#80 Colorado State Football 2014 Preview

Colorado State Rams

Overall Rank: #80
#6 Mountain West

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The Jim McElwain era at Colorado State has gotten off to a great start. The former Alabama offensive coordinator led Colorado State to their first bowl game since 2008 and an 8-6 record last season. The Rams will look to improve on that success this season, as a number of key returners are back. Colorado State returns 46 letterwinners, 11 starters and four players who received All-Mountain West honors last year.

2013 Record: (8-6, 5-3)
2013 Bowl: Gildan New Mexico Bowl vs. Washington State (W 48-45)
Coach: Jim McElwain (12-14 at Colorado State, 12-14 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Baldwin
Defensive Coordinator: Marty English, Al Simmons

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Garrett Grayson, QB, 119 yards
Passing: Garrett Grayson, QB, 3,696 yards
Receiving: Rashard Higgins, WR, 837 yards
Tackles: Max Morgan, LB, 134
Sacks: Cory James, LB, 8
Interceptions: Trent Matthews, S, 4

Other Key Returnees: WR Joe Hansley, TE Kivon Cartwright, K, Jared Roberts, OT Ty Sambrailo, LB Aaron Davis, CB Bernard Blake, S Kevin Pierre-Louis

Key Losses: RB Kapri Bibbs, C Weston Richburg, DL Shaquil Barrett, TE Crockett Gilmore, CB Shaq Bell, RB Donnell Alexander, OL Weston Richburg

Colorado State will boast a high-powered aerial attack this season. Senior QB Garrett Grayson will be back to direct the attack after a big junior season. Grayson set a school passing record with 3,696 yards last year, adding 23 touchdowns. He is the Mountain West Conference’s leading returning passer and needs just 1,959 yards to become Colorado State’s all-time leader in that category. At his disposal will be a bevy of weapons. The Rams have five of their top six receivers back. Sophomore Rashard Higgins returns after a record setting freshman season. He set the freshman record in receptions, 68, to go along with a team leading 837 yards and six touchdowns. Junior Joe Hansley added 52 catches for 613 yards and Senior Kivon Cartwright caught 27 passes for 462 yards and six touchdowns. Carwright, who was on the John Mackey Award Midseason watch list last year, will be key in replacing the production of TE Crockett Gilmore, who was a third round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Rams also return a number of key contributors on defense and special teams. All three linebackers return, led by Max Morgan and Aaron Davis who had 134 and 12 tackles respectively last season, as well as three of the four starters in the defensive backfield. All-Mountain West kicker Jared Roberts and punter Hayden hunt also return

The Rams have a lot to replace on their lines. All four defensive line starters and four of the five offensive line starters, including second round NFL Draft pick Weston Richburg are gone. Offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo is the lone returning starter on the offensive line and he will anchor this year’s line. The senior has started 37 games over his career for the Rams. Identifying new starters will be key for the Rams. On the defensive line, three players return with starting experience, led by defensive tackle Terry Jackson, 29 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss, and Joe Kawulok, 3.5 sacks. Running back is the only other major concern. Kapri Bibbs left early to pursue a professional career and Donnell Alexander transferred, leaving Grayson as the leading returning rusher. Just two returning running backs have college playing experience and one is a converted defensive back.

The Bottom Line:
Replacing the missing pieces on both lines and at running back will be key to Colorado State’s success. The Rams are going to put up big numbers through the air, but to do so, they will need protection from the offensive line and a running back that can provide a second offensive threat. Ty Sambrailo is a good piece to build around, but they will need others to step up fast. There is plenty of talent on this team, and the trio of linebackers put up some of the best numbers in the entire country. It will be tough to improve on last season’s success, but the pieces are there if some newcomers are up to the task.

Projected Bowl: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 204.4 (27th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 266.4 (30, 6)
Total Offense: 470.8 (24, 5)
Scoring Offense: 36.2 (22, 3)
Rushing Defense: 140.6 (30, 3)
Pass Defense: 275.7 (114, 10)
Total Defense: 416.3 (80, 4)
Scoring Defense: 29.8 (81, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.1 (53, 6)
Sacks:  2.29 (46, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.57 (37, 3)


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