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Colorado State is investing in its football future, but 2016 might be a retooling year

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Colorado State is recruiting well and heading into a new, on-campus stadium in 2017.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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1. Taking a big swing

Hughes Stadium's days are numbered. Picturesque and isolated, it has served as the off-campus home of Colorado State football since 1968, when it replaced a tiny, on-campus facility called Colorado Field.

Its 49th season will be its last. The Rams are scheduled to move into a new, large stadium in the southern portion of campus in 2017. Construction is ongoing.

Hughes Stadium is a symbol of Colorado State's past. The Rams have long been a sturdy mid-major program, attending 14 bowls in 26 years and finishing in the AP top 20 three times between 1994-00. But the program grew stale in the 2000s, finishing above .500 only once between 2004-12. In 2013, serious discussions for a new stadium -- a $200 million breath of life, basically -- began.

We can debate whether a project like this is ever really worth it. While on-campus stadiums are easier for students to access (and could therefore generate more of an active, vocal crowd), $200 million is a lot to spend on a bigger stadium before you can actually prove you can fill it. And with CSU likely stuck in the Mountain West for the far foreseeable future, it will probably take a while for the new stadium to truly pay off.

Regardless, the tentatively named Colorado State Stadium is a clear sign of investment, and it is a signal of the future Colorado State wants. Like so many other programs, the Rams would probably love a shot at entry into the Big 12, but they do not appear to be top candidates at the moment. Still, they appear more than interested in attempting to compete with conference heavyweight Boise State in the program-building department.

That the erection of the stadium has coincided with an actual rebuild of the team makes that vision a little clearer and, seemingly, more realistic. Under Jim McElwain, the Rams went 18-9 in 2013-14 and enjoyed their first 10-win season in 13 years. When McElwain took the Florida job, they replaced him with another successful SEC offensive coordinator, Georgia's Mike Bobo.

In 2015, CSU took a step backwards, but not a significant one. After a 2-4 start to the season, Bobo's Rams whipped eventual MWC Mountain champion Air Force, lost to San Diego State, then won four games in a row to finish the regular season 7-5. They finished with a tough, lucky win over Fresno State and a bowl loss to Nevada, but they sustained enough of McElwain's gains to attend a third straight bowl game.

Meanwhile, Bobo was putting together CSU's best recruiting class in a long time. Per the 247Sports Composite, CSU's February class ranked second in the MWC and 70th overall. It was the Rams' best class since 2011; over the previous four recruiting cycles, even while building a solid program, CSU's average class rankings were eighth in the MWC and 103rd overall.

Bobo signed 17 three-star recruits and added a load of junior college transfers to account for turnover at receiver and in the secondary. His receiving corps and defensive line will still be as green as their uniforms this fall, but with as few as two to three senior starters on offense and four to five on defense, the Rams that enter Colorado State Stadium against Abilene Christian on September 9, 2017, will be seasoned and, potentially, quite strong.

2016 is basically an interim year before Colorado State's future begins in 2017. With eight opponents projected 80th or worse in S&P+, the Rams will have a solid chance of reaching the postseason for the fourth straight year, but since they're projected at only 96th themselves, that's not a given. But recruiting is looking good, and the depth chart is young.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 5-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 86 | Final S&P+ Rk: 81
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep Savannah State N/A 65-13 W 93% 100% +25.6
12-Sep Minnesota 55 20-23 L 44% 60% -1.3 +3.0
19-Sep vs. Colorado 94 24-27 L 35% 53% -9.7 0.0
26-Sep at UTSA 111 33-31 W 22% 32% -9.3 -7.0
3-Oct at Utah State 53 18-33 L 12% 3% -16.0 -10.5
10-Oct Boise State 37 10-41 L 4% 0% -20.8 -15.5
17-Oct Air Force 63 38-23 W 87% 99% +20.3 +18.0
31-Oct San Diego State 43 17-41 L 34% 16% -20.8 -20.5
7-Nov at Wyoming 115 26-7 W 86% 100% +9.4 +7.5
14-Nov UNLV 105 49-35 W 69% 98% +0.9 +6.5
21-Nov at New Mexico 99 28-21 W 65% 92% -1.3 +5.0
28-Nov at Fresno State 103 34-31 W 14% 16% -7.4 -6.5
29-Dec vs. Nevada 97 23-28 L 39% 55% -13.1 -8.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 29.5 60 31.6 88
Points Per Game 29.6 62 27.2 64

