The future of Colorado State football is here faster than everyone expected.
True freshman Collin Hill, a three-star recruit from Moore, South Carolina, will start Saturday for the Rams against Northern Colorado, head coach Mike Bobo announced after practice Wednesday. The second-year head coach gave Hill all of the first-team reps in Tuesday's practice and hinted that Hill would be the starter, but waited until Wednesday night to officially announce it.
"After going back and watching the film and reviewing everything, that was the pecking order we started with on Monday, and he performed really well on Monday, he had a really good practice Tuesday," Bobo said. "You know today wasn't as good as Monday and Tuesday, it was a lot of third-down stuff and red-zone, but I believe he'll get it and I feel like he's confident, the guys are responding well to him and looking forward to seeing him play on Saturday."
CSU's passing offense has been nothing short of abysmal in the first two games of the season, completing just 20 of 52 passes for 171 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Incumbent starter Nick Stevens got the nod in CSU's first game against in-state rival Colorado, but was pulled in the second half after completing just 6-of-20 passes for 31 yards and two interceptions against the Buffs. He was replaced by Georgia graduate transfer Faton Bauta, who led the Rams to their only scoring drive of the game, which he capped off with a touchdown pass to slot receiver Marcus Wilson.
Bauta was given the start last week against Texas-San Antonio, but completed just 6-of-17 passes for 82 yards and no touchdowns. Bobo decided to burn Hill's redshirt in the third quarter of the UTSA game, inserting the true freshman in an attempt to spark the offense. Hill completed just 2-of-6 passes for 26 yards, but performed well enough this week in practice to warrant the starting job for at least this week.
"He's a lot like a kid David Greene that I coached at Georgia," Bobo said. "He's very, very calm, he's got an even temperament. Sometimes I think he's too calm because he throws a good pass, he's fine, if he throws an interception, he's kind of nonchalant. His physical skills, he's got a really great release, over the top, the ball jumps off of his hand. We're a work in progress at wideout right now, we need someone that can put the ball on them. We can't have any margin for error as far as arm strength, so we've got to put it on them and put it on them in a hurry."
Hill had a decorated prep career at Dorman (SC) High School, where he holds school records for career touchdown passes, completion percentage and passing yards. As a senior in 2015, Hill completed 241 of his 414 passing attempts for 3,505 yards and 35 touchdowns, while throwing just 11 interceptions. Despite a late recruiting push from South Carolina, Hill signed with the Rams in December and enrolled in classes in January so he could take part in spring football.
While his high school numbers are impressive, his fellow teammates understand the learning curve he'll face beginning Saturday, and are hoping to do as much as they can to make Hill's debut a success.
"He definitely knows what he's doing," center Jake Bennett said Wednesday. "There's some little stuff, just communication stuff that we've been working on this week, but he's definitely come a long way, even just this week."
There may be a little bit more of an onus on Bennett and his fellow lineman to help Hill with pre-snap reads and calls, something they didn't have to worry as much about with Stevens or Bauta, who each had experience in Bobo's system.
CSU's wide receivers, who have had struggles of their own, will be adjusting to their third starting quarterback in the first three weeks of the season, a challenge for any group, but especially one still trying to figure out its own pecking order.
"I think day by day (we're getting better), and tomorrow's another practice so we can get out there and run routes with him," junior wideout Elroy Masters Jr. said. "I think each day we'll get better and whoever is the quarterback going forward, we'll get better and build that consistency."
InsideTheRams.com Digital Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.