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CSU spring football blog: Practice 10

Fairchild said the Rams will play the three best interior linemen, even if they're all natural guards

Fairchild said the Rams will play the three best interior linemen, even if they're all natural guards

April 13, 2010

Check news archives for previous practice blogs

By Zak Gilbert
Athletic Media Relations

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - The Rams this spring are conducting a live scrimmage for at least one period during many practices, and those scrimmages usually are won by the defense.

Not Tuesday. After wind pushed the team inside its $13 million Indoor Practice Facility, the CSU offense got its second win of the spring, a 14-10 triumph.

Powered by Chris Nwoke, who took many of the reps with the first team, combined with big plays from Leonard Mason and Tyson Liggett, and consistent passing, the young offense showed signs that it's finally coming together with only five spring practices remaining.

Nwoke, a 6-foot, 208-pound redshirt freshman from Highlands Ranch, Colo., took a pitch to the left before reversing his field and racing 33 yards down the right sideline to the 7, getting a nice downfield block from T.J. Borcky. The play broke open a tight contest, and gave the offense a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Obviously gifted with a dangerous combination of speed and power, Nwoke (pronounced WOH-kay) also caught an 8-yard screen during the live scrimmage. And during an earlier thud period, he shot through a gap over left tackle, got to the secondary with lightning speed and used his leverage to overpower Elijah-Blu Smith with the hit of Tuesday's practice, igniting the sideline.

Other scrimmage highlights: Mason found a crease and accelerated down the sideline for a 16-yard run. He had two carries for 18 yards in the live period...Liggett caught a 24-yard pass from Pete Thomas to open the 17-play scrimmage. The pass was Thomas' longest of the day, as he finished 5-of-6 for 53 yards...Nico Ranieri had a fairly good day overall; he completed 2-of-4 passes for 17 yards in the live period, but his last pass, perfectly placed for Byron Steele in the end zone, was batted away by Travis Ford. The play was either pass interference or simply incomplete, depending on the perspective of either defensive coordinator Larry Kerr or offensive coordinator Pat Meyer ...Borcky had a pair of 7-yard runs...Lou Greenwood had two catches for 22 yards, while Vernon Scott (6 yards), Mason (4) and Jameson Gann (6) also had receptions. Raymond Carter also had one carry for 0 yards.



Defensively during the live scrimmage, Momo Thomas broke up a pass, Pete Thomas' only incompletion. C.J. James had a big hit to drop Carter for no gain, Nuku Latu recovered a fumble and Ricky Brewer sacked Pete Thomas to end the scrimmage.

Other practice notes: Klay Kubiak wore full pads and took reps with the quarterbacks during individual drills; he's throwing with impressive velocity following October shoulder surgery...Ben DeLine split the uprights (pasted onto a drop-down net inside the facility) on a 42-yard field goal to end the practice-opening 2-minute drill...Redshirt freshman CB Immanuel Mitchell made a nice play to break up a pass during a physical, press-coverage drill that involved only a wideout, defender and QB; Greenwood took reps with the receivers in the same drill, after taking reps as a RB during other portions of practice, and Pete Thomas ended that drill with a gorgeous 52-yard TD toss to Steele...The first-team O-line consisted primarily of Ryan Griffith and Paul Madsen at tackle, Connor Smith and Jake Gdowski at guard, and Tyler McDermott at center, although Smith rotated in with Weston Richburg at center, and Griffith saw occasional snaps at guard...During the thud periods, Ranieri completed TD passes to Steele, Carter and Liggett, all 40-yard strikes...James Skelton recovered an errant snap and Alex Williams pounced on another loose ball, while Brandon Owens robbed Scott of a catch a few plays before picking off Pete Thomas in the end zone...An entertaining battle between Justin Becker and Ben Tedford highlighted a pass-rush drill.

Wide receivers: Head Coach Steve Fairchild knows the Rams don't have a lot of game experience at the wideout position, but he doesn't doubt the Rams have at least 4-5 who can play major-college football.

"I think we've got some good young talent, especially when you put T.J. Borcky out there and Lou Greenwood out there," he said. "But we're not ready right now. We're going to have to finish up spring ball going good, then have a great summer and a great August camp. It's not lack of ability; that would scare me more.

