Rams Football begins Spring practices on Tuesday, March 26

Sr. LB Shaquil Barrett has made more tackles (166) in the last two seasons than any returning player in the Mountain West.

Sr. LB Shaquil Barrett has made more tackles (166) in the last two seasons than any returning player in the Mountain West.

March 25, 2013

2013 Spring Football Media Guide (PDF)

FORT COLLINS, Colo.--Colorado State begins its 2013 Spring practice period on Tuesday, March 26, with the first practice set for 3:15 p.m. All practices will take place at the Rams’ on-campus practice fields, located just south of the McGraw Athletic Center complex, with the exception of several scrimmages at Hughes Stadium, one practice in the Denver area and the annual Spring Game on April 20.

Per NCAA rules, Colorado State may conduct 15 practice sessions in the Spring period.

WELCOME BACK—Colorado State returns 45 letterwinners from its 2012 squad, including 15 starters—nine on offense, six on defense. Two special teams “starters” also return, with kicker Jared Roberts and long snapper Tanner Hedstrom back in 2013. In addition to the 15 starters returning, the Rams will benefit from the services of five other players who made a total or 28 starts between them in 2012.

RETURNING AWARD WINNERS—Four Rams who earned All-Mountain West recognition in 2012 form the nucleus of a 2013 squad that aspires to take the next step in Coach McElwain’s reformation of the Rams’ program. Here is a look at those four honorees, and a fifth who earned national recognition for his first-year play for Colorado State.

K Jared Roberts (Jr.)— Second-team All-MW; second-team Phil Steele All-MW
CB Shaq Bell (Sr.)—Honorable mention All-MW
LB Shaquil Barrett (Sr.)—Honorable mention All-MW; third-team Phil Steele All-MW
C Weston Richburg (Sr.)—Honorable mention All-MW (2011 2nd team); third-team Phil Steele All-MW
LB Cory James (So.)—Second-team Phil Steele Freshman All-America; second-team Phil Steele All-MW

RETURNING PRODUCTIVITY—Among the reasons for optimism among Rams fans is the fact that players who accounted for 99.4% of the team’s 2012 rushing yards, 78% of its passing yards and 71% of its receiving yards will return in 2013.

Leading the charge are the top two passers from 2012—Garrett Grayson (946 yards) and Conner Smith (1,022). Defensively, players who produced 78 percent of the team’s sacks and 100% of its interceptions will return. The rushing attack returns every offensive player who gained positive yardage last season. The only loss is linebacker James Skelton, who graduated after rushing three times for 10 yards and a touchdown in addition to his regular role at linebacker.

Among the receiving corps, eight of the top nine pass-catchers from 2012 return, including team leader Charles Lovett, who caught 35 passes for 428 yards and two touchdowns in his sophomore season.

“RAM U”—For the second year in a row, since Jim McElwain’s hire as head coach, the Rams took part in a comprehensive offseason strength and conditioning program called “Ram U.” The name derives from its all-around approach to physical and mental conditioning to prepare the team’s players for spring ball. The first three weeks of the spring semester began in January with four days per week of strength and conditioning work, followed by five weeks of the formal Ram U program.

SHAQUIL IS FOR REAL—No returning Mountain West player has made more tackles in the last two seasons than Colorado State senior linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who tallied 166 total stops over the 2011 and ’12 campaigns. Barrett, a native of Baltimore who attended school in Boys Town, Neb., transferred to Colorado State in 2011 from Nebraska-Omaha after that school discontinued its football program. He played through injuries down the stretch of the 2012 season, but still made big plays, including a 49-yard interception return in a home win over UNLV. It was his third defensive score as a Ram after scoring via a 52-yard interception return and a 15-yard fumble return in 2011.

