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Spring camp: CSU football gears up for offensive explosion

Redshirt+sophomore+Brayden+Fowler-Nicolosi+%2816%29+runs+down+the+field+at+a+spring+football+scrimmage.
Collegian | Cait Mckinzie
Redshirt sophomore Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi (16) runs down the field at a spring football scrimmage April 6.

Fort Air Raid has been cleared for takeoff.

After a season in which Colorado State football led the Mountain West in passing yards, the return of Tory Horton and the development of sophomore quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi put the Rams in position to explode offensively. 

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The continuity with which the Rams will head into the 2024 season is almost unheard of in the transfer portal era, especially from a school in the Group of Five.

“I just think we have more guys coming back that understand what we expect of them,” coach Jay Norvell said. “We’ve got eight returning starters on offense; we have seven on defense. Our punter, our kicker, our long snapper, our return men are all back. So there’s just a lot of familiarity, and I think that’s rare in this age of transfers and (name, image and likeness).”

That continuity will only help Fowler-Nicolosi, who threw for more than 3,000 yards and earned his way onto the Honorable Mention All-Mountain West list.

Fowler-Nicolosi accomplished this despite going through spring camp last year as the backup QB. Now, he’s the guy, and that only helps his confidence, which is already such a big strength for him.

“I think he’s a completely different player,” Norvell said. “He’s just so much more comfortable behind the center, communicating with his teammates, and then he’s showing leadership as well. And I think that (it’s) really important that the players understand that Brayden is our quarterback, that he’s a guy that they can look to, that he knows what to do, that he’s going to protect the football.”

Expectations for the offense are higher than ever before in the Norvell era, and that hasn’t been lost in translation to his players. 

In fact, the sense of urgency has only increased during spring camp. The Rams’ focus is on three things: effort, detail and finish.

“We’re doing way more finishing blocks and finishing down the field even when the play may seem dead,” Horton said. “We still go finish, and that’s just a huge jump in our game — that we’re just going to tire teams out just because of how long we finish now.”

At almost every position, it feels like the Rams are ready to take a leap forward. Whether that be from development or new additions, the 2024 season is starting to feel like bowl or bust.

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Iron sharpens iron, and at the wide receiver position, the Rams have a lot of talent. But each of the receivers is a competitor, and Washington State transfer Donovan Ollie is ready to compete alongside all of that talent. 

“At the end of the day, it don’t do nothing but make me better,” Ollie said. “Coming out with guys like Tory every day, learning from him — we feed off each other. When that time comes, we’re going to be ready for it.”

One of the things Horton mentioned when he announced his decision to return to CSU was that he wanted to “put on more armor.”

So far, that’s been one of his biggest focuses in camp. So much of the Rams’ offense relies on Horton’s ability to make plays. As his development continues, the idea of CSU having the best offense in the Mountain West doesn’t seem as far-fetched.

“Yeah, that was one of the things,” Horton said. “Getting bigger, stronger, faster, just cleaning up my routes, technique. You’re never perfect, so just extra years, just letting me go out there (and) polish my game and just be the best I can be.”

Between the new weapons, a better understanding of the offense and all the other little things Fowler-Nicolosi has gained this offseason, it’s fair to say the expectations can’t get much higher — so much so that if he takes care of the ball, Norvell could see him as the best quarterback he has ever coached.

“Brayden had the best season any freshman has ever had that we’ve had,” Norvell said. “But he’s got to cut the turnovers in half. … He threw for 1,000 more yards than Carson Strong did as a freshman, and he threw twice as many touchdowns than Carson threw. So he’s got a chance to be the best player we’ve ever had at that position.”

Reach Damon Cook at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @dwcook2001.

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

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About the Contributor
Damon Cook
Damon Cook, Sports Editor
Damon Cook is the 2023-24 sports editor for the The Collegian and has been at the paper since August 2022. He started doing coverage on volleyball and club sports before moving onto the women's basketball beat. He is in his third year and is completing his degree with a major in journalism and media communication and a minor in sports management. As The Collegian's sports editor, Cook reports on CSU sports and helps manage the sports desk and content throughout the week. After having a year to learn and improve, Cook will now get to be part of a new age under the sports desk. The desk moved on from all but one other person and will now enter into a new era. Damon started school as a construction management major looking to go in a completely different direction than journalism. After taking the year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly realized that construction wasn't for him. With sports and writing as passions, he finally decided to chase his dreams, with The Collegian helping him achieve that. He is most excited to bring the best and most in-depth sports coverage that The Collegian can provide.

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