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During my days at CSU in the late 1970's and early ‘80's, the thought of winning league titles, and actually beating the University of Colorado on the football field, were pipe dreams. That was before Sonny Lubick took charge of the Rams football fortunes.

Today, after winning or sharing five league titles, beating CU twice in a row, and going to five bowl games in the past seven years, the Rams head coach faces a new, tougher opponent heading into 2001.


They're higher than ever in Fort Collins, where anything less than a trip back to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl will be viewed as a disappointment. For the Rams to meet or even exceed expectations – again – this year, a lot of new faces have to live up to expectations of their own.

The most noticeable new face will be at quarterback, where highly touted sophomore D.J. Busch will bid to start over fellow sophomore Bradlee Van Pelt, a transfer from Michigan State. Busch, a left-handed drop-back passer, holds a slight edge entering fall camp over Van Pelt, the more athletic of the pair. It's likely that both will see some significant playing time.

The running game appears in be in good hands, with the return of All-MWC Cecil Sapp (whose broken leg suffered in spring practice should be completely healed), along with Rahsaan Sanders and Kansas transfer Henri Childs.

Whoever is under center won't have to look far to find someone to throw passes to. Tight end Jose Ochoa, along with wide receivers Pete Rebstock, Dallas Davis and Joey Cuppari give the Rams a formidable group of pass catchers.

The offensive line should be very solid, with four players who have started returning.

On defense, the Rams must replace their leader from a year ago, linebacker Rick Crowell, the Mountain West Conference top defender in 2000. That task will fall mainly to David Vickers, third on the team in tackles last season. The D-Line and secondary each return half their starters – plus key reserves – from a season ago.

Less visible – but just as vital to the Rams success – is the need to replace offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, who has moved on to the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. Lubick has turned Fairchild's job responsibilities over two assistants: John Benton will be co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, while Dan Hammerschmidt will be co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Lubick must hope that this transition goes as smoothly as the last time, when Fairchild took over for highly successful offensive coordinator Dave Lay in 1999. Sonny's son Matt, who jumped at a chance to join his Dad's staff after two years coaching defensive backs for Dennis Erickson at Oregon State, filled Fairchild's spot of the staff. He'll coach the Ram's wide receivers.

Even with all the changes, optimism remains a constant in Rams camp. If that optimism can mix well with loads of returning talent, CSU could indeed meet and even exceed all those weighty expectations.

Stay tuned, Rams fans…it promises to be another great football season!

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