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The big 2015 Colorado State football guide: In better shape than you think

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The 128-team countdown previews one of last season's biggest breakouts.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. The mid-major life cycle

Each year during the preview series, I talk about the thankless task of building a winner at the mid-major level.

Make a bad hire, and you're hiring a new guy in three years. Make the perfect hire, and you're hiring a new guy in three years (or, in Arkansas State's case, almost every year). Even if you hire an alum with great loyalty and love of the area, the gravitational pull of power-conference money is strong.

For a while, Colorado State had the exception. In 1993, former Miami defensive coordinator Sonny Lubick inherited a CSU program that had as many zero- or one-win seasons (three) as winning seasons over the previous 15 years, and after a dramatic turnaround (CSU went 10-2 in 1994 and 11-2 in 1997), Lubick thwarted interest from big-name schools.

His reward: the field at Hughes Stadium is named after him. Not bad! Of course, returns diminished -- after averaging 8.6 wins per season from 1994-2003, Lubick averaged just five in his last four years, and he retired in 2007.

At that point, CSU's life cycle took on a familiar look. Former CSU quarterback and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild took over, won seven games in his first season, then won nine in his next three and was fired. He was replaced by Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who pulled off a nice turnaround, went from four wins to eight to 10, and took the Florida job after three years.

After making one hire in 15 years, CSU is on its third in eight. Mid-major success is determined by your athletic department, support, and infrastructure. When your coach cannot promise he's going to be in town for a prospect's full five years, you have to be able to promise a quality experience no matter the coach. You need a good environment.

The university is trying to figure out how best to support football. That appears to mean construction of an on-campus stadium to replace Hughes Stadium, which is picturesque, aging, and two miles from campus. The new stadium would seat 36,000 for a program that averaged 26,575 last year while winning 10 games. There is risk and predictable resistance involved, but ambition appears high.

2. Hello, Mike Bobo

New head coach Mike Bobo spent the last eight seasons as Georgia's offensive coordinator/lightning rod. He frustrated UGA fans who thought he should run when he was throwing and throw when he was running; even in an environment in which virtually all fans hate one of their coordinators, "Fire Bobo" took on notoriety.

Oh yeah, and Bobo was also one of the best coordinators in college football. I loved pointing that out to Georgia fans. In his first five seasons as coordinator, the Dawgs ranked in the Off. S&P+ top 40 five times and in the top 20 twice. In his last three seasons, they ranked sixth, eighth, and sixth. He was always solid, and with more experience, he became one of the best in the business.

Still, there's nothing flashy. He figures out what his personnel can and can't do and tries to put his guys in position with minimal risk. If your defense is on its heels, he'll try to shove you to the ground with the run and play-action. If your defense is in position to attack, he'll screen and draw you to death. When he's got a deep receiving corps and a great quarterback like Aaron Murray, he'll go vertical. When his quarterback is more limited and his run game is good, he'll draw up a six-yard pass on third-and-5 and go back to running.

Bobo is cautious, pragmatic, and successful. In theory, he's got a skill set that could be perfect for a head coaching position. CSU is getting aggressive in building infrastructure, and the addition of a steady captain makes sense.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 10-3 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 49
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
29-Aug Colorado 83 31-17 W 43% -3.9 81%
6-Sep at Boise State 21 24-37 L 11% -28.5 0%
13-Sep UC Davis N/A 49-21 W 64% 8.7 100%
27-Sep at Boston College 36 24-21 W 59% 5.2 74%
4-Oct Tulsa 117 42-17 W 87% 26.7 100%
11-Oct at Nevada 64 31-24 W 65% 8.7 91%
18-Oct Utah State 52 16-13 W 33% -10.1 20%
25-Oct Wyoming 113 45-31 W 82% 21.5 100%
1-Nov at San Jose State 116 38-31 W 54% 2.5 93%
8-Nov Hawaii 111 49-22 W 91% 30.8 100%
22-Nov New Mexico 94 58-20 W 86% 25.7 100%
28-Nov at Air Force 48 24-27 L 28% -13.4 18%
20-Dec vs. Utah 29 10-45 L 4% -40.6 0%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 34.4 36 32.3 92
Points Per Game 33.9 31 25.1 45

3. Couldn't handle good offenses

McElwain engineered stark progress. In Fairchild's last two years, CSU ranked 116th and 108th in the F/+ ratings and went 6-18; in McElwain's first year, nothing much changed: 116th, 4-8.

