CSU quarterbacks engulfed in the midst of a reignited competition

Eddie Herz

The Colorado State football team has officially gone back to square one in the words of Coach Mike Bobo. After a 1-4 start to the season, improvements need to be seen by Bobo in all phases of the game.

Bobo, an offensive-minded coach, has not witnessed his usually high-powered offense perform up to his expectations. No player’s job is safe and whoever shines in practice will have an opportunity to start.

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As Bobo announced after losing to Illinois State last Saturday, the starting quarterback situation has retreated back to an open competition, just like fall camp.

The current circumstance became evident when redshirt senior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels was pulled in a one-score game in the fourth quarter last Saturday. Redshirt sophomore Collin Hill stepped in and finished the game for the Rams.

In two days of practice this week, Carta-Samuels and Hill have split reps with the first team. Carta-Samuels took the first set of reps with the starters on Tuesday and then Hill finished practice with them. Roles reversed on Wednesday, resulting in an even split of first-team reps so far this week.

Bobo claimed he may say who CSU’s starting quarterback will be for the Rams’ next game on Monday. Or, he may even delay doing so until a few days into next week.

Though further enhancements are desired from the head coach, Bobo is encouraged by what he has seen so far from the two quarterbacks.

“I think both of them (Carta-Samuels and Hill) have done a lot of good things the first two days,” Bobo said. “I still need more consistency from both of them in throwing the ball. But, I thought we’ve protected better this week.”

Considering the 2018 season is Carta-Samuels’ final stint in collegiate football, the situation is tedious. Carta-Samuels set the CSU single-game passing record against Hawaii by throwing 537 yards. Even when successful, Carta-Samuels has been pulled for Hill. 

The quarterback noted he has been frustrated at times. But, that’s just competitive nature.  Carta-Samuels remains confident in his abilities to lead his team when called upon.

“I feel very confident in my own abilities,” Carta-Samuels said. “I feel like I should be the guy and that I can play. But, that’s not always up to me.”

Bobo addressing the free-for-all at the quarterback situation may give a sense that a shift in each quarterback’s mentality has occurred. Carta-Samuels’ job was safe one week ago, and now it is not.

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While things may have changed in the eyes of Rams’ fans, they have not in the eyes of Carta-Samuels and Hill. Since fall camp, the two feel they have always been competing. CSU’s coaching staff has never failed to preach competition, even when it appears a specific starter’s job is locked in. 

Carta-Samuels noted that the competition has driven him to be a better player. Even though having a question mark next to a team’s starting quarterback job may be a bit worrisome five games into the season, the Rams are in an advantageous position. 

“I said that when I got here that it was awesome having (Hill) here and having him push me so hard because it made me push and work harder because I want to be that guy,” Carta-Samuels said. “It definitely is an advantage and really a blessing honestly.”

Amongst the competition, the two have maintained a relationship and have allowed each other to grow.

Carta-Samuels and Hill room together before each road game. Though competitive, the two want what is best for the team. Both quarterbacks are making positive strides, setting the competition to be rigorous. 

Carta-Samuels’ biggest struggle has been pass protection. But, he has appeared to positively tweak that during the past few practices and is really taking the challenge upon himself.

Meanwhile, Hill playing more than just one possession against Illinois State is something significant on its own. Before CSU’s last game, Hill had only attempted 15 passes this season. The quarterback went 9-17 for 115 yards and a touchdown against Illinois State.

“I wish I had the pick back but I think I played alright,” Hill said. “Like I said, the more reps I’ve gotten the more I’ve started to settle in a little more and I think I’m going to get there.”

Prior to the extended time, Hill had to deal with limited playing time and limited opportunity to make an impression.

“I get really excited for my drive,” Hill said. “If you don’t make anything of it, it kind of stings because it’s kind of hard to find a rhythm…but that’s just a part of it. We know there is only one quarterback that can play at a time. I just have to be ready when my number is called.”

The competition will reach its conclusion prior to the Rams’ Oct. 6 matchup at San Jose State University. Whichever quarterback takes the reigns will look to reverse the Rams’ season, competing for another bowl berth. 

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