April 21, 2012
By Nick Frank
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – With the score 0-0 when the green and the gold teams jogged into the locker room at halftime at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium, Shaq Bell thought to himself that the defense might have to step up to win the game.
That is exactly what the junior cornerback did. Bell scored the only touchdown in the spring game, returning an interception 45 yards down the sideline, propelling the gold team to a 10-3 victory.
“In the locker room at halftime it was like somebody on defense was going to have to score,” Bell said after the game. “I jumped the route and took it to the house.”
Of course, there was a little extra motive for winning the game. Head Coach Jim McElwain informed the players that the winning side would be treated to a steak dinner, while the losers would eat beans and hot dogs.
Bell will enjoy his steak dinner, along with his other gold teammates knowing that it definitely beat the alternative.
“I am very happy,” said Bell. “I didn’t want to be eating no beans.”
Defense dominated the day as it has in most of the scrimmages throughout spring ball. For the gold team, Max Morgan flew all over the field, picking up 10 tackles along the way. His effort, along with Bell’s kept the Green team’s offense in check.
Gold team got on the board first when kicker Jared Roberts booted a 45-yard field goal through the uprights in the third quarter.
The green team finally got on the board when Roberts connected on a 41-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Roberts, along with his other special teams peers and a few selected players, played for both teams. According to McElwain, players that played on both teams will eat beans, including himself who didn’t pick one side or the other.
The green team had a shot to tie, and possibly win the game on the last series. McPeek found wide receiver Dominique Vinson on the sideline, who after catching the pass, dazzled his way through the defense. It looked like Vinson was going to get to the end zone but Bell made the game-saving tackle with just seconds left on the clock.
McElwain was impressed with what he saw out of Bell and the other defensive backs.
“I’m happy with that secondary,” said McElwain. Coach (Al) Simmons has done a great job with those guys and really helped them.”
With spring ball now over, both players and coaches have their eyes set on summer.
"Obviously we have a lot of kids coming in with this recruiting class that are coming in this summer,” said quarterback Garrett Grayson. “That's going to help me personally because I will have to teach them and teaching somebody else helps you out and makes you think of what everyone is really doing.”
McElwain believes that how his team approaches the summer conditioning program will be a telling sign.
“Spring ball is good to see what they do and get themselves on film but the team, how they gel and the things that they do, is all in the summer,” said McElwain. “We have a great strength staff that will get these guys going. That’s going to tell a lot about who we are going to be next year.”
One player that has taken McElwain’s message about being responsible for your self-determination is running back Chris Nwoke. Nwoke thinks that the team as a whole will benefit, especially in the summer, from the new attitude adopted by players.
“It is what you do when people aren’t watching,” said Nwoke “That’s when we can truly become great and do things on your own and coaches don’t have to tell you to do things. I think we are on our way to that; we have a lot more players doing things on their own to become good. I think we are doing that as a family.”
Honorary Captains: Athletic Director Jack Graham and men’s basketball Head Coach Larry Eustachy were honorary captains at the coin flip.
Good Crowd: CSU officials estimated that 7,000 fans attended the annual spring game. Many of the fans in attendance were in the club level and private suites.
Looking good: Dominique Vinson recently made the switch from defensive back to wide receiver. He looked impressive Saturday, showing the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. McElwain liked what he saw out of the senior.
“I think the move of (Dominique) Vinson over to receiver is going to help us,” said McElwain.
Old faces: Numerous former players were in attendance on Saturday. According to Director of Football Operations Tom Ehlers, there were at least 50 that he knew of.
Kicking game: Jared Roberts was impressive on Saturday, connecting on two field goals over 40 yards. The only field goal that he missed was a 55-yard attempt. Roberts had enough leg, just pushed it wide left.
Kick Returns: If Saturday was any indication, Thomas Coffman is going to be an explosive kick returner. The sophomore averaged 40.7 yards per return (3 – 122 yards). Not included in that average was what would have been a 45-yard return if McElwain had not called the play dead earlier.
Other post-practice quotes…
On if he was disappointed with his offense or thrilled with his defense:
“As a coach you’re excited to see either team make a play here and there. At the same time I think the move of (Dominique) Vinson over to receiver is going to help us. I think that’s a credit to the depth we have right now in the secondary, which is a good thing. Getting all those guys that are injured back next fall will really be a telling first couple weeks to see what we have.”
On if injuries have hindered the offense:
“I think of the nine that didn’t go through any spring practice eight of them were on offense. Obviously just from a numbers stand point that’s what you look at. Yet at the same time it allowed us to see what some other guys could do. They got a lot of reps and I don’t look at that as a bad thing.”
On how he evaluates the quarterbacks:
“I’m happy with the way (Garrett) Grayson, obviously when you make the quarterback dead like that there’s a lot of times he can escape with his feet and make some big plays for you. On the other side that tells you defensively that you better have your rush lanes because we’re going to play some quarterbacks in this league that can run and hurt you. Those are all things that you don’t want to get a false sense of who you are. That happens sometimes but I’d rather do that then not.“
On if Grayson is the starting quarterback going into the fall:
“Well I think he right now probably had the best spring overall yet I am really happy with both (Conner Smith) and (M.J.) McPeek and what they have done. We’ll see. That will be determined probably next fall.”
On if he’s happy with where the team is:
“No. We actually had a little more accelerated schedule as far as what we were going to put in. At the same time there’s no reason to put something in that they haven’t grasped the other things. It’ll be highly accelerated in the fall.”
