CSU football spring notebook: Practice 4

March 30, 2013

By Stuart Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - After practice Friday evening Head Coach Jim McElwain was happy with practice and was anxious to see how his guys would respond with a practice just 16 hours later.

The Rams impressed him with one of their best practices of the spring.

"We had a great Saturday," McElwain said. "I thought the guys responded very well based on the quick turnaround. We had a later practice on Friday and then came out today and they did a great job of getting refocused and really finished the practice hard. We're getting there. We are really learning how to practice."

Colorado State, which were in pads for the second day, practiced in the warmest temperatures of spring for just over two hours, the longest practice this year.

McElwain has made a habit in his post-practice comments of pointing out a position group that has impressed him and on Saturday he complimented the tight ends.

"I really like the way our tight ends are starting to pick up being physical at the point of attack and I'm really happy with that position," McElwain said.

Defensively, the second-year coach likes what he is seeing from the defensive line but mentioned that they still have room to improve. He also complimented redshirt-freshman Justin Hansen, who made the switch from the o-line to the d-line.

"I think Justin Hansen has really taken some strides and I would expect that because he understands how to practice just from the other side of the ball," McElwain said.

The Rams have Sunday off and will return to the practice fields south of Moby Arena on Monday afternoon for their fifth practice.

More post-practice quotes:

After practice on Friday, offensive coordinator and newly appointed quarterbacks coach Dave Baldwin met with the media for just under 10 minutes.

(on what he's liked about spring ball after three practices)

"I like their attitude. It took us this time, in spring, probably to practice 15 to tell them how to practice. They've come out with the attitude that they know how to practice. They're hustling to drills, they're in the drills, and they're giving us an opportunity to start executing. I like their attitude and when you have an attitude you're going to start to become a good football team."

(on whether it's fair to say the Rams have picked up where they left off last season)

"I think they have. I think they understand our expectations, Coach Mac's expectations, and then from there they've got their own. They say, `we don't just come out to practice, we come out to practice to get better and we're going to practice hard.' I think they have all three practices. I've been impressed so far."

(on what he's seen in the quarterbacks)

"We alternate them in every drill. We've given each kid an opportunity to be with the ones, the twos, the threes. In the first three days I look more for, did you communicate the formation? Did you communicate the play? Are you pointing out to the receivers if you get hots? The three young men competing for the job have all done a very nice job of talking and communicating. That's something we didn't do last year. I think they lined up and said, `what's this play?' Now they know what the play is."

(on whether it's helpful to have a three man competition for the starting QB spot)

"I think any time you have competition it helps. The more that are better there, the better they're going to play. I think all three of them understand that if I don't have a good day that other guy is going to move ahead of me. I need to be out there competing and giving my best each time."

(on quarterbacks leadership)

"C.J. (Craig Leonard) showed great leadership on that other field (last year with the practice team). I think that's the one thing C.J. brings more than any of them. Now since he didn't get the reps of the offense he has to learn that a little bit more."

(on whether he has seen a fierce competition amongst the QBs)

"I'd love them to talk on the field and help on the routes and the reads and all those things. If it's your turn, you better get your you-know-what in there and take your reps and not look over your shoulder. I think they can be better at that. They want to help each other and they want to help this team. When it's my turn, it's my turn. So you get out of here, it's my turn and I'm going to run this offense."

(on running backs)

"They've all showed something. Today was the first day with the pads on and the best thing was there was ball security. That struggled with our backs last year. If you get four yards and hang on to the ball it's a positive play. If you get 12 yards and you don't hang on to the ball, that's a huge negative for us and we turned the ball over at the running back position too many times. So today was a very positive atmosphere." 

"We've got good competition. (Donnell) Alexander, I think he started to blossom at the end of the year and he's shown some great leadership here in taking over those backs and starting to execute. The competition there is probably the best of any position. There is one ball, one guy gets it, you don't hand it to two guys, so you have to compete. They'll start stepping up."

On Saturday afternoon special teams coordinator Jeff Hammerschmidt met with the media and addressed questions about his special teams unit.

(on the special teams unit)

"I think Hayden Hunt is really good. With him, he's really come a long way. He's a guy we feel great about, from his operation time, his accuracy, where he's direction kicking. Some of that stuff we'll try and do a little bit better. We feel real good about him."

"Returner wise, we're getting Joe Hansley involved a little bit more, (Thomas) Coffman a little bit more. We have some young guys, (Jordon) Vaden I think will be a good returner."

(on kickoffs)

"Jared (Roberts) does a great job on kickoffs and Hayden (Hunt) does a really good job on kickoffs. With Hayden, we initially let him join the team because we saw what he did kickoff wise in L.A. At sea level he was hitting that thing over the snack bar every time he kicked off. That was a huge thing for us, his leg strength. Then he came here and started punting and did an amazing job. He's worked with some guys over the summer. Again, his operation time and accuracy is going to make us much improved on that part of the game."

(on what needs to improve in the punting department)

"The hardest thing is the net punting. Pete (Kontodiakos) was a strong leg and I think he is definitely a great pro prospect guy. We didn't do a great job of kick coverage and at times we didn't protect for him. When you out kick your coverage at times it hurts you. He kicked it a long way and did a great job but our net punting wasn't as good as we needed it to be. Our focus is going to be on net punting, being somewhere near the 40, 39-range. Instead of where we were at; that has to improve."