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Spring camp: Returning Rams build foundation for continuous success

Redshirt+freshman+Damian+Henderson+II+%2834%29+is+tackled+during+a+spring+football+practice.
Collegian | Cait Mckinzie
Redshirt freshman Damian Henderson II (34) is tackled during a spring football practice April 6.

Colorado State football returning with a ton of talent is no secret. 

While sometimes that can mean a rebuilding year for teams that might see those returning players move on in droves, the Rams are hoping to avoid that.

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This spring camp not only means trying to perfect the little things for the starters, but it also means giving some of the younger guys more opportunities to develop.

Players who might not have seen a ton of reps in the spring in previous years now get their chance to prove what they can do on the field. 

“Everybody, especially the younger guys, has definitely taken that approach,” defensive lineman Nuer Gatkuoth said. “Not a lot of people get opportunities in this spring. You know, a lot of young guys have gotten opportunities, so yeah, they’re definitely taking advantage of that.”

Buom Jock is one of the players who didn’t start last season but still got some playing time. His development — not just as a player but also as a leader — will be crucial for the Rams’ defensive success. 

Taking on more of a leadership role, Jock has inserted himself not only as one of the Rams’ starting linebackers but now as the heart of the defense. 

“I would say Buom Jock is definitely taking a bigger role this year,” Gatkuoth said. “He’s, like, the heart of our defense now.”

“The biggest thing this spring is all the young players that have gotten so many reps.” –Jay Norvell, head football coach

There will also now be more opportunity for the Rams’ wide receivers to get some reps on the field after coach Jay Norvell announced that Justus Ross-Simmons will no longer be with the team.

Ross-Simmons was an assumed starter, so CSU took a hit there, but with the additions of Donovan Ollie and the recruiting class as well as the progression of Caleb Goodie and Dylan Goffney, CSU should make up for what it lost at the receiver position.

“We just got to continue to develop playmakers,” Norvell said. “We’re doing that in recruiting; we’re doing that with the young players we’ve already signed. … Really proud of Goffney and really happy with Donovan Ollie as a transfer.”

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Goffney had a volatile season last year, often only seeing the field when players were nicked up.

But now with a year to find comfortability in the Rams’ system, Goffney feels like he’s ready to step into the second wide receiver role. 

“For me, mainly just taking that step, being more of a bigger target for Brayden (Fowler-Nicolosi),” Goffney said. “When things aren’t going (Tory Horton’s) way or Tory’s not an option, I’m the next guy up. Like I’ve said, I’ve been working for this opportunity.”

Norvell has emphasized the importance of the program bringing in talent who play for the program because of their green and gold pride. A big part of that comes from Power Four programs financially incentivizing players at Group of Five schools to enter the transfer portal.

One way to combat that is to become a premier Group of Five school, which the Rams can do if they continue to have camps similar to this spring by creating those early development opportunities.

“The biggest thing this spring is all the young players that have gotten so many reps,” Norvell said. “Buom Jock and Nuer and Jaylen Gardner — he was out there today for a lot of snaps. … This experience is just invaluable. These practices aren’t like games, and they have to find their way through. Good things happen, bad things happen, they get tired, they get sore — they’ve got to learn to fight through, and that’s what spring practice is all about.”

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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