April 6, 2013
By Stuart Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - After Colorado State's 123-play scrimmage Saturday, Head Coach Jim McElwain expressed how pleased he was with his team's progress.
"Night and day from a year ago," McElwain said.
The first scrimmage in 2012 was a defensive exhibition as the unit racked up 20-plus sacks. Saturday was a much different story.
McElwain noted the improvement on the offensive line and complimented the running backs for their blitz protection.
"They did a good job in blitz pick up, which is something they have been doing in practice, so that is good to see," McElwain said.
With the improved blocking the quarterbacks had more time to scan the field and look for an open receiver, and Saturday it seemed Charles Lovett was always open.
The second-year coach joked that he thought there was only 10 guys in the huddle because Lovett, who is 5-foot-8, is so short he couldn't see him. In Garrett Grayson's vision Lovett must have looked like the biggest guy on the field.
Lovett pulled in seven passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns and was easily Saturday's top performer for the Rams.
"Chuck (Charles Lovett) has really taken to this new system and how we do things," McElwain said. "He has kind of become a leader. He is doing things right, he does things we expect of him off the field as well as on and it shows in his play. It'll only increase his consistency and performance."
Defensively, quite a few players stood out, including junior college transfer Terry Jackson. This was the first time fans got a chance to see the highly-touted defensive lineman from Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College, and he did not disappoint.
Jackson accounted for five tackles, two tackles-for-loss and one sack in his first live action against the Rams' offense.
Although the first-team defense matched up against the second-team offense most of Saturday, Jackson shined when it came to the ones-versus-ones portion of the scrimmage. The 6-foot-1, 260-pound defensive tackle met running back Tommey Morris at the line of scrimmage and jarred the ball loose before Kevin Pierre-Louis scooped it up and ran it in for a 32-yard score.
By the end of the day, Jackson wasn't the only defensive lineman that stood out. To begin the scrimmage, Jackson started alongside Calvin Tonga and Eli Edwards. Those three combined for eight tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. At the rate the defensive line is improving it could end up being one of Colorado State's strongest positions.
The quarterback battle was dominated by the more experienced Grayson, who threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns, but McElwain isn't ready to declare a starter after one scrimmage.
"I thought Garrett (Grayson) handled up-tempo stuff a little better than Conner (Smith) did and I saw some good things out of C.J. (Craig Leonard)," McElwain said.
Leonard threw the only other touchdown of the day, a 45-yard strike to Jake Levin.
The coaching staff feels that the depth is "way up from a year ago" and they are excited to see how the Rams continue to progress as they work their way through spring drills.
That process continues on Monday as the team is back on the practice fields south of Moby Arena for its ninth practice.
Hits of the day: Saturday's scrimmage was the first time the team could bring each other to the ground, so big hits were not hard to come by. Linebacker Aaron Davis blew up running back Chris Nwoke as he jumped to catch a screen pass. Davis jarred the ball loose and it fell to the ground for an incompletion.
See your Rams in action: Rams fans get an up-close look at their team in the Denver area on Friday, April 12, when Coach McElwain and his team hold a public practice at Infinity Park of Glendale (4400 E. Kentucky, Glendale, Colo.). The Ram Town interactive area opens at 4 p.m., and the practice will begin at 5:45. The annual Spring Game will be held Saturday, April 20 at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium, beginning at Noon. Ram Town will open at 10 a.m.
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