CSU’s Carta-Samuels’ physical and mental skills have progressed

Eddie Herz

Redshirt senior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels has yet to doubt himself on Colorado State’s offense.

Transferring to a new program, learning a new offensive scheme and being named CSU’s starter after serving as a backup at Washington for three seasons led to a period of adjustment.

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But, the general sense from Carta-Samuels’ performance through four games this season is one of confidence in his abilities.

After all, the statistics stand out. Despite subpar outings against the University of Colorado and University of Florida, the quarterback has already thrown for 1319 yards and nine touchdowns. The figure is nearly 100 more yards and one more touchdown than Nick Stevens accumulated last season. Carta-Samuels has also thrown half as many interceptions.

Though the quarterback started out hot by throwing 537 yards against Hawaii in CSU’s first game this season, there are other aspects he has improved on.

One has been his ability to shake off plays and move on.

“It’s simply that sometimes you are going to make some good plays and sometimes you are going to make some bad plays,” Carta-Samuels said. “The bad ones don’t stick in my head. (Even) picks, it doesn’t matter. I know that I can play well so that’s all that matters.”

There are mental aspects CSU players have noticed the quarterback has improved on as well. Considering Carta-Samuels was never under the spotlight in his collegiate career before becoming a Ram, there are nerves attached to leading an offense.

The quarterback was excited to open the season before playing Hawaii. But, there is no denying he felt a bit of anxiousness too. That level of anxiety has since disappeared. 

“He’s more calm,” senior wide receiver Olabisi Johnson said. “The first few weeks you get going in a real game and you get a little jittery. But he’s definitely handled it and he’s way more comfortable back there.”

More playing time has also helped Carta-Samuels’ game. Although facing Washington’s defense in practice for a handful of seasons helped the quarterback develop, nothing helps more than meaningful in-game experience.  

Coach Mike Bobo emphasized improvement in Carta-Samuels’  ability to operate outside of the pocket during the offseason. The skill is something the quarterback continuously worked on that can be seen when watching him play.  

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“Once he gets out of the pocket, he doesn’t panic too much anymore,” Johnson said. “He’s hit me on a few of his scrambles and I really like the way he is when he’s outside of the pocket now.”

Carta-Samuels can be described as an easy-going, laid back guy. Trusting him on the field has taken some time.

CSU players have always trusted and been confident in their quarterback. Carta-Samuels has earned that trust by showing his commitment to his teammates.

“He’s always prepared,” sophomore tight end Cameron Butler said. “He goes to meetings early and leaves late. He texts us on Saturdays and things like that. He’s confident in himself and that makes us even more confident in him.”

It has not been all smooth sailing for Carta-Samuels though. His team is 1-3 and the quarterback has been briefly pulled for backup Collin Hill in three of the Rams’ four games this season.

For a quarterback trying to establish himself, being replaced can be demoralizing, but getting pulled has sharpened the quarterback’s mental edge overall. Carta-Samuels’ confidence has persevered through being forced to sit on the bench.

“(Getting benched) does nothing in terms of my confidence because I know that I’ve been playing well,” Carta-Samuels said. “I don’t really need to think about was it because I missed one or two throws. Sometimes coaches just want to do what they want to do. You have no control over it.”

Within the Rams’ first four games, they have squared up against three-consecutive Power-Five programs and two-straight SEC opponents. CSU has played the toughest schedule to date in comparison with the rest of the Mountain West.

Benefits come with playing superior competition though, something that is especially true for Carta-Samuels.

“You’re having to stand in there against a pretty good pass rush,” Bobo said. “You’re throwing the ball against tight coverage when you’re playing some of these teams. The time you have is a little bit shorter. The decisions you have to make have to be quicker. So I think he’s improved every week with that.”

There is more for Bobo to be satisfied about regarding the quarterback’s production than to be upset about. That does not mean there is not anything for Carta-Samuels to improve on. The beginning stages of the season have only recently been completed.

“He still has to improve with his fundamentals and his footwork, that is something that we are harping on everyday,” Bobo said. “At the same time, I don’t want to take his ability away to make plays. But, we’ve got to be fundamentally sounder at the quarterback position.”

Carta-Samuels’ next opportunity comes at home against Illinois State Sept. 22. 

Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com.