2. Clear improvement (in spurts)

Colorado State spent a good portion of 2015 losing games it should have won and winning games it should have lost. Win Expectancy tosses all of the key stats from a given game into the air and says, "With these stats, you would have won this game X percent of the time." CSU's win expectancy against Minnesota was 60 percent, and the Rams lost, 23-20. It was 53 percent in a 27-24 loss to Colorado. And in the bowl loss to Nevada, it was 55 percent.

Meanwhile, win expectancy was just 32 percent in the two-point win over UTSA and a paltry 16 percent in the win over Fresno. That's a lot of contrary results, though in the end, the actual win total of seven was about right.

After a romp over ratings skewer Savannah State in the season opener, CSU trailed off quickly. The tight losses to Minnesota and Colorado were followed by increasingly disappointing performances against UTSA, Utah State, and Boise State. But there was clear growth over the second half of the year.

  • Average Percentile Performance (games 2-6): 23% (~top 100) | Average score: Opp 31, CSU 21
  • Average Percentile Performance (games 7-13): 56% (~top 55) | Average score: CSU 32, Opp 26

The offense took a clear step forward with the emergence of freshman running back Izzy Matthews. During the first seven games, he rushed just 24 times for 104 yards (4.3 per carry), but in the final six he rushed 73 times for 486 (6.7). Along with the steady production of Dalyn Dawkins, that helped CSU to improve from 164 rushing yards per game through eight to 251 over the final five.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.20 96 IsoPPP+ 102.5 57
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 47.1% 17 Succ. Rt. + 112.0 25
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 27.4 21 Def. FP+ 28.3 43
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.2 88 Redzone S&P+ 110.5 34
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 25.2 ACTUAL 27 +1.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 47 43 25 57
RUSHING 33 40 17 63
PASSING 61 50 45 58
Standard Downs 40 25 50
Passing Downs 69 32 83
Q1 Rk 38 1st Down Rk 55
Q2 Rk 73 2nd Down Rk 47
Q3 Rk 42 3rd Down Rk 69
Q4 Rk 45

3. Pragmatism!

By the end of his tenure as Georgia's offensive coordinator, Bobo was one of the best play-callers in the business. He was pragmatic and logical, and while "Fire Bobo!" was an ongoing Internet meme, it became more of a parody as time went on. Georgia established the run, baited defenses into overcommitting, then hit them with a devastating mix of screens and vertical passing. And when the run game wasn't quite as effective, he was able to isolate receivers and defenders and create relatively easy passes on passing downs.

Bobo brought a familiar face with him to Fort Collins. His first offensive coordinator was Georgia's former offensive line coach, Will Friend.

While it took a little while, by the end of the season Bobo and Friend had figured some things out. CSU finished 25th in Success Rate+ and 17th in Rushing Success Rate+, and while big plays were a bit of an issue -- the Rams had 63 gains of 20-plus yards, 53rd in FBS -- CSU's offense was actually more efficient than Georgia's.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Nick Stevens 6'3, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8356 211 347 2679 21 12 60.8% 15 4.1% 7.1
Coleman Key 21 44 251 3 3 47.7% 2 4.3% 5.1
Faton Bauta
(Georgia)
6'2, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8799 15 33 154 0 4 45.5% 1 2.9% 4.4
J.C. Robles 6'5, 200 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8036
Collin Hill 6'5, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8497

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Dalyn Dawkins RB 5'9, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8375 170 867 2 5.1 4.3 43.5% 5 5
Jasen Oden, Jr. RB 154 746 6 4.8 4.1 34.4% 2 2
Izzy Matthews RB 6'0, 215 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8174 97 590 5 6.1 5.6 46.4% 0 0
Nick Stevens QB 6'3, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8356 30 128 3 4.3 2.6 46.7% 4 2
Deionte Gaines WR 5'8, 180 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8449 12 138 2 11.5 6.8 83.3% 2 0
Craig Leonard QB 9 43 0 4.8 1.6 55.6% 0 0
Deron Thompson RB 7 49 0 7.0 5.1 57.1% 0 0
Treyous Jarrells RB 7 28 0 4.0 6.5 14.3% 0 0
Nu'uvali Fa'apito FB 4 4 2 1.0 0.0 0.0% 0 0
Danny Nwosu FB 6'3, 245 Sr. NR 0.7868
Bryce Peters RB 5'11, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8000
Johnathan Lewis RB 5'11, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893
Rashaad Boddie RB 6'0, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8256
Marvin Kinsey RB 6'1, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8100