IMPROVEMENT KEY TO VICTORIES—The Rams won three of their final five games a year ago, winning all three at home to put together the longest home winning streak for the program since 2008. Taking a look at several statistical keys reveals some of the reasons for that team success:

  • CSU averaged 169.6 rushing yards per game over the last five contests after compiling an average of just 99.7 over the first seven games;
  • The Rams reduced their number of sacks allowed from 3.6 over the first seven games (and 4.3 per game over the first four) to just 1.0 in the final five games, including just two total in the last three outings.
  • The Rams became more effective with their offensive as familiarity grew with coordinator Dave Baldwin’s offensive scheme. CSU finished the season ranked 17th in the nation and second in the Mountain West in red zone scoring, converting 21-of-24 scoring opportunities (87.5%).

COACHING STAFF UPDATES—Colorado State welcomed longtime college and professional coach Art Valero to the staff in February to coach the tight ends. Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin added quarterbacks coach to his responsibilities and linebackers coach Tim Skipper added the responsibilities of assistant head coach. In addition, Cole Pemberton was promoted to offensive graduate assistant and Brian Hendricks joined the program as a defensive graduate assistant.

2013 COLORADO STATE NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE—The Mountain West Conference football schedule will be released later this spring. Below is a look at the Rams’ non-conference slate:

Sat., Aug. 31 vs. Colorado (Sports Authority Field at Mile High)
                                      Pac-12...1-11, 1-8 (6th Pac-12 South)
Sat., Sept. 7 at Tulsa (Chapman Stadium; Tulsa, Okla.)
                                      Conference USA...11-3, 7-1 (1st C-USA)
Sat., Sept. 14 Cal Poly (Hughes Stadium)
                                      Big Sky ...9-3, 7-1 (3rd Big Sky; FCS playoffs)
Sat., Sept. 21 at Alabama (Bryant-Denny Stadium; Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
                                      SEC...13-1, 7-1 (1st SEC/Nat’l Champs)
Sat., Sept. 28 UTEP (Hughes Stadium)
                                      Conference USA...3-9, 2-6 (T-5th C-USA West)

NUMBER CHANGES—Several players on the Colorado State roster have changed numbers since the end of the 2012 season:

POSITION CHANGES—Below is a breakdown of the players on the Rams’ roster who have changed positions between the end of the 2012 season and 2013 spring ball:

SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
PRACTICE & INTERVIEW AVAILABILITY DURING SPRING PRACTICE
(Coach McElwain is available to media after each practice. Times/dates subject to change with little/no notice…please confirm with media relations office in advance):

Monday, March 25: 12 p.m.—Press Conf. with head coach Jim McElwain
Tuesday, March 26: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Co-Defensive Coordinator Al Simmons available to media]
Wednesday, March 27: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Player availability from designated player list]
Friday, March 29: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Offensive Coordinator/QBs Dave Baldwin available to media]
Saturday, March 30: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
[Special Teams Coordinator/RBs coach Jeff Hammerschmidt available to media]
Monday, April 1: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Co-Defensive Coordinator Marty English available to media]
Wednesday, April 3: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Player availability from designated player list]
Friday, April 5: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Asst. head coach/linebackers coach Tim Skipper available to media]
Saturday, April 6: 11 a.m.—SCRIMMAGE at Hughes Stadium
Monday, April 8: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Tight ends coach Art Valero & OL coach Derek Frazier available to media]
Wednesday, April 10: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Player availability from designated player list]
Friday, April 12: 5:45 p.m.; Practice at Infinity Park of Glendale
(4400 E. Kentucky, Glendale, Colo.) [Player availability]
Sunday, April 14: 12 p.m.—SCRIMMAGE at Hughes Stadium
[*Open for warmups, then closed]
Tuesday, April 16: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[Player availability from designated player list]
Thursday, April 18: 3:15-5:15 p.m.
[WR coach Alvis Whitted and DL coach Greg Lupfer available to media]
Saturday, April 20: 12 p.m.—Spring Game at Hughes Stadium
[Player availability from designated player list]

2013 SQUAD BREAKDOWN

Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 45/17 (Returning - 20 offense, 23 defense, 2 specialists)
Total Starters Returning/Lost: 17/8 (Returning - 9 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialists)

