News and Notes from CSU Media Day…

It was tough to walk away from Colorado State's football Media Day at Hughes Stadium without being impressed by the size and appearance of Sonny Lubick's 2001 Rams. It was a great summer for the players, almost all of whom made big strides in their size and speed workouts. It's a great group of young men, who all appear to have their heads attached the right way. They all seemed focused on the task at hand.

Sonny seems upbeat as well, gladly accepting that burden of expectations that we've all talked about.

As for the questions and expectations he faces this season, the head coach seems at ease with the solutions. He lost Offensive Coordinator Steve Fairchild to the NFL's Buffalo Bills, and replaced him with two men, new "co-offensive coordinators" Jon Benton and Dan Hammerschmidt. Both have been in the Rams family for a long time (seven and six years respectively) and both seem ready for what lies ahead. Asked by a reporter if he would cast the tie breaking vote, should the two coaches disagree on a play call, Sonny laughed and added, "Heck no. You're not blaming the play calling on me…" Seriously, both Benton and Hammerschmidt are guys that can leave their egos at home and work together to make the offense click.

NOTES…Lubick has not named a starting QB, and may not until shortly before kick-off at Invesco Field. Sophomores D.J. Busch and Bradlee Van Pelt are neck-and-neck for the starting job. "I can envision a scenario where we're riding on the bus on Friday heading to the game and we call the coaches together and ask, ‘okay, who should we start (at quarterback)?' Both are terrific young men, and both can help our football team." Most observers feel that Busch is the slightly better passer, while Van Pelt is the more "athletic" runner.

CSU has a history of utilizing the two-QB system, going back to the late 70's when Fairchild, the "drop-back passer' shared time under center with option style QB Keith Lee. Lubick seems to be planning on using both Busch and Van Pelt, "unless one of them really steps up and clearly establishes himself as the number on guy. I think both of them will get playing time."

Van Pelt is an extremely impressive specimen. Listed at 6' 3", 217, he almost breaks your hand when he shakes it. He's at least 225, and made of rock. He reminded several observers of a Nebraska-style QB like Scott Frost, ready to tuck the ball under his arm and take on the nearest linebacker. Lubick joked, "My wife told me that if I didn't play that kid somewhere, she would be mad at me. She's right. If he's standing on the sidelines next to me I'll probably get myself fired."

That doesn't mean Van Pelt - nicknamed "Sunshine" by his teammates after the character in Remember the Titans, will start at QB – it just means he's the kind of athletic talent that CSU can't afford to waste.

Van Pelt is a transfer from Michigan State, where he was cast – much to his dismay - as a defensive back. "I've been waiting for this for a long time," Van Pelt told me. "I want to be a playmaker – make something good happen for our team."

As far as competing with Busch, Van Pelt said simply, "With me pushing him, and him pushing me, we are going to make each other better." The relationship between the two seems very good. They were clowning around together some during TV interviews. Lubick warned both before meeting the press that the questions were going to come, from now until the season starts. Both seemed ready.

"I know I would have been really nervous going out there (in last season's opener) against Colorado. I was kind of thrown into the fire (as a true-freshman back-up to Matt Newton in 2000), but it was a good experience, and I'm ready to go this season," Busch told me.

More on the QB's…Former Arvada West star and Ram hopeful Steve Cutlip is not, and will not be, part of the Rams team this season. Lubick and the coaching staff laid down a set of criteria for Cutlip to adhere to in order to be re-instated, and Cutlip did not meet the requirements. In fact, Lubick said that the coaching staff had not heard from Cutlip in several weeks, and did not expect to. "It was going to be up to him to come to us, and he hasn't," Lubick concluded. True freshman Justin Holland will work with the third team.

On the injury front, star tailback Cecil Sapp begins training camp at about "80 – 85%" healthy, according to Lubick at the trainers. Sapp suffered a broken leg earlier in the year, and missed spring practice. The hope is that once he gets into the routine of camp, including the regular treatments/rehab, he will make up that last 15-20 %. "That's always the toughest part, that last 20%." Said Lubick, "but we feel good about his progress."…Linebacker Adam Wade, who started impressively last year, only to suffer and season ending injury early in the third game against Arizona State, is raring to go. His left knee is fully recovered, but he's nursing a pulled right hamstring as camp opens. "I just over-compensated some and pulled it a little," Wade said. "I'll be out there as soon as we get on the field. I can't wait…" Speaking of can't wait, there's senior receiver Dallas Davis, back after missing last season with a nagging hamstring and back injuries. He's another guy chomping at the bit to begin two-a-days. He's 100%, and will be counted on heavily on special teams as a kick returner, and as he regains his starting wide receiver spot.

Watch out for…a couple newcomers: WR Eric Hill – Lubick is raving about his receiving corps, and even about the guys who won't be able to get much playing time, like Russell Sprague and Chris Pittman. The top four pass catchers will be Davis, Pete Rebstock, Joey Cuppari and Hill, a former high school sprint champion…With Sapp and back-up Rahsaan Sanders both not 100%, Kansas transfer Henri Childs, a 6'2", 217 pound brusier, will get a long look a tailback.

For the last two seasons, I've picked Colorado to beat the Rams in the opener. The formula is working, so I'll pick CU again this year. Don't mess with success…

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