• First Look: Colorado State

    Fri, May 14, 2010 by admin with no comments

    This is Part 6 of my “First Look” series, in which I take a quick peek at each of the Air Force football team’s 2010 opponents. We’re going in order, one per week, with Colorado State up this week.

    Here are links to the First Looks at the Falcons’ first five opponents: Northwestern State, BYU, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Navy.

    Colorado State
    Coach:
    Steve Fairchild (3rd year)
    2009 Record: 3-9
    2009 vs. AF: Air Force 34, Colorado State 16
    2009 in a Sentence: After a 3-0 start that included a season-opening victory at rival Colorado, the Rams fell apart, dropping nine straight, including a 29-27 loss to otherwise winless New Mexico.
    Off/Def Starters Back: 4/10
    Roster Report: In each of his first two seasons at Colorado State, Fairchild has used fifth-year seniors as his starting quarterbacks – and each was in his first year starting.

    In 2010, Colorado State likely will have a youngster under center. The frontrunners for the quarterback spot appear to be Pete Thomas, a true freshman from El Cajon, Calif., who enrolled early at Colorado State and went through the Rams’ spring practices, and Nico Ranieri, a redshirt freshman from Orlando, Fla.

    “We’re going to be young at quarterback, obviously, and we’ve still got a long way to go,” Fairchild said. “But we’ve flashed at times.”

    According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the 6-foot-2, 204-pound Ranieri completed 7-of-10 passes for 73 yards for the Gold team in the Rams’ spring practice-ending Green vs. Gold game. Thomas completed 2-of-5 passes for 46 yards for the Green team, including a 34-yard touchdown, and one of his passes was dropped in the end zone.

    Whoever wins the quarterback battle will play behind an inexperienced line, as the Rams lost four starters from last season’s group that was the nation’s most experienced. Among the players likely to contribute are tackles Mark Starr and Paul Madsen, who started five and seven games, respectively, at one tackle slot last season, and Jake Gdowski, who started four at guard.

    Fairchild told the Coloradoan that running back is probably the Rams’ strongest position. Back are seniors-to-be Leonard Mason, who rushed for a team-high 766 yards and two scores in 2009, and John Mosure, who picked up 650 yards and seven touchdowns on 124 carries. The Rams also have Raymond Carter, a transfer from UCLA, and redshirt freshman Chris Nwoke.

    “We’ve got a little more explosiveness there,” Fairchild told the Coloradoan. “More big-play capability than we did last year. … We’ve obviously got a number of guys, so we’ve got to kind of filter through who does what and what their role’s going to be.”

    Sophomore Lou Greenwood, who had 147 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 42 carries in 2009, got some looks at wide receiver in spring practices, as did T.J. Borcky, who was the Rams’ starting quarterback when spring began. Colorado State will be inexperienced at wide receiver. Tyson Liggett, a 5-foot-9 walk-on, is the Rams’ most experienced returner with 20 career catches and five career starts.

    The Rams should be strong on defense. They return 10 starters, including linebacker Mychal Sisson, who led Colorado State in tackles (91), tackles for losses (15.5) and sacks (6) in 2009 en route to second-team All-MWC honors. Also back is standout linebacker Ricky Brewer. An All-MWC selection as a sophomore in 2008, he had to sit out the 2009 season for a team rules violation.

    Colorado State also has several starters back in the secondary – free safety Elijah-Blu Smith (three interceptions in 2009), strong safety Ivory Herd and cornerback Momo Thomas.

    The Rams also have a pair of experienced specialists in returning starting punter Pete Kontodiakos (40.9 average last season) and returning starting kicker Ben DeLine (12-for-16 on field goals last season).

    Fast Fact: Colorado State won 10 of its 14 games against Air Force from 1992 through 2005, but Air Force has won four straight since, including all three contests under head coach Troy Calhoun – by 24, 17 and 18 points, respectively.

    What Caught My Eye: Colorado State lost four games by a touchdown or less in 2009, including two by two points and one by one point.

    Jake’s Way Too Early Line vs. Air Force: Air Force minus-8.5. The Falcons have owned the Rams of late and there’s no reason to think they shouldn’t be significant favorites in this game.

    Final Thought: When Colorado State hired Fairchild to replace Sonny Lubick prior to the 2008 season, I thought it was a great move and saw plenty of parallels to what Air Force did in hiring Troy Calhoun (i.e. former quarterback returns to his alma mater to replace a legend whose teams had slipped a bit in his final few years).

    After the Rams went 7-6 and won the New Mexico Bowl in 2008, Fairchild’s first season, I thought Colorado State was well on its way to returning to its glory days when it sat at the top of the MWC. So I was borderline stunned by the Rams’ 2009 collapse.

    But even with that collapse, I feel like Fairchild will get Colorado State going in the right direction – and sooner rather than later.

  • Army Has the Right Guy

    Wed, November 4, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Had a chance today to speak with first-year Army coach Rich Ellerson for a story that will appear in Saturday’s special preview section.

    Enjoyed talking to Ellerson, who really seems like a good fit for West Point.

    He’s a triple-option guru (he worked with Paul Johnson at Hawaii and then ran the offense during a super-successful stint at Cal-Poly), and he’s got Army focused on that scheme.

    He said he’s talked to former Army coach Jim Young, who had a 51-39-1 record from 1983 through 1990, and he’s studied the successes of Fisher DeBerry at Air Force and Paul Johnson at Navy.

    And he’s an old-school guy who won’t make excuses (like Air Force’s Troy Calhoun). Here was his response when asked about playing at altitude this Saturday in The Springs:

    “It’s going to be uncomfortable. Get over it. There’s going to be a lot of talk this week about the trip, the crowd noise, and the altitude. None of those are the challenge. The challenge is Air Force’s football team, and that’s where our focus is. Any of those other things are just a distraction and we are not going to spend 30 seconds on those things. We are going to focus on the challenge, and the challenge is absolutely Air Force’s football team.”

    (Gotta love that. Actually, I enjoyed reading the transcript of his entire press conference this week).

    Moreover, this is Ellerson’s dream job. His father and two of his brothers are West Point graduates, and he told me it’s “an honor” to be the coach there.

    “Obviously it’s a great challenge, but it’s also a special group of young men who have taken on a tremendous opportunity and chosen a different and demanding path, and I get to get my fingerprints on it,” he said. “Professionally, I can’t imagine a greater compliment than to be given the opportunity to participate in the execution of the mission of West Point and develop leaders of character. … If you’re a college football coach and you understand and value what the United States Military Academy is, this has got to be the best job in the world.”

    He’s got a tough task ahead of him, as Army has been woeful for a while. The Black Knights have had 12 straight losing seasons and haven’t won more than four games in any of them.

    But Army – which messed around with some wide-open passing offenses earlier this decade – thinks it has the right guy to revive the program. At the time he was hired, athletic director Kevin Anderson was quoted as saying that if Ellerson can’t turn the program around, “I don’t know if there is a coach who can.”