SPRING PROSPECTUS / ROSTER / SCHEDULE
RETURNING TO THE FIELD
Colorado State returns 43 letterwinners from the 2016 squad that qualified for a fourth consecutive bowl game, including 15 starters (six on offense, nine on defense). Among those returning are All-Mountain West performers Michael Gallup (first team), Jake Bennett (second team) and Nick Stevens (honorable mention).
QB: Very few quarterbacks across the country played as well as Nick Stevens down the stretch in 2016, with the then-junior posting college football’s best pass efficiency rating from Oct. 22 forward. He finished strong after a rough start to the season and already has head coach Mike Bobo’s declaration as the starter heading into fall camp. A year after being named second-team All-MW, Stevens earned honorable mention consideration, despite not playing for the majority of the first half of the season. Behind Stevens, sophomore Collin Hill started four contests as a true freshman. His pass efficiency rating ranked 34th in FBS when his season ended on Oct. 8 due to a knee injury.
RB/FB: The Rams are stacked in the backfield, returning all three of their primary backs from 2016. The three-headed attack of Dalyn Dawkins, Izzy Matthews and Marvin Kinsey, Jr. combined for 2,199 rushing yards a year ago. CSU was the only team in the nation with three running backs with 500-plus rushing yards and at least three touchdowns apiece. Dawkins was the Rams’ No. 1 back, finishing with 919 net rushing yards and 5.7 yards per carry. He had four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances to close the season. Matthews’ sophomore season was a success on many levels, totaling 734 yards and a team-most 13 rushing touchdowns. The 13 rushing scores were tied for the sixth-most in CSU single-season history and included eight consecutive games with a score to finish the season. As a true freshman, Kinsey rushed for 546 yards (seventh-most ever by a CSU true freshman) and scored seven times. Additionally, the Rams return Adam Prentice at fullback. The Rams’ offense was expected to use the fullback position last year before Prentice had a season-ending knee injury during fall camp.
WR/TE: The biggest surprise of the 2016 season was the emergence of wide receiver Michael Gallup. The JUCO transfer had one of the top single-season performances in school history – totaling 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns – and jumped onto the national stage. Bleacher Report recently named his as one of 10 big-play threats in college football. The Rams return three of their top four pass-catchers from last year, including Olabisi Johnson. In the Potato Bowl, Johnson set a school record with 265 receiving yards and two scores. CSU expects to see wide receivers Detrich Clark and Anthony Hawkins and tight end Dalton Fackrell to also play a larger role this fall.
OL: The foundation of the Rams’ offense in 2016, CSU returns several key pieces, but also looks to fill some holes. The Rams graduated All-Mountain West performers Fred Zerblis (first team), Nick Callender (honorable mention) and Paul Thurston (honorable mention), but return center Jake Bennett (second team) and tackle Zack Golditch (25 career starts). In addition to signing seven linemen in February, the Rams also return Colby Meeks (four starts in 2016), Trae Moxley (three starts) and Jeff Taylor (10 games played). Last fall, CSU blocked for the third-best offense in CSU history and allowed just 13 sacks (one in the final six games) – the eighth-best figure in FBS.
DL: A year ago, CSU had nearly no depth on the defensive line. Among the players on the Rams’ opening-week three-deep, just one had recorded a start in his career. CSU is still trying to build depth and consistency at the position, but it has made plenty of progress in the last year and returns three starters (21 combined starts). True freshman Toby McBride had 32 tackles (most by a CSU true freshman since 2010) and a team-most 4.0 sacks, and Darnell Thompson totaled 29 stops, 3.5 sacks and a pair of quarterback hurries. Jakob Buys had 25 tackles, 3.0 sacks and two hurries, while Richard King had 11 tackles and 2.0 sacks.
LB: The Rams graduated their top defender in All-Mountain West linebacker Kevin Davis. The loss of Davis (110 tackles, 10.5 TFL, six takeaways) is a big one, but they also received welcome news earlier this month when Deonte Clyburn was cleared to play. In 2015, Clyburn averaged 9.8 tackles per game as a starter but missed all of 2016 due to blood clots. Clyburn will be a big boost for the Rams’ linebacking corps, especially combined with Josh Watson (11 starts), Tre Thomas (10 starts) and Arjay Jean (12 games played). Watson was the Rams’ second-leading tackler – behind Davis – totaling 90 stops and 7.5 for loss. Thomas had 38 tackles and 7.0 tackles for loss, while Jean, in intermittent action as a true freshman, had 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
DB: Due to a lack of experience, the Rams allowed 261.5 passing yards per game over the first four games of the season in 2016. With time, however, the secondary grew, limiting opponents to 155.0 passing yards per game over the final eight regular-season contests. The Rams graduated ball hawk Tyree Simmons, but return the majority of their defensive backs, including Jake Schlager, Robert Awunganyi, Jamal Hicks and Braylin Scott. In his first year starting, Schlager was the Rams’ third-leading tackler (72), while also intercepting a pass, breaking up two more and recovering a fumble. True freshmen Robert Awunganyi and Jamal Hicks combined to play in 18 contests, with Hicks posting 25 stops, an interception and two breakups while starting five times. Scott had three interceptions in his first three games to begin the year, in addition to 39 tackles.