STARTERS RETURNING
OFFENSE (9)
LG Ty Sambrailo (6-5, 305, 2L, Jr.)
C Weston Richburg (6-4, 297, 3L, Sr.)
RG Jordan Gragert (6-4, 300, 3L, Sr.)
RT Jared Biard (6-7, 315, 1L, Sr.)
TE Crockett Gillmore (6-6, 253, 3L, Sr.)
19 rec., 263 yds., 13.8 avg., 2 TDs
HB Jake Levin (6-2, 212, 3L, Sr.)
2 rec., 4 yds., 2.0 avg.
WR Charles Lovett (5-8, 182, 2L, Jr.)
35 rec., 428 yds., 12.2 avg., 2 TDs
QB Garrett Grayson (6-2, 215, 2L, Jr.)/Conner Smith (6-5, 220, 1L, So.)
56.5% comp., 946 yds., 7 TDs, 3 Int.
RB Donnell Alexander (5-11, 205, 1L, So.)
117 rush., 587 yds., 5.0 avg., 4 TDs | 17 rec., 155 yds., 9.1 avg.
[**The offense features one additional returning player, G Brandon Haynes, who started seven games in 2012]

DEFENSE (6)
RDE Shaquil Barrett (6-2, 250, 2L, Sr.)
67 tackles (33 solo), 3.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 1 Int. (TD), 2 FF, 2 PD
SLB Cory James (6-0, 235, 1L, So.)
54 tackles (26 solo), 7.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR
RCB Shaq Bell (5-11, 195, 3L, Sr.)
66 tackles (44 solo), 1.0 sack, 3.0 TFL, 1 Int., 8 PD, 2 FF, 3 FR
WLB Aaron Davis (6-0, 215, 2L, Jr.)
84 tackles (44 solo), 5.0 TFL, 1 FR, 2 PD
SS Trent Matthews (6-3, 210, 1L, So.)
71 tackles (36 solo), 3.0 TFL, 1 Int., 11 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR
FS Austin Gray (6-3, 208, 2L, Jr.)
29 tackles (15 solo), 1 PD
[**The defense features four additional returning players who started at least four games in 2012, including three who started at least five: MLB Max Morgan (4), CB Bernard Blake (5), CB DeAndre Elliott (7) and S Conner Roggy (5)]

SPECIAL TEAMS (2)
K Jared Roberts (6-1, 196, 1L, Jr.)
56 pts., 9-10 FG, 29-31 PAT, long of 49, 4 of 9 FGs of 47 yds. or longer
LS Tanner Hedstrom (6-1, 227, 3L, Sr.)

STARTERS LOST
OFFENSE (2)
T Joe Caprioglio
WR Marquise Law (29 rec., 387 yds., 2 TD)

DEFENSE (5)
MLB James Skelton (32 tkls, 0.5 TFL, 1 PBU)
DE Lanston Tanyi (77 tkls, 3.0 sks, 3.5 TFL, 2 FR, 1 PBU, QBH)
CB Momo Thomas (10 tkls, 3 PBU; 3 gms. due to inj.)
DT Zach Tiedgen (13 tkls, 1.0 TFL, 1 FF)
DT Alex Tucci (28 tkls, 1.0 TFL)

SPECIAL TEAMS (1)
P Pete Kontodiakos (59 att., 2742 yds., 46.5 avg., LG 73, 19 i20, 19 50+)

RETURNING STARTERS BY POSITION GROUP

OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK—Colorado State started three different quarterbacks last year, and returns original starter Garrett Grayson (6 games, 5 starts) and four-game starter Conner Smith. Competition also will come from local product Craig Leonard and incoming freshman Nick Stevens (Murrieta, Calif., Vista Murrieta).
RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS—The Rams will have to replace the leadership and productivity of wideout Marquise Law (29-387, 2 TDs), but return leading receiver Charles Lovett (35-428, 2 TDs), leading tight end target Kivon Cartwright (26-310, 3 TDs), 2012 preseason all-conference tight end Crockett Gillmore (26-310, 3 TDs) and wideout Joe Hansley (21-274, 3 TDs).
RUNNING BACKS—The Rams are loaded with returning talent. The team’s 2011 leading rusher Chris Nwoke (570 yards, 2 TDs in 2012) and 2012 leading rusher Donnell Alexander (587 yards, 4 TDs) lead the charge, and are joined by Tommey Morris (211), Hansley (128) and 2013 mid-year junior college signee Kapri Bibbs.
OFFENSIVE LINE—The Rams lose starting left tackle Joe Caprioglio, but return five players who made a significant number of starts on the offensive line in 2012: Jared Biard (10 starts), Jordan Gragert (11), Brandon Haynes (7), honorable mention All-Mountain West pick Weston Richburg (12) and Ty Sambrailo (10 starts).