"T.J.'s a receiver that will have a role at quarterback and Greenwood, we're still trying to figure out. There's a number of things he can do. Obviously, we've got to get him the ball. We're going to take our time and watch him do a few things before we finalize where he's going to be."

The goal in the passing game for the Rams over the final five practices is to improve consistency and communication.

"Our level of being on the same page with quarterbacks and wide receivers is not anywhere near game-ready. But we're getting better," he said. "Coach (Dan) Hammerscmidt's doing a good job. We're going to develop. We're just young in those areas."

Liggett, a senior walk-on who is a strong candidate to earn a scholarship after spring ball, is a leader in the group. Fairchild said the former prep QB, a 5-foot-9 sparkplug out of Limon, Colo., is likely a starter.

"He's very smart," Fairchild said. "He played all of our spots last year. We threw him in games last year where he hadn't practiced in a spot and he'd go in and do it. So, he's versatile. We'll fit him in where we need him."

Offensive line: Tuesday had its share of fumbled snaps, but far less than Saturday. While not making an excuse, Fairchild attributes some of that to the rotation at the center spot. He believes once the Rams choose their first- and second-team center, those issues will settle down, even if their center is a natural guard.

"Those interior three, we're going to get the best three guys playing," he said. "If it happens to be three guards, then somebody's going to have to learn how to snap."

Injury updates: Fairchild said Andy Clements' knee injury is serious and likely will keep him out for the season...Cornerback DeAngelo Wilkinson, who injured his foot/ankle toward the end of Saturday's practice, isn't expected to miss much time...Meanwhile, senior TE Eric Peitz, who nearly severed the tip of his finger after a hit from Elijah-Blu Smith at practice April 3, may not return this spring.

"We could force it," Fairchild said of Peitz, "but I don't know that's in our best interest. We know what he can do, and I kind of like getting some of these younger guys, (Cameron) Moss and Joe Brown, some of those younger players, some reps."

Friday practice: Fairchild said the final practice this week, a 4 p.m. session Friday at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium, will be the longest of the spring. The Rams are expected to conduct at least 45 live plays, and possibly 100 others. CSU will not practice Saturday, as originally scheduled. Thursday's 3:15 p.m. practice, on campus, will be in shells and is expected to last approximately 90 minutes.

Job fair: Many players were in shirts and ties following practice Tuesday. Every CSU student-athlete attended the athletic department's annual job fair, with several community business leaders, inside Moby Arena.

Spring game: Fairchild wants to gauge his team's health after it gets through this week before deciding on a format for the April 24 spring game. If the Rams can keep their offensive and defensive lines healthy, CSU will conduct an actual football game, as opposed to a situational scrimmage, for much of that day.

"I like this group of seniors," Fairchild said. "We'll let them draft and have a little fun with it. In my mind right now, and things will change, we'll get some situational practice, some time that week they'll draft, and the last hour or so we'll play a game. I'd let the kids take control and have a little fun with it."

On the air: Brian Roth and Kevin McGlue will call the April 24 spring game, which will air on AM stations KLZ (560 in Denver) and KCOL (600 in Fort Collins).

Fan mail: Wednesday morning is the last opportunity fans have to e-mail questions to Fairchild for the Denver Post's Fan Mail feature. The coach is the subject of this week's edition, and fans can e-mail him questions at

Aggies to Rams: John Hirn, an unselfish author who spent 17 years writing the first book on CSU's football history, Aggies to Rams, will be selling copies of the book on the concourse at Hughes Stadium April 24. Hirn is donating 80 percent of his profits to the CSU Athletic General Scholarship Fund.

Student tickets to CU game: All CSU student seating for the CU game at Invesco Field Sept. 4 will be in the form of general admission. There will be no reserved seats, allowing many students to sit next to their friends. Students will be issued first-level, third-level and fifth-level GA seats to the game, with priority given based on the order in which they purchase tickets. Students who purchase tickets earlier will be given first-level seating, etc.

Student tickets to the game go on sale July 19 and continue while supplies last until Aug. 23. Student tickets will only be available for purchase online. Each ticket is $25 for students with a valid ID, and students will need to print every ticket at home.

Also, the ASCSU is expected to again offer round-trip bus transportation to the game, which kicks off at noon. ASCSU hasn't established the bus price, but it is expected to be near what it was in past years, $10. CSU buses will drop students off north of the stadium. More information on purchasing student tickets will be available in coming weeks.


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