On if they can lose the gains they’ve made during spring ball over summer:
“Absolutely. If they’re not committed and accountable for being successful and being a champion on a daily basis than you’re absolutely right. But I do believe that the character of the guys that were out here today, they’re going to take care of business and do what they need to do.”
On what he wants to see out of the team during the fall:
“I’d like to see them in new uniforms. The big thing is I want to see them highly improved in their speed, in their strength and in their size. They have a real long time to work on that. That’s what I expect when they come back next fall.”
On C.J. James:
“I’m proud of C.J. He’s done some things and the thing that he’s done a good job on is not just being selfish about getting out of place to make a play but doing some things to help the linebackers. He’s learning how to play the position. When we got here these guys would just run up the field and not worry about hand placement and gap control and that kind of thing. They’ve gotten better.”
On if the Rams have gotten better playing the run:
“I believe so. That’s something we need to do. Defensively to be successful you have to stop the run.”
On mishandled snaps:
“It really just irritated the heck out of me. It’s something we need to get better at obviously.”
On guys who have taken leadership roles:
“We will go ahead and announce our leadership council in Sunday’s meeting. There will be a crew of guys who were voted on by the players and coaching staff and guys that we expect to be a big part in what we do.”
On if he feels he accomplished everything he wanted to in spring ball:
“No, I don’t think you ever do. I’m not sure that you can say that because there are things that you just always seem to run out of time. But at the same time, we got the base fundamentals that we needed to get taken care of and I think we answered some questions a little better about the players.”
On if he believes he has changed the culture:
“I know the team has made some comments themselves about how they like that we do things together, offensively, defensively, and special teams. I think those are things that take time; they aren’t going to happen over night as much as I would love to say it will. It is a process but I think the right guys are in that room to take that process forward.”
On how he felt the game went:
"Good. Obviously we wanted to put more than 10 points on the board but we got the win and that's all that matters. We're looking forward to the fall. We're looking forward to the summer. We've heard that's going to be the hardest phase. The coaches are going to kick our butts but we're excited. We have a few pieces that we have to fix and it showed today. There's a few things we have to adjust to. We'll get there. Offense is quite a bit harder to learn than defense."
On how disappointed he was the Green team wasn't able to finish drives:
"We drove the ball. Sometimes we were driving it well it seemed like but they came up with some stops. That's the number one defense and they've been wooping up on us all spring so that's to be expected. Obviously we have a lot to learn and a lot to adjust to. They've been doing a great job all spring."
On if he is still thinking too much on the field:
"There are times when I'm wondering because they're running a defensive play I've never seen before and I kind of get caught off guard. That will come with this summer and preparation. We'll go 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 and we'll get those things kinked out and by the season we should be perfect."
On if he feels good about the leadership of the team:
"We're all behind coach Mac and having him as our leader. We're all 100 percent behind him knowing his background and what he offers us. One of the first thing he told us is how his spring practices are based off the New England Patriots and what they do everyday. Hearing stuff like that and knowing what the Patriots have done i the last 10 years really makes you believe it. We're excited about this summer and excited to get going into the next phase."
CB Shaq Bell
On the defenses progression:
“I feel like we are doing good on defense. The defensive line has been getting us sacks left and right. The secondary, we didn’t give up a deep ball today. We are just coming together as a team and playing real good.”
On if the defensive line’s success has helped out the secondary:
“That causes pressure, causes quarterbacks to throw a bad pass or an incomplete pass and that just helps the secondary out.”
On the learning curve that comes with a new staff:
“It is just adjusting and doing what the coaches ask. Once you learn it, go 100 percent.”
On the depth in the secondary:
“Outside of DeAndre (Elliot), all of our cornerbacks are experienced so if we can get him going, I feel like we are going to be really good. We have a lot of veterans back there and the chemistry is good between us so we are going to be good.”
RB Chris Nwoke
On not going 3-9 this season:
“We are not going to have that. We are going to play until we drain our tank each and every day, each and every game on the field. We are taught excellence and we are going to do that on the field. I think we are going to do great things.”
On approaching spring ball with a different mindset:
“I just continue to want to get better. I went from being the youngest running back to the oldest running back. I have a lot of people that want to learn from me and we need to learn from each other. I need to step my game up even more and become a great leader and keep getting better, not stay in the same place.”
On if there is any pressure after his breakout season last year:
“Usually, I don’t believe it is pressure. It is just me wanting to get better. I always want to perform great for my team; be a great leader, be a great teammate. I am going to keep getting better and I am going to take some guys with me to turn this thing around.”
“All the quarterbacks are doing a wonderful thing. We are making plays each and every time we get the snap. I think we are doing great things. I think he is the guy. He is making good decisions. Obviously, we can clean stuff up as a whole offense. Everyone has some flaws that we need to work on and I think this summer is going to be a great time to do it.”
On the summer conditioning program:
“It is really important. We need to make this transition and keep climbing uphill and not put on the breaks. Use the acceleration, get better, and take every opportunity we can to become a great squad.”
On how comfortable he is in the new offense:
“I am really comfortable. I like the way we have been pounding. It is an NFL-type offense just like last year. I think we are getting better each and every practice and we are executing things the right way.”
On if he is excited to eat steak:
“It is going to taste excellent. I am excited for that.”
On spring ball:
“It was a good spring ball. I think both sides of the ball got better each and every day. We competed but we did it as a family, which I love. I think we made a big step forward.”
On if last year’s experience helps him now:
“Obviously when you get your feet wet in the water like last year, you are going to continue to get better. Offensive line did great; they had some really big gashes. We did the best we can and I like the way we played.”
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