ST: Replacing All-America punter Hayden Hunt is no small task, but CSU did sign a prep All-American in Ryan Stonehouse. Its other two specialists – kicker Wyatt Bryan (11-of-14 on field goals) and long snapper Trent Sieg – also return, as does its top kickoff returner in Dawkins. The Rams graduated punt returner Robert Ruiz, who against San Diego State returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown.
STEVENS IN COMMAND
After starting the season opener vs. Colorado (9/2), junior QB Nick Stevens was replaced by Faton Bauta and then one week later by Collin Hill. Head coach Mike Bobo praised Stevens for his work ethic and leadership during the demotion, however, and he got a second chance in October when Hill had season-ending ACL surgery.
Stevens posted the nation’s best pass efficiency rating from Oct. 22 forward, completing more than 70 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. He finished the year 129-of-201 for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns. His 64.2 completion percentage is the third-best in CSU single-season history while his 19 touchdown passes are tied for seventh. In the Potato Bowl vs. Idaho (12/22), Stevens had 445 passing yards and five touchdown passes, which both rank second in single-game history. The 445 passing yards were four shy of Scooter Molander’s 1987 record while the five passing touchdowns have been done six times, including twice by Stevens.
Overall, his season passing efficiency rating (171.3) ranked fifth in FBS in 2016, his 9.63 yards-per-pass-attempt average ranked fourth, his 15.01 passing yards-per-completion mark ranked seventh and his 64.2 completion percentage ranked 17th. Entering his senior season, Stevens has 41 career touchdown passes, the fourth-most in CSU history.
GIDDY UP, GALLUP
JUCO transfer Michael Gallup filled the hole left by WRs Rashard Higgins and Joe Hansley, recording one of the best receiving seasons in CSU history in 2016. Gallup finished his first year with the Rams with 76 catches (third in CSU single-season history) for 1,272 yards (third) and 14 touchdowns (second). Gallup scored at least one touchdown in each of his final eight games, including three apiece in the final two.
At Air Force (11/12), Gallup caught 13 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. The 13 catches were second-most in school history while the 213 receiving yards rank fifth.
Over the final eight games (from Oct. 2 forward), Gallup averaged 128.0 receiving yards per game, the fifth-most in FBS during that span (prior to that point, he ranked 181st). He completed his junior season ranked ninth in FBS for receiving touchdowns, 13th for receiving yards (first in the Mountain West), 15th for receiving yards per game (97.8) and 32nd for receptions per game (5.8).
BOBO AT THE HELM
Head coach Mike Bobo has led CSU to back-to-back winning seasons in his first two years with the Rams, and is the only CSU coach to go to consecutive bowl games in his first two years. Of the 15 FBS coaches who were hired prior to the 2015 season, Bobo is one of six to post winning records in both 2015 and 2016 (including one of two from Group of Five schools; Tom Herman, formerly with Houston).
Four mid-year enrollees are taking classes this semester and will be able to participate in spring practices.
- Tyler Bjorklund – Transferred to CSU after two seasons at College of the Canyons (California)... Played in 13 games for the Cougars, who averaged 25.76 points and 316.86 yards per game over the past two seasons... Is a 2015 graduate of Valencia High School.
- Griffin Hammer – Is a December graduate of St. Charles North High School in Illinois... As a senior, recorded 24 receptions for 424 yards and eight touchdowns, helping the North Stars to a 9-2 record.
- Ben Knox – Transferred to CSU after playing the 2016 season at Independence Community College and the 2015 season at South Florida... Rated as the 73rd-best junior college prospect... Is a 2014 graduate of DeLand High School in Florida.
- Preston Williams – Began his collegiate career at Tennessee (2015-16), catching 16 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns for the Volunteers... Out of Lovejoy High School (Georgia), in 2015 he was Scout’s top-rated receiver and a five-star prospect… Will have to sit out the 2017 season due to NCAA Division I transfer rules.
STRIVE FOR FIVE
The Rams will aim to build upon their recent success and qualify for a bowl game for the fifth consecutive season – something that has only been done once before, from 1999-2003. Last year, the Rams won four of their final five games to qualify for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and guarantee a fourth consecutive winning season.
All-time, CSU has played in 16 bowl games, including 15 since 1990, in addition to the 1949 Raisin Bowl. The Rams are looking for their 16th conference title, and first since 2002.
A LOOK AT THE SCHEDULE
With 14 starters returning from last year’s bowl team, CSU will challenge itself in 2017, playing three non-conference games against Power-5 opponents before opening up conference play on Sept. 30.
- The 2017 season marks the first time since 2004 that CSU has played three Power-5 teams in non-conference. That year, the Rams faced Colorado, No. 22 Minnesota and No. 1 USC. According to FBSschedules.com, CSU’s 2017 non-conference slate is ranked as the second-toughest in all of college football.