4. Efficiency despite youth

Quarterback Nick Stevens was a sophomore, Dalyn Dawkins was a sophomore, Izzy Matthews was a freshman, and CSU began the season with a line that featured two sophomores and two juniors. There were upperclassmen involved, too -- the top three receivers (including all-star receiver Rashard Higgins), right tackle Sam Carlson, No. 2 running back Jasen Oden Jr. -- but the offense's slow start was relatively predictable.

The passing game is obviously a concern moving forward; Higgins, Joe Hansley, and tight ends Kivon Cartwright and Steven Walker are gone after accounting for 136 catches and 1,996 yards last year. But the strength of the offense last year was the run, and the main pieces are all back.

Matthews showed star power as a true freshman, and Dawkins rushed for at least 90 yards in five games. (In terms of targets, he was also CSU's No. 4 receiver.) Plus, a line that ranked an incredible 16th in Adj. Line Yards and 17th in Adj. Sack Rate returns four-fifths of its lineup, including all-conference guard Fred Zerblis.

There's a lot to like here, and one just assumes that Bobo and Friend will be able to establish the run once more this fall. But at some point, they'll have to call pass plays. That's when the problems could begin.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Rashard Higgins WR 106 75 1062 70.8% 28.7% 10.0 61.3% 63.2% 1.49
Joe Hansley WR 56 28 415 50.0% 15.2% 7.4 57.1% 41.1% 1.81
Kivon Cartwright TE 35 18 279 51.4% 9.5% 8.0 60.0% 45.7% 1.68
Dalyn Dawkins RB 5'9, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8375 34 24 178 70.6% 9.2% 5.2 47.1% 32.4% 1.43
Xavier Williams WR 6'4, 215 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 33 19 231 57.6% 8.9% 7.0 57.6% 45.5% 1.49
Steven Walker TE 22 15 240 68.2% 6.0% 10.9 72.7% 54.5% 1.88
Jordon Vaden WR 6'3, 195 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8301 22 11 184 50.0% 6.0% 8.4 77.3% 40.9% 1.81
Deionte Gaines WR 5'8, 180 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8449 19 13 112 68.4% 5.1% 5.9 78.9% 36.8% 1.47
Sammie Long IV WR 6'3, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8410 9 5 60 55.6% 2.4% 6.7 44.4% 44.4% 1.32
Jasen Oden, Jr. RB 8 8 51 100.0% 2.2% 6.4 75.0% 75.0% 0.68
Nu'uvali Fa'apito FB 6 5 19 83.3% 1.6% 3.2 100.0% 50.0% 0.60
Elroy Masters, Jr. WR 6'2, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7933 3 3 35 100.0% 0.8% 11.7 66.7% 66.7% 1.88
Nolan Peralta TE 6'3, 245 Sr. NR 0.7000 3 2 26 66.7% 0.8% 8.7 66.7% 33.3% 1.87
Olabisi Johnson WR 6'0, 185 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8073 3 2 15 66.7% 0.8% 5.0 33.3% 66.7% 0.89
John Freismuth WR 6'4, 220 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726
Trey Smith WR 6'0, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7659
Michael Gallup WR 6'2, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8428
Dalton Fackrell TE 6'4, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8231
Darneail Jenkins TE 6'5, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8315
Isiah Pannunzio TE 6'2, 215 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8181
Anthony Hawkins WR 5'11, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8149

5. A reload in the receiving corps

There will at least be some familiar faces for Stevens in the receiving corps. Xavier Williams, Jordon Vaden, and Deionte Gaines were not huge pieces of the passing game in 2015, but they have combined for 109 catches and 1,323 yards in their respective careers. Sammie Long IV and Elroy Masters have combined for 19 more career catches.

