CSU football spring notebook: Practice 7

April 5, 2013

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By Stuart Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The Rams prepared for Saturday’s public scrimmage with a two hour session Friday afternoon in mid-60 degree weather.

Colorado State did not have a lighter practice with the scrimmage looming. They went through normal individual drills and spent a few periods working on special teams.

At the end of practice Jared Roberts, a 2012 second-team all-Mountain West honoree, connected on all four field goal attempts, three of which came from 40 yards and out. Kicking into a howling wind wasn’t enough as McElwain called the entire team to stand around Roberts as he attempted a 45-yarder. The junior kicker split the uprights and the ball bounced off the top of a fully-extended scissor lift used to film practice.

Friday also featured a heavy emphasis on blocking and shedding a block in preparation for Saturday.

CSU, which has been doing only thud drills, will have their first chance to go live and fans are invited to come get their first look at the team.

Head Coach Jim McElwain said the team will begin with skeleton drills just before 11 a.m. before going into a ‘move-the-chains’ scrimmage which he hopes will last between 110 to 125 snaps.

McElwain is excited to see his team tackle, as Saturday will be the first opportunity to do that, but that’s not the only thing he’s excited for.

“I really want to see some guys competing and I want to see some position guys compete,” McElwain said. “They are competing for playing time. We have some new guys and I want to see how they react to the stadium and without a coach there telling them what to do.”

The second-year coach also expressed his excitement to see the team work the two-minute drill at the end of practice. The effectiveness of the Rams near the end of practice is key as the coaching staff looks to see how the team handles their focus and if they have the stamina to compete start to finish.

McElwain pointed out a much improved Cory James on Friday. James, who led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss in 2012, has become more physical and the coaching staff has high expectations for the linebacker.

“What he has really done is grown up and he’s going to be a really good football player. He’s got a long ways to go. You can see physically how much bigger he is and how much more explosive he is. We look for great things from him,” McElwain said.

Saturday’s scrimmage will be held at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium and fans are asked to sit on the west side. Fans not able to make it Saturday can see the Rams in action April 12 in Denver or at the annual Green and Gold game on April 20. For more information click here.

Last one off the field: Tight end Kivon Cartwright is forming a habit of staying after practice to put in the extra work. After being called ‘unstoppable’ by quarterback Garrett Grayson on Wednesday, Cartwright does not want to disappoint as he spent an extra 25 minutes running routes and catching balls from the jugs machine on Friday.

Sitting Saturday out: Due to minor injuries and rest, Jim McElwain said wide receiver Joe Hansley, running back Davon Riddick, linebacker Richard Mbugua, linebacker Kevin Davis and linebacker Nolan Peralta will sit out Saturday’s scrimmage.

Quotes from Linebackers Coach Tim Skipper:

(on difference between year one and year two with linebacking core)
“Year two is always better. It doesn’t matter what you are talking about, whether it is from birth, or football or whatever, it is always better. Just the familiarity with everything is a lot better, and I hope to see that improvement as we keep going into the fall.”

(on players having game experience from last year)
“It’s huge. The only experience is game-time experience, that’s it. You can practice as much as you want, but when you get in that game there is a difference. You are lined up against someone that you don’t know, and you have to go 100 percent every single snap. That’s invaluable. Now the game slows down for them and they are ready to play.”

(on moving players around)
“We are constantly moving players around to try and get the best fits. Guys can line up anywhere, you just need to pay attention. Position flexibility is huge. The more positions you can play, the better your chances of playing are.”

(on growth of Cory James)
“When you talk with Cory, it’s about being an every down player; first, second and third down. Consistency in everything you do. When you look at Cory, you think he is a junior or senior, but he is a young guy. You watch him practice, and he has worked hard in the offseason and is ready to go.”

(on what he wants to see out of Cory James)
“When you talk about being an every down guy, you want to see that base physicality; using your hands and getting off blocks. When we get to third downs, it’s whether he is going to be a pass rusher or dropping into coverage and man-ing up on someone. It’s all about knowing what he has to do.”

(on linebackers being leaders of defense)
“As linebackers, you are always going to be in the middle of things so you are always going to be leaders whether it is veterans or young guys. We will help push them along, but each position group has its own leaders, and when we come together as a team the leaders of the team will keep pushing this thing forward.”

(on relationship between Cory James and Shaquil Barrett)
“Shaq is a huge influence on Cory. Shaq has been through many battles, and he is huge on putting what you went through in practice into game day. We have them sitting next to each other on purpose in the film room, and he (Cory) watches Shaq. Shaq is a class act.”

(on other players impressing him)
“Just guys that come to my head; Nolan Peralta, Bryan Ohene. They have motors, and they know what we are doing. Those guys are showing up and making a lot of plays out there on the field. I like my group a lot.

(on comfort level this year)
“They are doing great with it. There is always a learning curve when you switch fronts and have different names. Every single call has a different name now. Getting into year two now, you can see the speed of it, and having them able to talk back to the coaches is perfect.”

(on importance of Shaquil Barrett this year)
“It has to be huge. When you have those outside linebackers that the offense has to find, that changes everything; from the protection, to the routes that they are going to run, however they are going to do it, it is going to make them one-dimensional.”