- CSU’s 11 FBS opponents went a combined 84-60 (.583) in 2016, with seven playing in bowl games and three competing in their conference title game (Alabama, Colorado, Wyoming).
- CSU has a winning record against five of its eight conference opponents (Hawai`i, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah State and Wyoming) and is tied with San José State.
- CSU begins conference play with back-to-back road contests for the first time since 1986. On the flip side, CSU will close the regular season with back-to-back home games for the first time since 2011.
- CSU and Oregon State agreed to move their Week 4 meeting to Zero Week, now playing Aug. 26. The move allows for CSU to now have an in-season bye week. The contest will be the debut of the Rams’ new on-campus stadium, and will be the earliest CSU has played a football game since 2002, when it knocked off No. 22 Virginia in Charlottesville. CSU and Oregon State have met twice before, both in Corvallis. The Beavers won in 1962, with the Rams winning in 1975.
- With the Oregon State date change, CSU will now play Colorado during Week 2. It marks just the second time in the past six years (2015) that the Rocky Mountain Showdown has not been the season opener. Attendance for the annual rivalry game has increased each of the past five seasons, including the largest crowd since 2003 last fall.
- CSU and Abilene Christian have never met on the gridiron.
- The Rams and Crimson Tide will play for the second time. In 2013, CSU trailed No. 1 Alabama by just 11 points in the fourth quarter.
- The Rams will travel to Hawai`i for the first time since 2013. CSU is 14-9 all-time against the Rainbow Warriors, winning six in a row.
- CSU has won two of the last three meetings against Utah State – and is 37-33-2 overall – but is looking for its first win in Logan since a double-overtime thriller in 2011.
- The Rams and Wolf Pack will play for the first time since the 2015 Arizona Bowl. CSU is 11-3 all-time against Nevada, including a perfect 7-0 in Fort Collins.
- The Rams have beaten New Mexico seven consecutive times and hold a 40-25 advantage in the series.
- After losing to Air Force seven years in a row from 2006-12, the Rams and Falcons have split the past four meetings, each won by the home team. Air Force leads the all-time series, 33-21-1.
- The Rams have played Wyoming more than any other team, holding a 58-45-5 advantage. CSU has won three of the past four meetings, including back-to-back wins in Laramie.
- CSU is looking for its first win over Boise State. The Broncos are 6-0 against the Rams, playing each of the past six seasons.
- CSU is 4-4 all-time against San José State, winning in the most-recent meeting, in 2014 in San Jose.
In addition to the Rams’ 2017 slate, CSU has scheduled 18 non-conference dates from 2018-28 – 15 of which are against Power-5 opponents, with six of them being played in Fort Collins.
- 2018: Sept. 1 vs. Colorado (Denver), Sept. 8 vs. Arkansas, Sept. 15 at Florida, Sept. 22 vs. Illinois State
- 2019: Aug. 31 vs. Colorado (Denver), Sept. 14 at Arkansas, Sept. 21 vs. Toledo
- 2020: Sept. 5 vs. Colorado, Sept. 12 at Oregon State, Sept. 26 at Vanderbilt
- 2021: Sept. 11 vs. Vanderbilt, Sept. 25 at Toledo
- 2025: Sept. 6 vs. Texas Tech, Sept. 27 at Vanderbilt
- 2026: Sept. 12 at Texas Tech, Sept. 26 vs. Vanderbilt
- 2027: Sept. 4 vs. Arizona
- 2028: Sept. 2 at Arizona
After five decades of playing at Hughes Stadium, the Rams are bringing football back to campus beginning this fall. The new, $220 million on-campus stadium will have a capacity of 41,000, and is located in the heart of campus, at the intersection of Pitkin and Meridian (Hughes Stadium was located approximately three miles west of campus). The state-of-the-art, multi-purpose stadium will have an alumni center and academic space built in.
Site prep began in May 2015, and a groundbreaking ceremony took place prior to the Rams’ contest against Minnesota that September. More than a year before kickoff, all Indoor Club and Outdoor Club premium seats were sold out, with a very limited number of other premium seating options still available. While stadium naming rights are still on the table, CSU has received generous donations from several partners ($20 million gift by an anonymous donor to forever name the field Sonny Lubick Field; a $4.3 million gift from New Belgium Brewing Company to name the north end zone hospitality area the New Belgium Porch; a $3.5 million gift by alumnus Michael Smith to name the alumni center within the stadium the Iris & Michael Smith Alumni Center; and a gift from the Orthopaedic and Spine Center of the Rockies to name the field club).
The Rams will ceremoniously bring football back to campus for the Green & Gold Spring Game on April 22, played at Lagoon Field – home of CSU soccer – just north of CSU’s new football stadium. In June, the project is expected to be complete with coaches and players moving into their new offices and locker room. More information on the stadium project, including a webcam on the construction site and photos and video, can be found at stadium.colostate.edu.
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