CSU spring football blog: Practice 11
April 14, 2011
By Zak Gilbert
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Before Urban Meyer won two national championships at Florida, his zip code was 80525.
In town this week to address CSU's College of Business, the legendary coach took time to have dinner with Rams Head Coach and former neighbor Steve Fairchild, and address Fairchild's team following Thursday morning practice in the university's new $13 million Indoor Practice Facility.
CSU's wide receivers coach from 1990-95, Meyer helped the Rams to appearances in the 1990 Freedom Bowl, and the 1994 and '95 Holiday bowls, as well as a pair of WAC titles. He left the Rams to become an assistant at Notre Dame before head-coaching stints at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. But before his departure, the CSU team photo included him and seven members of the current CSU staff, fellow assistants Fairchild, Larry Kerr and Tom Ehlers, and then-players Daren Wilkinson, Pat Meyer, Anthoney Hill and Darrell Ballard.
Speaking with the tone he'd use in a Gators locker room at halftime of a significant game, the former head coach encouraged the players not to complicate things, to just do their jobs, noting that 1-2 players not doing their jobs can mean the difference between a big gain and a big loss. During a six-minute speech, he also told the Rams that he still had his eyes on the program throughout his success at Florida and that Fort Collins remains very special to him.
Fairchild hoped that message will resonate as the Rams prepare for their second major scrimmage of the spring Friday afternoon, the spring game April 23 and their 2011 season.
"Anytime you can have someone like him, or a Philip Rivers, they can really impart something on the kids and the team," Fairchild said, referring to the NFL quarterback's visit Feb. 22. "I thought he did a great job."
Gillmore gets test-drive at tight end: Crockett Gillmore, a 1,000-yard wide receiver in high school, reported to his first college practice last August as a tight end. But three weeks before the Rams' season-opener, depth necessitated his move to defensive end.
He remained an exclusive defensive end until Thursday, when coaches decided to temporarily shift him back across the line of scrimmage.
"Our plan with him for a couple days is to have him go both ways," Fairchild said. "Obviously, we've got to get our best 22 guys on the field. He's certainly going to be one of them. I'd like to leave him on the defensive line, but we're going to at least see what he does at tight end right now."
Fairchild said the lack of depth at tight end, where the Rams are without Ben Tedford (concussion), Cameron Moss (knee) and Jameson Gann (knee), forced the issue, but didn't serve as the sole reason for the shift.
"It's been on our minds the entire offseason," said the coach. "I wanted to see how some of the other guys at the defensive-end position developed. We're going to need some guys to keep coming in that area to be able to move him over to offense. I just want to watch him run around as a tight end for a couple days and we'll think about it."
They might also think about, once August arrives, how they'll game plan his weekly meeting schedule, because the 6-foot-6, 241-pound sophomore might be good enough to play both ways.
"He probably could get some snaps," Fairchild said. "You look at the fullback at Stanford last year that played linebacker. There are some things where maybe the situation calls for it. We might be in that situation with Crockett, tight end/defensive end. I just want to watch him as a tight end for a couple days, then we'll take the weekend off and come back and talk about it as a staff, talk about it with Crockett, and see where we're going."
Fairchild said Gillmore, who caught a couple touchdowns during a light workout in helmets Thursday, will line up mostly at tight end Friday during the Rams' 4 p.m. scrimmage at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium. He also will see limited snaps on defense, as he did Thursday morning.
In addition, the Rams have tentatively moved linebacker Eric Niederberger, a 6-foot-1, 219-pound redshirt freshman from Nevada City, Calif., to fullback. CSU could return Niederberger to defense if the trial isn't the best fit.
Meyer calling plays: The other Meyer in the building Thursday, the Rams' offensive coordinator and line coach Pat Meyer, has been calling plays on occasion this spring and will get more experience in that role Friday, Fairchild said.
Fairchild's plan all along has been to delegate that responsibility as soon as he feels comfortable with Meyer, and said the move-the-ball snaps Friday will help in that process. The Rams are planning several such plays, which best simulate a game because the yard-marker and first-down chains will move with the play as they would in a real game, in Friday's scrimmage.