In year two, CSU figured out how to move the ball and jumped to 71st and 8-6. And in 2014, the offense went to a different level, leading a charge to 49th and 10-3. CSU hadn't ranked higher than 70th since 2005 and hadn't won double-digit games since 2002.

The surge was isolated mostly on offense. In the last three years, the Rams' Off. S&P+ ranking went from 113th to 63rd to 36th; the defense ranked 83rd, 100th, and 92nd.

The Rams were able to hold their own against lesser squads, but against good offenses, defensive deficiencies became painfully obvious. Boise State averaged 7.6 yards per play, Utah averaged 7.1, New Mexico averaged 7.0, and Boston College averaged 6.1. And it made it pretty hard to beat good teams.

  • Average Percentile Performance (vs. F/+ top 60): 27% (record: 2-3)
  • Average Percentile Performance (vs. everyone else): 72% (record: 8-0)

The offense was steady, averaging under 5.7 yards per play just twice (against Utah State and Utah), but the defense just didn't have the horses.

The talent might not immediately change, but experience is high, and Bobo made an intriguing hire, bringing former UCF defensive coordinator Tyson Summers to Fort Collins. In his lone season as full-time DC, UCF improved from 48th in Def. S&P+ to 34th. The Knights were able to mix aggressiveness (their 20.1 percent Havoc Rate ranked ninth in the country) and big-play prevention (42nd in IsoPPP+, 16th against the rush).

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.02 3 IsoPPP+ 119.7 28
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 45.7% 28 Succ. Rt. + 112.6 27
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 27.3 16 Def. FP+ 104.0 26
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.9 25 Redzone S&P+ 106.3 50
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.0 ACTUAL 17 -6.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 19 32 34 28
RUSHING 71 55 40 67
PASSING 8 22 27 15
Standard Downs 27 33 25
Passing Downs 26 21 30
Q1 Rk 53 1st Down Rk 25
Q2 Rk 56 2nd Down Rk 36
Q3 Rk 8 3rd Down Rk 21
Q4 Rk 43

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Garrett Grayson
270 420 4006 32 7 64.3% 27 6.0% 8.6
Nick Stevens 6'3, 190 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8356 15 25 136 1 0 60.0% 0 0.0% 5.4
Craig Leonard 6'4, 225 Jr. NR 0.7500
Coleman Key 6'4, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8382
JC Robles 6'5, 207 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8036

4. Throw the dang ball?

One assumes the pro-style Georgia identity will be strong. Not only did Bobo come to town, he brought former UGA offensive line coach Will Friend to serve as offensive coordinator.

What that means for 2015 remains to be seen. With Murray in 2013, Georgia ran just 55 percent of the time on standard downs; with Murray gone and long-serving backup Hutson Mason taking over in 2014 (with Todd Gurley and/or Nick Chubb in the backfield), it meant running 67 percent of the time on such downs.

If personnel dictates run-pass rates, it bears mentioning that CSU returns a ridiculously productive trio of receivers. Not only does All-American Rashard Higgins return, so does the duo of Joe Hansley and Xavier Williams, which produced 65 catches and and 9.3 yards per target. If tight end Kivon Cartwright is able to return to full speed following an ankle injury, that will give CSU's quarterback a superfecta of weapons that no other mid-major offense can match.

Higgins is a stunning athlete to watch -- his ability to find open spaces downfield despite double-coverage (in his last eight games of 2014, he averaged 8.5 catches and 168 yards per game) was incredible -- but his complementary pieces assure defenses can't focus only on him.

So ... who's that quarterback going to be? Grayson is NFL-bound after producing at a high level. Is sophomore Nick Stevens, once graded a mid-three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite, ready to take on a Murray level of responsibility? Will Bobo and Friend choose to lean a bit on the run game until Stevens is able to flourish?

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Dee Hart RB
194 1275 16 6.6 7.0 43.8% 5 4
Treyous Jarrells RB 5'7, 185 Sr. NR 0.7000 87 450 6 5.2 3.4 44.8% 0 0
Jasen Oden Jr. RB 5'11, 218 Sr. NR NR 46 276 2 6.0 8.7 32.6% 0 0
Dalyn Dawkins
(Purdue)
RB 5'9, 180 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8375 32 115 0 3.6 2.7 31.3% N/A N/A
Garrett Grayson QB
30 138 0 4.6 3.0 46.7% 9 1
Deron Thompson RB 5'10, 175 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8322 24 86 0 3.6 5.9 29.2% 1 0
Joe Hansley WR 5'10, 180 Sr. NR 0.7783 7 13 0 1.9 6.5 14.3% 0 0
Bryce Peters RB 5'11, 205 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8000
Johnathan Lewis RB 5'11, 190 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893
Isaiah Matthews RB 6'0, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8174
Olabisi Johnson RB 6'0, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8073






Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Rashard Higgins WR 6'2, 188 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8256 131 96 1750 73.3% 30.8% 65.6% 13.4 617 13.4 273.7
Joe Hansley WR 5'10, 180 Sr. NR 0.7783 55 35 540 63.6% 12.9% 49.1% 9.8 116 10.0 84.5
Kivon Cartwright (2013) TE 6'4, 245 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7667 54 27 462 50.0% 11.8% 68.0% 8.6 88 8.0 46.6
Xavier Williams WR 6'4, 213 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 49 30 430 61.2% 11.5% 44.9% 8.8 64 8.8 67.3
Charles Lovett WR
45 28 490 62.2% 10.6% 62.2% 10.9 149 10.6 76.6
Steven Walker HB 6'2, 238 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7956 38 30 279 78.9% 8.9% 65.8% 7.3 -71 7.2 43.6
Dee Hart RB
27 18 189 66.7% 6.3% 59.3% 7.0 -27 7.0 29.6
Treyous Jarrells RB 5'7, 185 Sr. NR 0.7000 18 11 92 61.1% 4.2% 66.7% 5.1 -42 4.7 14.4
Elroy Masters, Jr. WR 6'2, 210 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7933 17 10 156 58.8% 4.0% 52.9% 9.2 33 9.5 24.4
Jordon Vaden WR 6'3, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8301 11 5 42 45.5% 2.6% 63.6% 3.8 -23 3.7 6.6
Deionte Gaines WR 5'8, 175 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8449 10 9 69 90.0% 2.3% 50.0% 6.9 -34 6.3 10.8
Nolan Peralta TE 6'3, 245 Jr. NR 0.7000 6 4 37 66.7% 1.4% 66.7% 6.2 -11 5.9 5.8
Jasen Oden Jr. RB 5'11, 218 Sr. NR NR 6 3 17 50.0% 1.4% 50.0% 2.8 -21 3.3 2.7
Jordan White TE 6'4, 230 Jr. NR NR 2 2 16 100.0% 0.5% 100.0% 8.0 -7 N/A 2.5
Sammie Long IV WR 6'3, 195 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8410 2 1 6 50.0% 0.5% 0.0% 3.0 -7 N/A 0.9
Christian Montes TE 6'4, 260 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926
Danny Nwosu HB 6'3, 250 Jr. NR 0.7868
John Freismuth WR 6'4, 205 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726

5. Options big and small

Hansley is on the smaller side for a college receiver, Higgins is medium, and Williams is large. Leading returning running back Treyous Jarrells is 5'7, 185, and fellow senior back Jasen Oden goes 218. (Strangely, Jarrells' explosiveness numbers were non-existent, while Oden showed serious jets with an inefficiency problem.) CSU's skill position players come in all shapes and sizes.

Efficiency is the big question mark. A new quarterback is going to struggle to match Grayson's 64 percent completion rate, and of the primary rushing candidates (Jarrells, Oden, Purdue transfer Dalyn Dawkins, Deron Thompson), only Jarrells managed a decent Opportunity Rate (percentage of carries gaining at least five yards).

The big plays will be there, but you need to keep the chains moving as well. The line should help -- it returns three starters and five with starting experience.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 103 3.12 3.64 41.5% 67.7% 18.8% 104.2 4.9% 7.9%
Rank 62 41 36 35 63 60 61 72 75
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Ty Sambrailo LT 41 2014 1st All-MWC
Fred Zerblis RG 6'3, 295 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 13
Sam Carlson RT 6'4, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 13
Mason Myers LG
12
Kevin O'Brien C 6'3, 295 Sr. NR NR 10
Nick Callender LG 6'5, 327 Jr. NR 0.7000 3
Jake Bennett C 6'3, 295 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 3
Jordan Finley OL 6'3, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 0
Trae Moxley LT 6'5, 300 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7998 0
Zack Golditch RT 6'6, 290 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7685 0
Blake Nowland OL 6'6, 310 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8231 0
Colby Meeks OL 6'4, 300 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8008

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.77 24 IsoPPP+ 104.7 54
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 41.7% 73 Succ. Rt. + 97.5 79
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 28.1 109 Off. FP+ 94.0 123
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.3 57 Redzone S&P+ 90.2 104
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.1 ACTUAL 19.0 -3.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 87 64 87 54
RUSHING 98 82 103 66
PASSING 57 51 61 42
Standard Downs 73 93 49
Passing Downs 57 58 69
Q1 Rk 97 1st Down Rk 85
Q2 Rk 55 2nd Down Rk 93
Q3 Rk 106 3rd Down Rk 73
Q4 Rk 102

6. Bend, then get broken

Snaring Summers from UCF was a nice opening gambit for Bobo. But it was only one of many steps. The Rams' defense was fine at pulling a bend-don't-break routine against lesser offenses, but against more talented units, it was bend-then-break.