Still, in Higgins, CSU must replace one of the nation's most prolific receivers. Over three seasons, Higgins caught 239 passes for 3,649 yards and 31 scores; his transcendent 2014 season was one of the main reasons for CSU's 10-win surge. His opportunities trailed off a bit in 2015's run-first attack, but defenses had to mind him at all times.

Some combination of veterans and incoming JUCOs -- three-star wideout Michael Gallup (one of the more highly-regarded pieces of this past signing class) and tight ends Dalton Fackrell and Darneall Jenkins -- will have to figure out how to punish defenses for getting distracted by the run. The athleticism here seems relatively impressive, but production isn't guaranteed. And Stevens' ability to find some play-makers open will determine whether this is a top-40 offense or a top-75 offense. The run game will be awesome if defenses have to mind the passing game, and while I have the utmost confidence in Bobo and Friend, they can only do so much if receivers don't step up.

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 112 3.34 3.58 42.5% 72.5% 18.2% 170.9 2.3% 5.6%
Rank 16 9 32 24 30 45 17 16 27
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Fred Zerblis RG 6'3, 295 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 13 26 2015 2nd All-MWC
Sam Carlson RT 13 26
Jake Bennett C 6'3, 295 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 13 16
Nick Callender LT 6'5, 315 Sr. NR 0.7000 10 13
Zack Golditch LG 6'6, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7685 12 12
Kevin O'Brien C 2 12
Trae Moxley LT 6'5, 320 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7998 2 2
Colby Meeks LG 6'4, 300 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8008 0 0
Tomas Rivera RG 6'6, 330 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) NR 0 0
Brett Jordan RT 6'5, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 0 0
Christian Montes OL 6'4, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926 0 0
Nicho Garcia OL 6'5, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8174

Jeff Taylor OL 6'3, 295 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8026


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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.34 101 IsoPPP+ 86.2 110
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.7% 62 Succ. Rt. + 91.0 100
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.7 48 Off. FP+ 29.2 87
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.5 78 Redzone S&P+ 100.5 69
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.7 ACTUAL 15.0 -0.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 55 106 100 110
RUSHING 107 102 98 111
PASSING 9 91 104 81
Standard Downs 88 75 93
Passing Downs 124 126 125
Q1 Rk 92 1st Down Rk 110
Q2 Rk 104 2nd Down Rk 38
Q3 Rk 102 3rd Down Rk 128
Q4 Rk 96

6. One year, one coordinator replacement

You figure Bobo knew he wasn't going to have Tyson Summers for very long. He brought the up-and-coming former UCF defensive coordinator with him in 2015, and after just one season, Summers was named Georgia Southern's head coach.

Bobo didn't search too far for a replacement, simply choosing to promote linebackers coach Marty English. English was Wyoming's defensive coordinator from 2009-11 and has been a linebackers coach at one school or another for much of three decades.

Linebackers were certainly a strength for CSU in 2015 -- the Rams were seventh in the country in Linebacker Havoc Rate-- and that should remain the case with five of six contributors returning. But CSU still ranked just 88th in Def. S&P+ because a dreadful inability to keep opponents from catching back up to the chains. CSU was 124th in Passing Downs S&P+, allowing 62 gains of 20-plus yards (77th in FBS but far worse if you were to adjust for opponent).

English will have a more experienced secondary to work with, and the line does feature five former three-star recruits (per 247). But four are either true or redshirt freshmen, and the fifth, junior Darnell Thompson, has made 0.5 tackles in two seasons. The top four tacklers up front are all gone.

