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CSU spring football blog - Practice 9

Herd returned a fumble for a touchdown Saturday.

Herd returned a fumble for a touchdown Saturday.

April 9, 2011

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By Nick Frank
Athletic Media Relations

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Safety Ivory Herd patiently watched Mike Orakpo jar the ball from Scott Carter’s hands in the left flat near the sideline, then swooped in and snagged the ball out of mid-air and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown. The play inspired the CSU defense to a 44-28 victory over the offense at Saturday’s practice, the first of three major spring scrimmages, at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.

The defense held a comfortable lead over the offense throughout the day, which included 51 plays of live competition. The offense saw a spark from running back Chris Nwoke, who was consistently initiating contact with defenders. Nwoke had five rushes for 52 yards including a 38-yard scamper through the defense. Nwoke picked up a crucial block from Byron Steele during the run.

A bright spot for the Rams was the play of the defensive line.  The unit, which lost starters Ty Whittier and first-team all-conference performer Guy Miller to graduation, was anchored by defensive ends Broderick Sargent and Crockett Gillmore. There was consistent pressure on the quarterbacks, including a sack by Sargent during the live period. Defensive tackle Curtis Wilson also recorded a sack.



During their second practice at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium, the Rams went through pregame warmups as they would during a regular-season game to get into a sharp, game-like mentality. There was a seven-man officiating crew there throwing flags when necessary and also getting into game shape themselves.

The team had three live sessions, all of which were tailored to a specific situation. The first period pitted the offense and defense against each other in third-down situations. To emphasize an area the Rams are determined to improve this season, third downs, the coaches ran the period in three-play increments with the losing side running half-gassers – round trip, sideline-to-sideline sprints - after each set of plays. The second session had the offense backed up against its own goal line and the third focused on moving the ball in plus-territory. That last, 25-play session, began several series with the ball spotted on the plus-40, and the offense moved the ball just as it would in a game.

There was also a focus on special teams at Saturday’s practice. Kicker Ben DeLine connected on three field goals with a long of 43. His fourth attempt was blocked by Momo Thomas, who shot in from the left side.

Defensive end Davis Burl left practice with an injury that Head Coach Steve Fairchild described as a hip pointer. Lou Greenwood also suffered a minor injury, a dislocated finger, but neither player is expected to miss practice.

Herd also had an interception during thud drills, as did Elijah-Blu Smith and Shaq Bell. There were a number of tipped balls that led to numerous interception opportunities for the defense.

Special guest: After practice, Fairchild introduced to the team Broncos wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert to the team. Tolbert, in town to serve as keynote speaker for CSU’s coaches clinic, told the Rams that as a visitor without preconceived notions, he easily recognized that CSU’s practice has much more intensity than other college practices he’s seen. Tolbert, who has coached Anquan Boldin and Terrell Owens among others, said the Rams were fortunate to have Fairchild as a head coach because coaches at the reins of their alma maters have more pride. Finally, Tolbert encouraged the Rams to pursue their academics.

Best in the nation: Fairchild also congratulated the Rams’ Kris Young, the national Equipment Manager of the Year. After a round of applause, Young thanked the players for putting up with him, and deflected the credit to his staff that helps to run practice, asking the team to applaud his student managers.

Practice schedule: CSU will again be in pads Tuesday morning, a 7:15 a.m. practice at its main facility, but will go without pads on Thursday. The Rams will hold their second major scrimmage of the spring on Friday night, back at the stadium. Start time is to be determined, but likely will be in the early evening. The spring game is April 23, at 11 a.m., at the stadium. Admission is free to all CSU practices, as well as the spring game.

Pete’s progression: Thomas showed a lot of accuracy on his deep balls, including a gorgeous, 60-yard completion to Lou Greenwood, down the right sideline, during a thud period early in practice. Thomas also showed he could get rid of the ball quickly to avoid a sack, throwing one pass into the ground in the face of pressure. The quarterback has made cutting down on his sacks a point of emphasis this spring.

For whom the Bell tolls: Former running back Kyle Bell, a powerful ball-carrier that led the Rams to the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl, attended practice on Saturday. Bell sustained a knee injury as a rookie in the Jacksonville Jaguars camp in 2009, and attempted a comeback. A journalism major at CSU, he recently took a job working for The Mtn. He also works for 104.3 The Fan in Denver, and writes and blogs for Denver Magazine.

Another Kawulok: Joe Kawulok, the younger brother of linebacker Michael Kawulok, was at practice Saturday. The younger player, a defensive end from Monarch High School in Louisville, Colo., signed a National Letter of Intent with the CSU football program in February. He looked noticeably bigger than he had in past visits this spring.

Fairchild quotes…

On the injuries:
“Davis (Burl) has a hip pointer. Lou (Greenwood) had a finger pop out. Neither guy might miss a practice.”
On tight ends and lack of depth:
“After last week’s practices, we’ve had to manufacture some stuff. There were some three-wideout things we’d rather do with a tight end. There was some extra-tackle things we’d rather do with a tight end. We were thin to begin with. We’re having to manufacture some things.”
On whether the lack of depth at TE helps the team getting an extra tackle ready:
“We did that some last year. We’ve done it every year. At times, we’ve played with a tackle in there (at tight end), so that is a part of our package. I don’t know if I want to have it be the only thing we can go to, but right now it’s the way it is.”
On the offense Saturday:
“To me, that’s as bad as an offensive practice as we’ve had in four years. They couldn’t line up right. They couldn’t stay in their stance. There were probably 25 (motion) penalties. We didn’t catch the ball. We didn’t throw the ball. We didn’t do a thing right today, offensively. It’s kind of a shame because you don’t know whether the defense practiced well. It’s hard to tell when the offense is that bad. It couldn’t have been worse.
I wanted to see clean football and we had four wide-receiver procedure penalties in the first 15 plays. That’s just not being dialed in; that’s all that is. They just showed up and they weren’t dialed in. So, if they want to practice like that, they’ll play like that and we’ll be a 3-9 team. If we decide we want to be better, we certainly have the talent to do it, but they obviously didn’t decide to do it today.”
“On Tuesday, we’ve got to get something going. We can’t continue to practice like we did, offensively.
“I couldn’t think of a good play. They couldn’t make a first down, let alone try to points.”
On the defense:
“I don’t want to take anything away from the defense. I think they were running around good, doing the right thing. It’s just that when you’re that inept (offensively), it’s really hard to tell what happened.”


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