It started with run defense. CSU had minimal disruptive presence in the backfield, which meant that while opponents weren't breaking off huge gains -- CSU ranked in the middle of the pack in 10-plus-yard plays allowed (69th), 20-plus (70th), etc. -- they were consistently able to stay out of passing downs. Size doesn't appear to be any sort of issue, but CSU lacked speed up front.

The inability to knock opponents off-schedule appeared to catch up to CSU as games elapsed. The Rams ranked 97th in Q1 S&P+ and 55th in Q2, then fell to 106th in Q3 and 102nd in Q4. Of course, against good offenses, there was no wasting time. Utah scored 21 points in the first quarter, and Boise State had 30 at halftime.

CSU needed weapons it didn't have. We'll see if experience, a new coordinator, and some intriguing young options can help.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 90.1 3.11 3.66 37.5% 72.0% 11.8% 67.0 2.0% 6.0%
Rank 104 89 99 47 95 128 112 120 90
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Terry Jackson DT 6'2, 280 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8167 13 31.5 4.1% 5.0 1.5 0 0 0 0
LaRyan King NT
13 29.0 3.8% 2.0 0.5 0 1 1 0
Joe Kawulok DE 6'6, 260 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8414 13 25.0 3.3% 5.5 3.5 0 1 0 0
Justin Hansen NT 6'5, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8225 13 20.5 2.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Josh Lovingood DT 6'4, 290 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7833 12 18.5 2.4% 0.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Johnny Schupp DT 6'5, 275 Jr. NR 0.7000 13 7.0 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Martavius Foster DE 6'4, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8093 12 6.0 0.8% 0.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Darnell Thompson DT 6'4, 271 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8316
Richard King DE 6'5, 250 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8200
O'Shea Jackson DT 6'1, 275 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7600







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Aaron Davis WLB
13 90.0 11.8% 6.5 0.0 1 5 1 0
Max Morgan MLB
13 79.0 10.4% 3.5 1.0 1 2 0 0
Cory James SLB 6'1, 240 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 13 40.5 5.3% 8.5 6.5 0 1 1 0
SteveO Michel BUCK 6'1, 230 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7444 13 21.5 2.8% 4.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Davis WLB 6'3, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8127 11 18.0 2.4% 2.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Deonte Clyburn MLB 6'1, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 13 15.0 2.0% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nu'uvali Fa'apito WLB 6'0, 228 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 11 13.5 1.8% 0.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Kiel Robinson SLB 6'2, 225 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7894 13 6.5 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ken Hulbert MLB
13 4.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Bryan Ohene-Gyeni BUCK 6'1, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 11 4.0 0.5% 1.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Pierre Copeland II LB 6'2, 205 So. NR NR 6 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Evan Colorito BUCK 6'4, 235 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8186
Josh Watson LB 6'2, 235 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7833
Deshon Mayes LB 6'3, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7933








7. Get into the backfield

CSU ranked 112th in Adj. Sack Rate and 128th, dead last in FBS, in Stuff Rate (run stops at or behind the line). With no fear of negative plays, opponents were able to dictate possessions, and it randomly bit the Rams. Not only did Boise State and Utah put up huge numbers, San Jose State, Wyoming, and Nevada were able to engage in shootouts before falling.

A pass rush built around linebacker Cory James and end Joe Kawulok seems to have a little bit of promise, but while those two combined for 10 sacks in 2014, they also combined for just four non-sack tackles for loss, meaning they didn't do much against the run. In fact, only two players in the front seven managed more than 2.5 non-sack TFLs, and one (linebacker Aaron Davis, with 6.5) is gone.

There is plenty of experience in the front seven -- the top three returning tacklers on the line are seniors, and the top five returning linebackers are juniors and seniors -- but they got experience on a defense that wasn't very good. Might exciting, three-star youngsters like sophomore tackle Darnell Thopmson, freshman end Richard King, sophomore linebacker Evan Colorito, and JUCO linebacker Deshon Mayes have an opportunity to usurp some upperclassmen?

