Beginning of spring practice brings quarterback competition for CSU football

Colin Barnard

Colorado State began spring football with the disastrous news that would-be starting quarterback Collin Hill tore his left ACL for the second time in less than three years.

Ready to take over the offense after starting four games as a freshman in 2016 and redshirting in 2017, Hill’s injury dealt a devastating blow to an offense eager to repeat last season’s success. The most optimistic projections give Hill a chance at returning near the beginning of the regular season, but that is far from certain.

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Robles throws ball
Colorado State quarterback J.C Robles takes part in drills during spring practice on March 30, 2017. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

Now officially welcoming the beginning of spring practices, attention turns to the next man up for CSU’s quarterback. Redshirt junior J.C. Robles, redshirt freshman Justice McCoy and redshirt freshman Judd Erickson are the other three quarterbacks on the roster figuring to compete for the starting gig this spring.

Head coach Mike Bobo said that Robles, who served as the backup in garbage time situations with Hill redshirting last season, and McCoy will see the spotlight early.

“These two guys (Robles and McCoy), the focus will be on them,” Bobo said. “They’ll have a lot of opportunities, which they did have an opportunity since they’ve been here. The spotlight will be on them and we’ll see how they handle a little bit of pressure.”

Though he’s played in four games during his career, Robles has yet to accumulate any stats. Bobo keyed on Robles’ need to improve his accuracy and footwork in order to excel in his system.

He also pegged Robles as more of a dual-threat option than McCoy, despite the latter’s labeling coming out of high school, and wants Robles to develop as a leader. Since Hill’s injury nine days ago, Bobo said he already noticed him stepping up in some situations.

“He’s got to play confident,” Bobo said. “Part of that comes with getting more opportunities and more reps. He’s got to take it upon himself to be confident, not necessarily with how he plays, but how he projects his voice, how he leads…I said, ‘Don’t be quiet, you’re the guy, you have to speak up, they’re going to follow you.’”

Meanwhile, McCoy’s learning curve will come in the form of translating information into performance. Having added 20 pounds to his frame since coming to CSU as a freshman, the 6-foot-1, now 205-pound quarterback impresses Bobo physically. The next step will be proving that on the field.

“It’s going out and putting it together, processing information for Justice,” Bobo said. “Taking things from the meeting room, to the drills, to the scrimmages – how fast can he process it?”

Erickson, a former walk-on from Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, will receive his first work in team situations after participating primarily in individual drills his freshman year. Bobo says that his areas of development will mirror those of McCoy.

Prior to Hill’s injury, Bobo and the coaching staff had already been narrowing which quarterback would serve as the team’s backup. Though that competition is drastically more important now, the familiarity with the search is already something the staff is accustomed to.

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In addition to the three players already on the roster, Bobo reiterated that he is still looking for a quarterback to add to the mix,  primarily in the form of a graduate transfer.

“We’re actively recruiting,” Bobo said. “As I said after our signing day that we did not sign a quarterback in this signing class and we would actively recruit a quarterback this offseason and we’re still doing that.”

A name frequently tied to the Rams’ search is former Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady. Named the Vols’ starter at the beginning of 2017, Dormady started the first five games last season before being replaced. As graduate transfer, Dormadt would be immediately available to play.

Regardless of who emerges as the starter, Bobo expects the team’s mindset to remain steady.

“We’ve got to exude confidence in the next quarterback that’s up,” Bobo said. “We can’t come out there with our head down…We’ve got to come out confident and focus on what you can control and that’s your job. We’ll coach the quarterbacks up and we’ll get somebody ready to play and ready to execute in our first game.”

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