"Pat is calling some plays this spring," Fairchild said, "so we can get him experience doing that. That's when move-the-ball is real beneficial. Because we come out to practice and it's all, you know the play, scripted. Then all the sudden, it's first down, but then it turns into, is it second-and-8? Is it second-and-2? Is it on the left hash? Is it on the right hash? You've got to call a game like that, and that takes practice."
The scrimmage also will help Kerr, Fairchild said.
"I think as we've done some things differently on defense, having Larry call spontaneously is a good thing, since you have some changes in your scheme."
Scrimmage details: Fairchild said the team's second of three major spring scrimmages, a trio that concludes with the April 23 spring game, will contain the most live tackling to date. The 4 p.m. competition, at the stadium Friday, is free and open to fans. The stadium's restrooms and concessions are not expected to be open until the spring game.
The coaching staff, at least on offense, is hoping to see a better mental edge.
"Just cleaner," Fairchild said. "The offsides, the lining up wrong, the missed assignments, just not beating ourselves, because we have plenty of talent. We're in the right frame of mind, going hard on both sides of the ball. We just got to tighten it up a little bit."
After the scrimmage, the Rams will take the weekend off to rest before their final week of spring camp. CSU has 7:15 a.m. practices Tuesday and Thursday. The spring game is April 23 at 11 a.m.
Indoors: A burst of Colorado spring moisture forced the Rams into their Indoor Practice Facility for the first time this spring.
Defensive-line rotation: Sophomore Te'Jay Brown took his turn with the first-team defense Thursday, lining up at nose tackle next to John Froland. Early in practice, Brown helped the defense break a tie in a one-on-one pass-rush drill, beating Jordan Gragert to the quarterback. The drill emphasized proper hand technique, for both offensive and defensive players.
On an island: Following the pass-rush drill, the Rams also gave offensive and defensive points during a one-on-one passing drill, in which a receiver lined up opposite a cornerback or safety. During the drill, Marcus Shaw beat Byron Steele for an interception and Pete Thomas connected on several deep balls with Marquise Law, including a 57-yarder. Earlier, the quarterback hit Steele on a perfectly placed 60-yard touchdown. Shaq Bell nearly had an interception, and on another snap T.J. Borcky made a nice adjustment to secure a deep reception.
Impressive catch: Fullback Joe Brown, a 6-foot-3, 232-pound sophomore from Wichita, Kan., has a cast covering his hand, but he does not wear a red no-contact jersey. In fact, Brown caught a touchdown during practice Thursday. Fairchild said the wrist injury isn't expected to require surgery, and the cast is mostly to protect it from further injury this spring.
Drake returns: Tony Drake returned to practice after missing a week to shore up academic issues.
Other quotes from Fairchild Thursday
On Thomas' level of comfort helping the overall offense this spring: "There's no question. He and the offensive line. The dilemma we had last year was we had to develop a quarterback, with a new offensive line; we lost those four starters (Adrian Martinez, Cole Pemberton, Shelley Smith, Tim Walter) from the year before. As the line progressed last year, Pete progressed. Now, we look like we know what we're doing. We're more experienced."
On Thomas playing with a minor shoulder separation last year: "He fought through it. I'm sure it had some impact on his performance, particularly down the stretch. But like I said, looking back, we wore the poor guy out. You can't put him in a game without preparing him, but without preparing him all the way through camp, two-a-days, and he's taking every rep without a bye week, that just was hard on him.
"Now the focus shifts. Pete's close to being game-ready, and you can project, with half the reps in August, he'll be ready to roll, but now where are we with the backups? That takes the spotlight right now."
On Ben Tedford: "He had a concussion, so he hasn't been cleared yet. We certainly don't want to put him back out there."
On the format of the scrimmage, and whether it will include the most live tackling of the spring: "More live, yeah. More live than we have been."
On whether the scrimmage will have situations, such as third-down, red-zone, etc.: "Some, and some move-the-ball."