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Spring camp: CSU football adjusts to changes on defense

Graduate+student+Avery+Morrow+%2825%29+is+lifted+into+the+air+by+a+teammate+after+a+touchdown+during+a+spring+football+scrimmage.
Collegian | Cait Mckinzie
Graduate student Avery Morrow (25) is lifted into the air by a teammate after a touchdown during a spring football scrimmage in Canvas Stadium April 6.

Change is difficult, even in the simplest of circumstances.

Changes such as Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Mohamed Kamara’s departure and new defensive line coach Chuka Ndulue are examples of adjustments Colorado State‘s football team must adapt to.

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The defensive line has seen some of the biggest turnover of any position group, and with significant players leaving the lineup, there is room for some of the younger players to step into a larger role.

Two of the mainstays of the defensive line, Cam Bariteau and Nuer Gatkuoth, saw Kamara’s absence as an opportunity for leadership in many ways.

“I’ve seen more guys take a leadership role,” Bariteau said. “Everybody just stepping up because they know that’s big shoes to fill.”

Kamara participated in the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine and Colorado State’s own Pro Day in March leading up to the April draft. The former team captain is looking to be the next great CSU pass-rusher in the NFL.

However, Kamara’s presence is not the only thing missing from the practice field. In January, coach Jay Norvell hired Ndulue, a former defensive line coach for New Mexico State, to replace former defensive line coach Buddha Williams.

“I think he’s the opposite,” Gatkuoth said. “He’s the opposite from coach Buddha, but the things he teaches I think are great for us. He teaches hands and footwork; I think that’s great.”

Ndulue made his switch to coaching after his career in the NFL playing for the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Chargers. His experience on and off the field has changed some team dynamics, but many remain the same.

Returning starters like Chase Wilson and Gatkuoth will help the Rams build upon their solid foundation, even with the coaching changes. However, changes can be for the better.

“Everybody’s hyped up to come out to practice,” Bariteau said. “It just feels like a different atmosphere from last year.”

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Scrimmages and the Green vs. Gold Spring Game April 20 will help CSU football get the important live gameplay that is not possible to simulate in spring training practices.

“I’d say live reps are the most important,” Bariteau said. “When everybody’s tackling to the ground and everything’s live, everything goes, so you don’t get a lot of those in the spring, so those are really critical when you get them.”

This continues the theme of effort, detail and finish that CSU football has been harping on throughout all of spring camp.

Finishing plays and tackling teammates find their critical end in the three scrimmages of the spring season.

Scrimmages provide an inside look into the other line positions. They let the defense see how the offense has improved and vice versa. But for many players, it’s not just looking at film and talking strategy; it’s the fun of football they missed in the offseason.

“It’s always fun flying around getting some hedge, tackling with some of your teammates,” Buom Jock said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “It’s always fun when you can compete against the offense, compete against the ones and the twos.”

The offense has a new guaranteed starting quarterback for week one: Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi. The large number of returning starters will continue the momentum of the teamwork developed last year.

That theme rings true for the defense as well; even with Kamara leaving the team, the continuing starters hold strong in their positions.

“Everybody’s hyped up to come out to practice,” Bariteau said. “It just feels like a different atmosphere from last year.”

Reach Liv Sewell at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Liv_sewell22.

Interested in more sports content? Sign up for Ram Report here for weekly CSU sports updates!

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