M.J. McPeek, a former Kansas State player, practiced Thursday as the Rams' No. 2 QB.
Aug. 4, 2011
By Zak Gilbert
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Equipment manager Kris Young blew the first horn at 7:44 a.m. Thursday morning. It was a minute early, but no one was late.
The Rams have been waiting patiently for this moment. They’re moving on with eyes clearly focused on restoring confidence in the program.
Colorado State on Thursday kicked off its on-field preparations for the Sept. 3 opener at conference rival New Mexico, its first of 29 preseason sessions. The Rams practiced for an hour and 50 minutes at their main practice facility southwest of Moby Arena, in helmets and shorts. The NCAA will allow CSU to don shoulder pads this weekend, before the first full-pads practice Monday.
No question, the Rams are seasoned. They took their lumps last season, and they’ve paid their dues since the offseason program began in January.
“You can also tell from an experience factor that we’re probably farther along than we’ve ever been at this point,” Head Coach Steve Fairchild said. “But with no pads, it’s easy right now. We’ll develop as a team when we get going here, in that eighth, ninth, 10th practice, when we’re banging around pretty good in pads. Then, it’s not so easy.”
What does seem easy, however, is practicing at the expected tempo, something Fairchild said is night and day compared to his first season in 2008. He pointed to veterans like Elijah-Blu Smith and Mychal Sisson, players that were redshirt freshmen three years ago, as key communicators.
“They know what we want now,” Fairchild said. “Instead of us explaining it to those guys, they’re explaining it to the new guys.”
Borcky in the backfield: Like Smith and Sisson, T.J. Borcky was a redshirt freshman in 2008 – when he was a quarterback. Now, after moving from wide receiver back to quarterback, and again back to receiver, he practiced for the first time Thursday as a fullback.
Throw in long-snapper, a position he also practiced Thursday, and the 6-foot-4, 206-pound senior is probably the Rams’ most versatile player. The loss of Zac Pauga, who recently signed as a non-drafted free agent with the Houston Texans, necessitated the move, Fairchild said.
“As a receiver, he’s a big guy. He’s going to be up there at 215, 220. As an inside slot guy, he can do some things. We have Joe Brown and Kivon (Cartwright) there as well. We’ll define that. We’ve had a luxury with Zac Pauga there for a while.”
And Fairchild added that Borcky is looking forward to the new role.
“I would expect guys like T.J. Borcky and all our seniors to have their best year,” said the coach. “I know he’s excited about it. It fits what he does. You take a guy like him, a converted quarterback, and try to line him up out around the numbers and try to run him by corners, that’s not what he’s built to do. But inside, blocking and catching, routes in between the hash marks, is probably what he’s all about.”
Meet the Rams Day: Before getting busy with family plans, fans are invited out to Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium Saturday morning to Meet the Rams Day. Players and coaches will be available following practice, as early as 9:30 a.m., to sign autographs and take photos with fans on the field. Free posters will be available. Parking and admission are free, but fans should note that due to the stadium landscaping project, they should access the stadium from the north parking entrance, not the south.
USA Today poll: CSU staff also will be on hand Saturday morning to assist any fans interested in purchasing season tickets on site. Boise State, which highlights the 2011 home schedule, was ranked No. 7 in the USA Today preseason coaches’ poll, released Thursday morning. The Rams host the Broncos’ first Mountain West game, Oct. 15 in Fort Collins. And because the Rams added a seventh game to their season-ticket package in 2011, and didn’t raise ticket prices, fans get Boise State free when purchasing CSU season tickets. For more information, call 1-800/491-RAMS or visit CSURams.com/tickets.
Air Force, which visits Fort Collins Nov. 26, received votes in the poll, while Rose Bowl champion TCU, which hosts the Rams in Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 19, were ranked No. 15.
The Mountain West joins the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC as one of four conferences with at least two ranked teams over the last 48 consecutive weeks.
On the right path: One of the many improvements to CSU’s facilities over the summer is a spectacular cement walkway from the Academic & Training Center to the main gate of the practice fields. The path leads to a gate, over which a sign reads, “Championships are won on a daily basis.”
Loud and clear: The Rams continued the tradition they began this past spring, blasting music through loudspeakers during much of practice. The addition was one of the many changes Fairchild and his 12-man player council instituted since the end of last season.
