Winter roundup: What you missed in CSU athletics this break

Colin Barnard

Though students at Colorado State enjoyed a month off from classes between first and second semester, the schools’ athletic programs stayed busy over the break. The men’s basketball, women’s basketball and swimming and diving teams continued their seasons while the indoor track and field season began.

The football program also made some noise during the beginning of its offseason. Here is everything you need to know from the last month of CSU athletics.

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Grace Colaivalu emerges as difference maker for women’s hoops

Having lost two of the most influential players in the history of CSU women’s basketball, the program had an unusual amount of question marks entering the 2017-18 season. Redshirt freshman Grace Colaivalu quieted some of those concerns by emerging as a legitimate scorer throughout conference play. The Sacramento, California native is averaging a team-high 18.0 points per game in conference play, highlighted by a 29-point performance against San Diego State on Jan. 3 during which she made a last-second layup to give the Rams a victory. CSU is 3-3 in the Mountain West, good for fifth place in the conference standings.

Men’s basketball gaining momentum in the MW

After concluding non-conference play with a last-second victory over Long Beach State on Dec. 23, CSU has been a mixed bag through six conference matchups. Despite only winning one of their first four games on the conference schedule, the Rams are riding a two-game winning streak to pull even at 3-3. Junior Prentiss Nixon has led the Rams despite playing through a knee injury he suffered on Jan. 2. The guard is a threat on both ends of the floor, leading the team with 18.2 points and 1.67 steals per contest. All three of the Rams’ conference victories have come on the road as they, too, are tied for fifth place in the MW.

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Football program rounding out coaching staff

The coaching carousel at CSU was in full-speed over the last month as multiple coaches came and left Fort Collins. The biggest news came when former Alabama defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley agreed in principle to become CSU’s defensive coordinator on the morning of the National Championship. Days later, however, tides turned as the promising young coach agreed to join Jon Gruden in the NFL as the cornerbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders.

After losing his man, head coach Mike Bobo went back to his southern routes to bring aboard former colleague John Jancek. Jancek worked with Bobo at Georgia as the linebackers coach before serving as the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and Tennessee, spending three years with each program. His latest position was as a defensive analyst at Kentucky. Though the university has yet to release an official statement on the potential hiring, Jancek has updated his Twitter handle to @CSUCoachJancek, saying he is the defensive coordinator for CSU in his bio.

Meanwhile, Tennessee and CSU continue to intertwine themselves in each other’s coaching search. Former CSU offensive coordinator Will Friend and cornerbacks coach Terry Fair both accepted positions at Tennessee prior to the team’s bowl game loss against Marshall. According to FootballScoop.com, CSU tight ends coach Joe Cox also interviewed with Tennessee for a potential opening.

To fill the void left by Fair, CSU intends to hire Tennessee quality control assistant Eric Lewis, according to a report by The Athletic. Per his Twitter bio, the Rams have also hired former Ohio offensive line coach Dave Johnson to the same position.

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Track & field enters indoor season among best in nation

The CSU men’s track and field team entered the indoor season ranked No. 6 in the nation by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association. The ranking is the highest in program history in either indoor or outdoor track & field. After finishing last season ranked No. 12 in the nation, the Rams return many of the same difference makers.

Senior Mostafa Hassan returns in the shot put as one of the most successful athletes in CSU history. During last year’s indoor season, Hassan not only finished with the best shot put in the MW, he finished with No. 4 mark in the world. Distance runners Grant Fischer and Cole Rockhold and combined events athletes Hunter Price and Nick Kravec are all likely to compete for All-America honors in their respective events.

Rams’ football well-represented in collegiate all-star games

Six former CSU football players were selected to play in postseason all-star games. Defensive tackle Darnell Thompson already participated in the Tropical Bowl on Jan. 14 alongside other top talents in the nation. Running back Dalyn Dawkins and offensive tackle Zack Golditch both accepted invites to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 20. The familiar tandem of center Jake Bennett and quarterback Nick Stevens will team up once more during the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 20.

Wide receiver Michael Gallup rounds out the participants with his participation in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. One of the most heralded collegiate all-star games, the Senior Bowl takes place on Jan. 27 at 12:30 p.m. MT and can be seen on NFL Network.

Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.