
  5. The defensive line was not great in pass rush situations. One of the big keys for this unit will be taking pressure off the secondary by putting it on the quarterback. Bobo was not happy with the pass rush Saturday, noting that the defense as a whole struggled to bow their necks against the offense. Joe Kawoluk has shown flashes as a player who can get to the quarterback, but CSU will need much more than that if they want to be in the top half of the league on defense.

Statistical leaders:

Offense:

QB: Coleman Key: 12-22, 213 yards, 3 TDs
RB: Treyous Jarrells: 8 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD
WR: Jordon Vaden: 5 catches, 124 yards, 1 TD
TE: Mitch Parsons: 2 catches, 34 yards

Defense:

LB Josh Watson: 8 tackles, PBU, TFL
LB Deonte Clyburn: 7 tackles, 4 solo
LB Cory James: 7 tackles, PBU, TFL
S Jake Schlager: 5 tackles, 2 solo

Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.