DEFENSE
DEFENSIVE LINE—Three starters (Lanston Tanyi, Zach Tiedgen and Alex Tucci) have moved on, but returning key reserves include Eli Edwards, Calvin Tonga and Curtis Wilson, each of whom played considerable snaps in 2012. This unit also received the greatest influx of mid-year junior college talent in December, in Terry Jackson and LaRyan King. Also, fellow December signee Martavius Foster is a tight end/defensive lineman.
LINEBACKERS—The Rams welcome back the majority of their starting personnel, including returning starters Shaquil Barrett (67 tackles, 3.5 sacks; honorable mention All-MW), Cory James (54 tackles, 7.5 sacks) and Aaron Davis (team-leading 84 tackles). Max Morgan started the last four games in place of the injured James Skelton, who since has graduated, and returnees Kevin Davis, Nu’uvali Fa’apito and Steven Michel saw significant game action in 2012.
SECONDARY—While the Rams technically lose starter Momo Thomas to graduation, the team was forced to play the final nine game of 2012 without him after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury at San Jose State. The secondary may be the area where the Rams feature their greatest collection of young talent. The veteran of the group is senior-to-be Shaq Bell, who made 66 tackles and added one sack, one interception, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries to earn honorable mention All-Mountain West honors. He is joined by cornerbacks Bernard Blake (3 pass breakups), DeAndre Elliott (2 INTs, 1 TD, 7 PBU) and Jasen Oden (1 INT), and safeties Austin Gray (5.8 tackles per game) and Trent Matthews (71 tackles, 1 INT). Blake and Gray will be juniors in 2013, while Elliott, Oden and Matthews will be sophomores.

SPECIAL TEAMS
CSU loses four-year punter and three-time All-Mountain West selection Pete Kontodiakos, but welcomes back kicker Jared Roberts and long-snapper Tanner Hedstrom. Roberts, who earned a scholarship just before the 2012 season opener, turned in an outstanding season that saw him earn second-team All-Mountain West in his first season of action. He made 9-of-10 field-goal attempts and 29-of-31 point-after attempts for 56 points, and twice earned Mountain West special teams player of the week honors.

HEAD COACH Jim McElwain

Jim McElwain enters his second season as head coach of the Rams in 2013, looking to build upon the positive momentum established in his debut season. McElwain’s team won three of its last five games--including three in a row at home--and posted the program’s best record since 2008 (4-8).

In addition to the measurable on-field improvement, McElwain’s complete overhaul of the program in this “Bold New Era” has re-shaped the the players’ mind-set and re-energized the fan base.

McElwain, a 28-year coaching veteran, became the 20th head football coach in Colorado State program history on Dec. 13, 2011. He spent the 2008-11 seasons as offensive coordinator at Alabama, where he played a key role in leading the Crimson Tide to two BCS national championship wins (2009 and ‘11).