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 94.4 2.82 3.25 40.5% 58.8% 22.7% 92.8 5.7% 7.0%
Rank 89 55 69 89 27 33 78 42 74
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Joe Kawulok BUCK 13 27.0 3.8% 7.5 4.5 0 2 1 0
SteveO Michel BUCK 13 25.5 3.6% 9.5 2.5 0 0 0 0
Martavius Foster DE 13 21.0 3.0% 8.0 5.5 0 3 1 0
Terry Jackson NT 11 18.0 2.5% 4.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Josh Lovingood DE 6'4, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7833 11 11.5 1.6% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Colton Foster NT 6'3, 285 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7544 7 6.5 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Justin Hansen DT 12 6.0 0.8% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jakob Buys DT 6'4, 265 Jr. NR NR 11 5.0 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Johnny Schupp DL 6'5, 275 Sr. NR 0.7000 12 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Darnell Thompson DE 6'5, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8316
Richard King DE 6'5, 260 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8200
O'Shea Jackson DT 6'1, 290 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7600
Christian Colon DT 6'3, 310 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8510
Anthony Smith DE 6'3, 250 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8504
Arjay Dean DE 6'3, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7994
Toby McBride DE 6'3, 250 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893








7. A scary lack of depth up front

I said five of the top six linebackers return, but that doesn't acknowledge the blurred lines of the BUCK position, the hybrid DE-OLB slot I am counting as a defensive end here. Both bucks (Joe Kawulok and SteveO Michel, who combined for 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks) are gone, which might limit English's attacking options.

More worrisome, however, is the loss of two of the top three tackles. Among other things, CSU had an injury problem in the middle last year -- no listed tackle played in more than 11 games -- which meant that a few different guys saw playing time. And while both of 2015's season-opening starters are gone (Terry Jackson, Justin Hansen), Colston Foster, Jakob Buys, and inside-outside guy Josh Lovingood are all back.

Still, a lot of the aforementioned three-star freshmen will potentially see the field, at least as backups. And while it's possible that a player like redshirt freshman Richard King or monstrous true freshman Christian Colon will be solid out of the gates, you hate to rely on that.

If the interior linemen can keep blockers off of linebackers like Kevin Davis and Deonte Clyburn (combined: 21 TFLs in 2015), the defense's strengths will remain strong. But the depth up front is pretty scary.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kevin Davis WLB 6'3, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8127 13 74.5 10.6% 14.0 3.0 1 2 0 0
Deonte Clyburn WLB 6'1, 230 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 13 57.0 8.1% 7.0 0.5 0 0 2 0
Cory James MLB 13 46.5 6.6% 10.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Tre Thomas SLB 6'1, 215 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7819 13 31.0 4.4% 5.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kiel Robinson SLB 6'2, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7894 12 30.5 4.3% 5.5 3.0 0 0 1 0
Josh Watson MLB 6'2, 230 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7833 13 28.0 4.0% 6.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Evan Colorito LB 6'4, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8186 10 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Patrick Elsenbast LB 6'1, 210 Jr. NR NR 8 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Bryan Ohene-Gyeni LB 6'1, 225 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 4 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Deshon Mayes LB 6'2, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7933
Pierre Copeland II LB 6'2, 205 Jr. NR NR
Hunter Donnelly LB 6'1, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8299








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kevin Pierre-Louis FS 13 67.0 9.5% 4.5 0 1 2 1 0
Trent Matthews SS 13 62.5 8.9% 3.5 0 2 2 0 0
Tyree Simmons CB 5'11, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7759 12 34.0 4.8% 3.5 0 1 8 2 0
Preston Hodges CB 5'11, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7667 12 28.5 4.0% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Nick Januska SS 13 27.0 3.8% 1 0 1 1 0 0
DeAndre Elliott CB 11 26.5 3.8% 0 0 2 4 0 0
Jake Schlager SS 6'0, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7794 12 14.0 2.0% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Braylin Scott CB 6'3, 185 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8256 12 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Justin Sweet FS 5'10, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7966 5 5.5 0.8% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Shun Johnson CB 5'11, 170 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 11 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Kevin Nutt, Jr. DB 5'10, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7948 12 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Marcus Wilson CB 5'10, 190 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7583
Devron Davis CB 6'0, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600
Houston Haynes S 6'4, 200 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7752
A'Keitheon Whitner DB 5'11, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7744
Chris Gaston DB 6'2, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8319
Jamal Hicks DB 6'3, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8285








8. Got safeties?

While the offense's surge accounted for a good portion of CSU's late-season improvement, the secondary raised its game as well. After allowing a passer rating of 131.2 through eight games, the Rams allowed just a 104.3 in the final five.