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kevin Pierre-Louis FS 6'1, 215 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7859 12 68.0 8.9% 3 1 0 1 0 0
Preston Hodges FS 5'11, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7667 13 55.5 7.3% 3 0 1 7 2 0
Trent Matthews SS 6'3, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7667 13 42.0 5.5% 1 0 3 8 0 0
Tyree Simmons CB 5'11, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7759 12 34.5 4.5% 2 0 3 5 0 0
Bernard Blake CB
13 32.0 4.2% 3 0 1 11 1 0
DeAndre Elliott CB 6'1, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 12 26.5 3.5% 2 0 2 6 0 0
Nick Januska SS 6'2, 210 Sr. NR 0.7200 10 13.0 1.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Nutt Jr. CB 5'10, 186 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7948 12 10.0 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shun Johnson CB 5'11, 170 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 10 9.5 1.3% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Justin Sweet DB 5'10, 187 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7966 9 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Willie Udofia FS 6'1, 197 Sr. NR NR 12 5.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Henrie DB 5'9, 175 Jr. NR NR 7 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Schlager S 6'0, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7794
Preston Hodges DB 5'11, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7667
Marcus Wilson CB 5'10, 185 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7583
Trey Smith CB 6'0, 185 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7659
Braylin Scott DB 6'3, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8256








8. A potentially awesome secondary

That CSU ranked 51st in Passing S&P+ despite minimal pass rush and a bad run defense says quite a bit about a secondary that returns almost everybody. The one loss (disruptive cornerback Bernard Blake) hurts, but he's still the only one.

Last year's top four safeties are back, including two (Preston Hodges and Trent Matthews) who combined for four tackles for loss, four tackles, and 15 pass breakups. Four of the top five corners are back, as well. If the secondary gets any help whatsoever from the front seven, it could shine, especially if exciting youngsters like sophomore Shun Johnson continue to develop.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Hayden Hunt 5'11, 210 Jr. 51 43.8 4 8 14 43.1%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Jared Roberts 80 63.3 38 0 47.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Jared Roberts 57-58 6-9 66.7% 6-11 54.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Deionte Gaines KR 5'8, 175 So. 27 24.9 0
Jasen Oden Jr. KR 5'11, 218 Sr. 4 11.5 0
Dee Hart PR 9 4.6 0
Joe Hansley PR 5'10, 180 Sr. 6 9.7 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 27
Field Goal Efficiency 26
Punt Return Efficiency 102
Kick Return Efficiency 59
Punt Efficiency 41
Kickoff Efficiency 5
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 37

9. Missing a leg

CSU's special teams ratings were all over the map, from fifth in kickoffs to 102nd in punt returns and everywhere in between.

That punter Hayden Hunt returns is a good thing, and Delonte Gaines has all sorts of potential as a kick returner, but CSU's two highest ratings came in kickoffs and place-kicking, and Jared Roberts was responsible for both. His departure will make it tough for CSU to pull off another top-30 special teams ranking.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
5-Sep Savannah State NR
12-Sep Minnesota 37
19-Sep vs. Colorado 83
26-Sep at UTSA 109
3-Oct at Utah State 52
10-Oct Boise State 21
17-Oct Air Force 48
31-Oct San Diego State 76
7-Nov at Wyoming 113
14-Nov UNLV 118
21-Nov at New Mexico 94
28-Nov at Fresno State 102
Five-Year F/+ Rk -23.4% (103)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 89 / 87
2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 2 / -0.8
2014 TO Luck/Game +1.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (6, 7)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 8.8 (1.2)

10. Should we assume a drop-off?

Colorado State's offense was simply awesome, its best since 2005, and while the Rams must replace Grayson and Hart, the receiving corps is fantastic, the line should be solid, and there is potential at quarterback.

It's hard to say CSU can maintain last season's levels, but between the returnees and Bobo's prowess, you could make the case that the Rams will only regress a bit on that side of the ball.

You could also assert that any offensive regression might be offset by defensive improvement. The D won't be good, but experience, a good secondary, and a potentially strong coordinator could result in an upward turn.

Is it possible CSU could lose its head coach, a potential NFL quarterback, and a running back good enough to go pro early ... but still remain a top-50 team? Obviously coaching changes always blur expectations, but I like Bobo, and while I think CSU won't be quite as strong as Boise State and Utah State, the drop-off could be minimal.