Balde: CSU will take a step in the right direction this year

Mamadou Balde

Colorado State football will blend their new and returning players together in harmony to improve from last season’s record.

Once again the Rams will be without quarterback Collin Hill who tore his ACL earlier in the summer while playing basketball. Hill was slated to take over at CSU after former quarterback Nick Stevens graduated.

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This year, the Rams will rely on University of Washington transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels to kick off the season as the starter against Hawaii. Carta-Samuels was the backup quarterback to Jake Browning before transferring to CSU.

Senior Izzy Mathews takes part in spring practice on April 4. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

The Rams finished last season with a 7-6 record while going 5-3 against conference competition. Expect the Rams to improve upon that record in 2018.

One of the biggest returning pieces for the Rams is running back Izzy Matthews. The Redding, California native rushed for 613 yards and eight touchdowns during the 2017 season. Though a slight drop in production from 2016 when he rushed for 713 yards and 13 touchdowns, Matthews did play in two fewer games in 2017. Matthews will take over the starting job for the Rams with the departure of Dalyn Dawkins leaving the position in good hands.

With Michael Gallup moving on to the Dallas Cowboys and Detrich Clark graduating last year, expect senior wide receiver Olabisi Johnson to also have a dominant season. Johnson finished the 2017 season with 41 catches and racked up 595 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Johnson is also CSU’s record holder for most yards in a single game with 265 yards in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl back in 2016.

With an entirely new offensive and defensive coordinator, the Rams could look a lot different this season.

CSU will face four non-conference opponents before finishing the season with seven conference opponents. After playing Hawaii, the team will head to Denver for the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown. Despite a disappointing loss to the Buffaloes in last year’s Rocky Mountain Showdown, I expect the Rams to bounce back and get a win.

The Rams will face three power-five schools in the University of Colorado, Arkansas and Florida. These games will be the biggest competition for the Rams this season outside their conference. 

If the team can get their offense and defense in a rhythm early on in the season, expect the trend to continue going into the second half of the season once the schedule lightens up. The Rams are poised for a strong comeback season against a number of opponents they have matched up well against in the past.

Predicted Record: 8-4

Biggest win: Colorado 

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Collegian sports reporter Mamadou Balde can be reached by email at sportas@collegian.com or on Twitter @mamadoubalde62.