That four of the top five corners from this improved defense return is unquestionably a good thing. There were breakdowns, sure, but seniors Tyree Simmons and Preston Hodges, junior Shun Johnson, and sophomore Braylin Scott have put in plenty of reps.

The safety position though, is a major concern. The top three safeties -- Kevin Pierre-Louis, Trent Matthews, and Nick Januska -- are all gone, and while Jake Schlager and Justin Sweet have put together some reps, this was disconcerting enough for Bobo to go out and sign three JUCO defensive backs: Devron Davis, Houston Haynes, and A'Keitheon Whitner. Davis was highly touted and is big enough to play either corner or safety, but he'll be counted on to stick somewhere in the lineup sooner than later.

The edges of this defense appear to be well-manned, but a good portion of the backbone -- namely, the safety and defensive tackle positions -- have a scary lack of proven depth. English's hands might be tied if these areas don't produce quick solutions.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Hayden Hunt 5'11, 220 Sr. 52 46.0 1 18 23 78.8%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Braxton Davis 5'11, 170 So. 69 62.7 26 3 37.7%
Kyle Jacobs 4 62.3 1 0 25.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Wyatt Bryan 6'0, 175 So. 43-46 14-16 87.5% 2-6 33.3%
Braxton Davis 5'11, 170 So. 0-0 0-0 N/A 0-1 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Deionte Gaines KR 5'8, 180 Jr. 18 23.4 0
Jordon Vaden KR 6'3, 195 Sr. 7 31.4 0
Joe Hansley PR 21 12.8 2
Preston Hodges PR 5'11, 200 Sr. 3 6.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 73
Field Goal Efficiency 96
Punt Return Success Rate 41
Kick Return Success Rate 79
Punt Success Rate 19
Kickoff Success Rate 44

9. One more year of Hayden

Granted, Hayden Hunt probably benefited a bit from thin air, but CSU still has a keeper at the punter position. Hunt not only averaged 46 yards per kick but also produced 18 fair catches and had 23 of 52 punts downed inside the 20. Those are ridiculous numbers, and they offer a built-in field position advantage.

Hunt's return will make this a decent unit regardless of the other pieces, but those other pieces could use some work. Deionte Gaines and Jordon Vaden were explosive but inefficient kick returners, Wyatt Bryan missed three PATs and most of his longer field goals (albeit as a freshman), and the loss of Joe Hansley in punt returns hurts quite a bit. So decent might be all CSU can hope for here.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
2-Sep vs. Colorado 82 -7.6 33%
10-Sep UTSA 116 10.3 72%
17-Sep Northern Colorado NR 26.9 94%
24-Sep at Minnesota 42 -16.9 16%
1-Oct Wyoming 110 8.7 69%
8-Oct Utah State 73 -3.6 42%
15-Oct at Boise State 36 -18.2 15%
22-Oct at UNLV 114 2.8 56%
5-Nov Fresno State 94 2.1 55%
12-Nov at Air Force 80 -9.2 30%
19-Nov New Mexico 102 5.5 62%
26-Nov at San Diego State 55 -13.8 21%
Projected wins: 5.7
Five-Year F/+ Rk -16.4% (94)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 76 / 86
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -12 / -9.5
2015 TO Luck/Game -1.0
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 49% (58%, 40%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 7.2 (-0.2)

10. Liftoff is probably a year away

CSU's projection this year is a conservative 96th, mainly because the numbers deeply value returning production in the receiving corps and defensive backfield, and CSU lacks in both areas. The Rams haven't ranked lower than 89th since 2012, though, and if WR and DB are only a slight problem instead of a significant one, then CSU's strengths -- namely, the running game and linebacker play -- could shine.

Still, this is a red flag of sorts. Bobo will coax the most out of his offense, and last year's class really was a potentially exciting sign of things to come, but CSU is inexperience in a lot of the wrong places and might need to wait a year for the pieces to all click together.

By MWC standards, the Rams don't have a ton of tossup games. They are given between a 42 and 62 percent chance of winning in four games (Utah State, at UNLV, Fresno State, New Mexico), with all the other games either at one-in-three or worse (five) or two-in-three or better (three). To feel good about a bowl bid, they'll probably need to fare well at home, giving Hughes Stadium a few more happy memories before heading to new digs.