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Herz: Bobo starting Hill indicates more than an attempt to ‘spark’ CSU

Colorado State Coach Mike Bobo justified his decision to start redshirt sophomore quarterback Collin Hill for the Border War on Friday with the claim that his team needs a “spark.”

Bobo’s choice in doing so surfaces an underlying objective. Although, the coach would be wise to not make this rationale public.


I can see that the fourth-year head coach has confidence in his quarterback. It’s not as if I think Bobo is trying to deter the focus of fans off of his true motivation.

However, even though he will not admit it, there is a significant chance that part of the reason Bobo has decided to go with Hill is to begin preparation for the future.

The hope is to brighten the Rams’ 2019 outlook in the midst of a seemingly lost season.

Sure, Hill went out and looked fantastic in the fourth quarter against Boise State University. The South Carolina native went 12-14 through the air for 135 yards and a touchdown. On paper, the performance was nearly flawless. However, Hill’s outing needs to be taken with a grain of salt. 

men play football
Colby Meeks hikes the ball to Quarterback Collin Hill during the fourth quarter of the CSU vs. Illinois State game on Sept. 22nd. The Rams lost 19-35. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

Beating the Broncos was completely out of the picture, and had been for arguably more than a full quarter when Hill came in for graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels. BSU had a number of backups on the field when Hill entered the game. 

Hill’s effort was encouraging. But, when one incorporates the specific circumstance into the equation, the performance should appropriately be discredited to an extent.

A valid counterargument to this claim would appear if Hill exhibited he was capable of playing efficiently when an outcome was not already decided. Hill has struggled this season within his small sample of playing in meaningful circumstances.

The only instance of the redshirt sophomore playing a decent amount of snaps in a crucial situation was when CSU faced Illinois State University at home Sept. 22. 

Hill subbed in for Carta-Samuels with the Rams trailing the Redbirds 7-6 in the second quarter. The quarterback went 0-3 through the air before getting taken out again. Hill came into the game again in the fourth quarter, at which point CSU was trailing 21-13 and attempting to avoid an upset.


With Hill facing real pressure, he was unable to manufacture more than one first down for his team on a pivotal fourth-quarter drive. The Rams punted the ball away as Hill completed 9-17 passes in the game and also threw an interception.

As much as Bobo wants Hill to provide a “spark,” starting the quarterback also likely indicates the head coach’s motives of constructing his team for the next season.

Bobo wants to beat the University of Wyoming. The head coach has a poor reputation in rivalry games, but winning on Friday will not alter Bobo’s rivalry status substantially. 

The Cowboys are 2-6 and are undeniably the worst Cowboys squad Bobo has ever faced, making the game less impactful than past matchups. Bowl chances are bleak as well, even with a win. 

There is a level of motivation for next season here. Hill is Bobo’s quarterback of the future and the head coach would love for Hill to be confident when the 2019 season arrives.

But, if Bobo is going to begin developing his 2019 team, he might as well go all in and completely shift his focus to the future. 

guy yelling
Head Coach Mike Bobo reacts to a call early in the first half of the Rams’ loss to Air Force on Oct. 28, 2017. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

The important thing to realize is if Bobo decides to take that route, which he should, his team will still be able to compete close to the level they are right now. 

The situation creates a win-win. Bobo will not have to take heat for giving up on the season because his team will essentially still have the same chance at winning its final four games as it currently does.

Bobo choosing to do this, for example, would include giving sophomore running back Marcus McElroy more reps. The sophomore has made the most of his limited reps, exemplifying that he will be an asset moving forward.

The running back is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, equal to senior running back Izzy Matthews. Yet, Matthews has touched the ball 534 times while McElroy has earned only 214 carries.

Senior wide receiver Olabisi Johnson has been great this season and will deservingly be remembered as one of the best, most reliable receivers in program history.

Adjusting play-calling towards sophomores Warren Jackson and Cameron Butler would also make sense.

Bobo has said himself that Jackson has the “chance to be one of the all-time best receivers ever to play here”.

If the head coach believes that, it only seems right to fully incorporate him before he even needs to be the best receiver on the team. 

Yes, CSU possesses a tremendously talented receiving core. Still, it just does not make sense that Jackson has 23 receptions compared to 99 combined between Johnson and redshirt junior Preston Williams.

When the sophomore has played this season, he has averaged 3.8 receptions per game. Johnson has averaged a full reception more per game, and Williams has averaged 7.6 grabs per game.

As much as Bobo wants Hill to provide a “spark”, starting the quarterback also likely indicates the head coach’s motives of constructing his team for next season.

If that truly is the case, he might as well begin to do so in every manner possible.

Eddie Herz is a reporter for the Collegian and can be reached at or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.

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