Colorado State Rams
2006 Record: (4-8, 1-7)
Coach: Sonny Lubick (105-65 at Colorado State, 126-84 overall)
Starters Returning: 19 (8 offense, 9 defense, 2 specialists)
Offensive Starters Lost: WR Dustin Osborn, OL Josh Day, OL Clint Oldenburg
Offensive Starters Returning: QB Caleb Hanie, RB Gartrell Johnson, WR Luke Roberts, TE Chris Kawulok, TE Kory Sperry, OL Nick Allotta, OL Adrian Martinez, OL Tim Walter
Defensive Starters Lost: LB Luke Adkins, LB Jon Radford
Defensive Starters Returning: DT Erik Sandie, DT Blake Smith, DE Wade Landers, DE Jesse Nading, LB Jeff Horinek, CB Joey Rucks, CB Darryl Williams, S Klint Kubiak, S Mike Pagnotta
Starting Specialists Lost: none
Starting Specialists Returning: K Jason Smith, P Jimmie Kaylor
Colorado State has not won a game since early October. After starting the 2006 campaign with a 4-1 record, the Rams finished with seven consecutive losses. The main cause for the slide was a horrible rushing game on offense and an equally disappointing rushing defense on the other side of the ball.
The running attack will be dramatically better. Kyle Bell missed last season after tearing an ACL and he is expected to be at full strength by the time the season starts. When he went down, it left a huge void in the running game that Gartrell Johnson and Nnamdi Ohaeri could just not fill. With Bell's power running game, the entire offense will look much better. The offensive line played a role in the poor running game as well with a whole group of relatively inexperienced players trying to create holes for equally inexperienced rushers. With the majority of the line returning, the line is expected to improve on last year's performance.
Quarterback Caleb Hanie was effective, but rarely took a game over. He completed 61.1 percent of his passes, but threw more interceptions than touchdowns. With four of the five main receiving targets returning, Hanie is ready for a big year, as long as the line can protect him. Damon Morton and Johnny Walker are talented receivers who can stretch the field, but Hanie's best target is tight end Kory Sperry. The 6-6 senior is coming off of a disappointing season, but is still a great target in the red zone and led the squad with five receiving touchdowns in 2006.
Nine starters return to a defense that ranked 5th in the conference giving up 330 yards per game. The rushing defense is the main concern, but four starters returning on the line will help. End Jesse Nading is an all-conference caliber player and tackles Erik Sandie and Blake Smith are both experienced seniors. The lone losses on the defensive side of the ball are linebackers Luke Adkins and Jon Radford. Part-time starter Jake Pottorff and freshman Ricky Brewer will battle with a couple talented junior college transfers for the starting positions next to returning starter Jeff Horinek.
The defense ranked 28th in the nation in passing defense and the return of just about every player in the secondary and with a better pass rush expected, that number should get even better. Safeties Klint Kubiak and Mike Pagnotta are two of the best in the Mountain West Conference. Kubiak led the squad with 90 tackles in 2006 and Pagnotta was third with 71, despite missing three games. The duo was young sophomores last season and will be among the leaders of the defense as upperclassmen. Corners Darryl Williams, who led the team with three interceptions, and Joey Rucks are experienced seniors.
The Bottom Line:
This is the year Colorado State and Coach Sonny Lubick needs to regain the glory they have spent the last three years losing. The team is senior heavy and this may be the best chance to turn around the program before it slips even further into MWC mediocrity. The health of Bell at running back is huge. If he, along with the line, can create any sort of running game, the offense will be much better. And when the offense can move the ball, it takes the pressure off of the defense.