First preseason scrimmage gives sense of what could be in store for Rams

Eddie Herz

Fans were provided with their first opportunity to see the 2018 Rams for an open scrimmage at the newly-dubbed Canvas Stadium Aug. 4. 

Though the scrimmage didn’t include a significant amount of complex, in-game plays, the offense-defense scrimmage helped identify a little of what the Rams have to offer next season.

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If the scrimmage taught fans anything, it’s that whoever is behind center will have plenty of talented options through the air.

CSU’s wide receivers look close to being ready for the season. Freshman wideout Nikko Hall made his presence known almost immediately and established noticeable chemistry with quarterback Justice McCoy while running with the second string offense.

Hall made two grabs in his first series, including a 20-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring. Hall displayed his speedy route running ability and went on to make two more receptions.

“Nikko is a guy that really has improved every day,” Bobo said. “He made some plays today on key third downs. He got some conversions and didn’t hesitate after the catch. He put his foot in the ground and went and got the first (down).”

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that CSU’s anticipated top receiver Olabisi Johnson also found the end zone. K.J. Carta-Samuels connected with Johnson for a 27-yard touchdown.

Warren Jackson showcased the fits he will give opposing defenses this season. Early in the scrimmage, Jackson used his big body to go up and get a ball for a short touchdown. The play was set up by a huge gain earlier in the drive. Jackson made a grab over the middle and took it 45 yards down the field, effortlessly breaking tackles. The catch-and-run was the largest play during the scrimmage in terms of yardage.

“I’m very, very impressed with him,” Bobo said. “I think he’s got a chance to be one of the all-time best receivers ever to play here. This guy is 6’6”, has really good speed, has really good body control. I like this kid a lot.”

Switching gears to the run game, both Marvin Kinsey Jr. and Rashaad Boddie were effective while splitting work between first and second string, but Izzy Matthews didn’t get much work. Using his size to run through defenders, Boddie carried the ball nine times for 68 yards. Boddie also found the end zone on two occasions.

Kinsey, who has gone through a mental battle since tearing his ACL in 2016, made the most of his carries Saturday. Kinsey totaled 47 yards on six carries. Bobo noted that he believes Kinsey is in the right place, both mentally and physically.

Quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels’ biggest mistake came when he was intercepted over the middle by linebacker Josh Watson. Other than that, Carta-Samuels was effective. The graduate transfer threw three touchdowns and completed 66.7 percent of his 21 passes.

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“I feel like (Carta-Samuels has) got (a) good command of the huddle or no huddle, so to speak,” Bobo said. “I think he’s getting better every day of understanding the offense and understanding where to go. He threw some nice deep balls, threw a nice deep ball to Bisi (Olabisi Johnson). He had a couple of nice check downs. Overall, I think he did a nice job.”

McCoy was a bit shaky at times but also drove the ball down the field efficiently throughout the game. The redshirt freshman made some mistakes and failed to check down the ball a few times. But McCoy demonstrated how far he has come since the spring.

Despite having some work to do in terms of learning CSU’s playbook, McCoy still threw for 169 yards and a touchdown.

“I’m really, really proud of this kid,” Bobo said. “He is worrying about what he can control, and that’s himself. He’s getting better every single day. He’s becoming a guy that I can see myself putting out in the game and trust him.”

Josh Watson, the Rams’ leading tackler from last season, once again led CSU on defense. The linebacker recorded six tackles while also exhibiting his physicality on the interception off of Carta-Samuels. On a ball Carta-Samuels was attempting to squeeze into Cameron Butler, Watson used his body to bully his way in and make a reaching catch.

Trey Sutton also picked off McCoy early in the scrimmage and recorded one tackle.

While the sidelines were relaxed for most of the scrimmage, there was a bit of a scary moment early on. Receiver E.J. Scott, who missed the entire 2017 season due to a knee injury, got taken down hard by Jadon Walker while reaching for an overthrown ball over the middle.

Scott was down for a few minutes before using his own power to walk off the field, but he was okay and later came back in.

“I was hoping it was kind of more of a scare,” Bobo said. “He got the wind knocked out of him. It was his first really good hit since the ACL (injury). I’m glad it came in the scrimmage and basically, it was a helmet on the thigh. To his credit, he got back in there and made a couple of plays.”

The scrimmage was the first of two that the Rams will hold during the preseason. The final preseason scrimmage will take place Aug. 11 at Canvas Stadium, but it will be closed to the public.

Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.