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March 26, 2010

Colo. State has long climb in Mountain West

Colorado State was a pleasant surprise in coach Steve Fairchild's first season in 2008, going to a bowl and winning seven games. But last season was a disaster. A team that hoped to be on the fringe of the Mountain West title race instead went winless in league play and finished last.

The focus this spring will be rebuilding the offense. The Rams are looking for a new quarterback, four new offensive linemen and two new receivers.

Luckily, the defense looks as if it will be OK. The linebacking group should be especially good.

Here's a look at the Rams as they prepare for spring practice.

COLORADO STATE AT-A-GLANCE
John Mosure was among the top three rushers for CSU in '09 – and they all return.
THE BASICS
Coach: Steve Fairchild
Last season: 3-9 overall, 0-8 in the Mountain West.
Spring dates: March 26-April 17.
RETURNING STARTERS
(minimum of six starts)
Offense (4): T Paul Madsen, RB John Mosure, FB Zac Pauga, TE Eric Peitz.
Defense (9): FS Elijah-Blu Smith, LB Michael Kawulok, E Cory Macon, NT Guy Miller, LB Mychal Sisson, CB Momo Thomas, E Zach Tiedgen, E Ty Whittier (moving to DT), LB Alex Williams.
Special teams (2): K Ben DeLine, P Pete Kontodiakos.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH

Running back looks strong. Leonard Mason, Mosure and Lou Greenwood were the top three rushers last season, and all return. UCLA transfer Raymond Carter, who sat out last season, enters the fray and is a legitimate contender to win the job. The linebackers should be among the best in the Mountain West. All three starters return, including tackle machine Sisson. The Rams will have the services of senior Ricky Brewer, an all-league performer in 2008 who was suspended last season. The defensive line has potential, and all four starters could be upperclassmen.

HELP IS NEEDED

The Rams have to find a quarterback. It will be a five-player battle - yes, five - this spring. The offensive line lost four starters, and center is particularly problematic. The wide receiver corps must be rebuilt. In other words, other than at running back, the offense is filled with questions. Defensively, the secondary must improve, though the potential is there.

THREE GUYS TO WATCH

LB Ricky Brewer: He had 104 tackles as a sophomore in 2008, earning honorable mention all-league notice before being suspended last season. Brewer can run and has a penchant for making plays. The Rams return all three starting linebackers. Assuming Brewer reverts to form this spring, he will be a starter this fall.

RB Raymond Carter: He was a big-time prospect out of Los Angeles Crenshaw and signed with UCLA. But he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in camp as a true freshman, then played sparingly in 2008 as a redshirt freshman before deciding to leave. He was a burner in high school, and that speed would add a needed element to the Rams' attack.

WR Tyson Liggett: Liggett, a senior, is the only returning wide receiver who had more than five catches last season (he had 17). A former walk-on, Liggett has good speed and must prove he can be the Rams' go-to guy this spring. There is no other receiver on the roster with any appreciable experience.

THE PRESSURE IS ON

The quarterbacks: Five players head into spring drills vying for the starting job at quarterback. Fairchild had a fifth-year senior at quarterback in each of his first two seasons, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see a freshman emerge from spring atop the depth chart. True freshman Pete Thomas, a four-star prospect, was the crown jewel of the Rams' signing class and already is enrolled. Redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri was a second-team all-state selection in Florida as a senior, and he is a solid dual-threat quarterback. Senior Jon Eastman and juniors T.J. Borcky and Klay Kubiak (the son of Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak) are the others in the hunt. Borcky, who like Ranieri is from Orlando, Fla., could move back to wide receiver - where he played last season. It's vital that the Rams find a playmaking quarterback. Poor play at the position was a huge problem last season.

THE BUZZ

The defense looks good enough to get the Rams to one of the second-tier bowls aligned with the MWC. But the offense has a ton of questions, most notably at quarterback. Progress also must be made this spring on rebuilding the offensive line and establishing a pecking order at wide receiver.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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