In his first game as head coach, McElwain immediately put his stamp on the CSU program, guiding the Rams to a come-from-behind 22-19 defeat of in-state rival Colorado, on Sept. 1, 2012. In so doing, McElwain became the first CSU head football coach since 1970 to win his first game, and the first to defeat Colorado in his first CSU-CU matchup.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • McElwain hasn’t lost a season-opener at the college level since 2004, when he was assistant head coach at Michigan State.
  • McElwain has been to a bowl games in nine of the past 11 years, including two national championships with Alabama (2009, 2011).
  • McElwain’s offenses at Alabama led the nation by committing only 57 turnovers in his fours years. Ohio State was second with 59.
  • Sent two players to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York: 2009 winner Mark Ingram and 2011 finalist Trent Richardson.
  • Played key role in Crimson Tide’s 47-6 record from 2008-11.
  • Ranked among the top units in the Southeastern Conference.
  • In 2011 `Bama led the SEC with 219.8 rushing yards per game, and finished second with 433.4 total yards per contest, and third in scoring (36 points per game). In 2010, the team was third in both total yards and scoring.
  • The offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Fresno State in 2007, McElwain improved the Bulldogs’ output from 338.2 total yards per game the year before his arrival to 419.5 (No. 38 in the nation), and from 23.0 points per contest to 32.9 (No. 32). Fresno State went 9-4 in his only season, including a 40-28 win over Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl.
  • In 2006, he coached the quarterbacks of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, under Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell
  • Coaching wide receivers at Michigan State in 2003, McElwain helped lead the team to the Alamo Bowl, establishing school records with 312 receptions and 3,510 receiving yards.
  • In 2004 he coached an All-American, punter Brandon Fields, and the Big Ten’s scoring leader, kicker Dave Rayner. And prior to his departure for the NFL, Michigan State set a school mark with 24 touchdown receptions in 2005, when five of his wideouts had at least 28 catches.
  • Coached against Colorado State in the 2000 Liberty Bowl in his first season with Louisville.
  • In his three seasons with the Cardinals, four of his players earned first-team all-conference honors. Three of his pupils ranked among Louisville’s all-time leading receivers, including future Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch.
  • McElwain started his coaching career at his alma mater, Eastern Washington in 1985 as a graduate assistant.
  • During his time on the staff, the Eagles earned a berth in both the 1992 and 1995 Division I-AA playoffs, and a share of the 1992 Big Sky crown.
  • A 1984 graduate of Eastern Washington. Played quarterback from 1980-83.
  • McElwain earned his degree in education.
  • Jim and his wife Karen have three children, JoHanna, Elizabeth & Jerret.

McELWAIN’S COACHING CHRONOLOGY
Seasons Team/School Title/Position Coached
1985-94 -- Eastern Washington Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers
1995-99 -- Montana State Off. Coord./Wide Receivers/Special Teams
2000-02 -- Louisville Wide Receivers/Special Teams
2003-05 -- Michigan State Asst. Head Coach/Wide Recievers/ST
2006 -- Oakland Raiders Quarterbacks
2007 -- Fresno State Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2008-11 -- Alabama Offensive Coordinator
2012- -- Colorado State Head Coach


A sampling of quotes from Jim McElwain’s Spring football press conference

March 25, 2013

On how players have recovered from injuries suffered during the season
“(Linebacker) Kevin Davis is now our only guy who will be totally out for drills this spring. There will be some guys who will be limited. (Tackle) Jared (Biard) should be able to go. He’s done a great job of his rehab and better than last year. It has been night and day. (Guard) Jordan Gragert, he went in and had some clean up stuff done but it shouldn’t hinder him at all. We feel comfortable going into spring ball from an injury standpoint.”

On the team’s progress
“We came back after Christmas, and to see how they came back was encouraging. They invested the time over the break to get us a step ahead. We are a heck of a lot farther ahead from where we were a year ago.”

On attrition
“I like the guys on this team as far as their character. You are going to see guys not on the roster who didn’t buy in. I feel good about the character. It’s really encouraging because we changed the way we think and the way we do things and the guys that couldn’t change aren’t here any
more.”

On first-year players next season
“I’m excited to see what the legend of (running back) Kapri Bibbs can do. I’ve heard his name for a while now. I’m excited to see what he can do when he gets his cage rattled a bit, especially by the head coach (smiling). Bryan Ohene is a guy who has really developed himself physically over the offseason. Mitch Frentescu is a guy who, if he can keep himself organized, will give us a big body on the defensive line. Jordon Vaden, you could argue that he should have played last year, but he’ll thank me four years from now. Freddy (Fred Zerblis) has come back well and may give us flexibility to move (Weston) Richburg around a little bit and help us in different spots if we need him to do so. Davon Riddick, who was having a really good fall before breaking his wrist, we’re excited to get him back in the rotation and he’s another running back.”


 

 

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