Moss back in the fold: Most people probably don’t even know that Cameron Moss wears No. 33. That’s because knee injuries have conspired to rob him of most of his first two seasons, leaving him in a red jersey without a number. But the sophomore tight end was back to full speed Thursday, catching several passes, including a nice ball over the middle from Garrett Grayson during the practice-opening two-minute drill.
The 105: CSU is working on admitting late additions Cordarius Golston and Brent Williams, so those players were not at practice Thursday. Additionally, Michael Kawulok did not practice, after a spring knee injury robbed him of his true senior season. Kawulok will return to the field for his redshirt senior year in 2012.
To fill out the NCAA-allowed 105-man roster, CSU added five true-freshman walkons: LB Jordan Murphy (Lutheran High School, Parker, Colo.), LB Kyle Shefferly (Ponderosa High School, Parker, Colo.), S/LB Nathan Cruise (Ames High School, Iowa) and DE Ross Heath (Regis Jesuit High School, Denver, Colo.). Heath and his nine sacks helped Regis to the state title game.
CSU's roster will expand to a to-be-determined number, likely 114, once classes begin Aug. 22. The number is determined by annual Title IX figures.
Summer school comes first: Most CSU players involved in the offseason workout program, including true freshmen, also take summer classes. And school comes first at CSU, so until the final summer term ends Friday, several players will miss all or a portion of the first two days of helmets-only practice.
Those needing to miss at least a portion of practice are Nordly Capi, Sam Carlson, Nu’uvali Fa’apito, A.J. Frieler, Kenneth Hulbert, Blake Jones, Joe Kawulok, Charles Lovett, Conner Smith and Efrem Woldu.
For those that miss a full practice in helmets, the NCAA will allow them to make up the session in order to acclimate on schedule with the rest of their teammates, and don shoulder pads Saturday.
Hansen officially in green shirt: One of the newest Rams, Justin Hansen, wore green as a defensive player Thursday. He was recruited as an offensive/defensive lineman, but will begin his career on defense.
Nice cover: Secondary coach Tim Duffie sported a stellar black baseball cap Thursday, featuring The Rock, the new Mountain West logo.
Seen on the sidelines: Former WR Dion Morton, who matched Jeff Champine’s single-season school record with 10 touchdown receptions in 2008, was at practice Thursday. After graduating, Morton settled in the Denver area. He got married last year.
Plays of the Day: Byron Steele, Thomas Coffman and Marquise Law all had nice catches Thursday, while Immanuel Mitchell picked off a pass halfway through practice. Offensive linemen Alex Tucci and Trey Cassidy also caught deflected passes.
Schedule: CSU has another 7:45 a.m. practice in helmets and shorts Friday at the main campus facility, followed by a Meet the Rams Day practice at 7:45 Saturday at the stadium, in shoulder pads. After another shoulder-pads practice Sunday on campus at 7:45 a.m., the Rams don full pads for the first time at Monday's 7:45 a.m. session, also on campus.
Other quotes from Fairchild’s post-practice media session…
General: “Tempo. Everybody’s excited with the first practice. You expect that. Our main task right now when you break it down is that we’ve got six practice opportunities prior to Media Day (Wednesday), to get the most out of those six we can get. They’ll have a day off on Media Day.”
On whether the fullback position will evolve: “It always does. Even back with Sonny (Lubick, during the 1990s), we geared it more to tight-end-type guys. Until we fill out the roster, we’re going to use the best players we have. We have to figure out what they do best.”
On players not at practice, including WR Tony Drake: “Yeah, he and Justin Becker, will have to finish up academics one way or the other. You have to take care of your business to get out on the field. We’ll see.”
On the biggest think he’s looking for on the first day of practice: “Without pads, it’s a little different. Just tempo. How fast are we in and out of the huddle, how fast are we playing?”
On getting back to football: “This is the next phase. We’ve been doing that since January. This phase, preparing for the season, is an important one.”
On the status of RB Dorian Brown: “The red jersey is just precautionary. He should be full-go at some point real quick. We’re just being safe, watch him run around for a little bit.”
On the leadership over the summer: “Probably the best summer we’ve had, with Sisson, (Mike) Orakpo, Pete Thomas and those guys. You could tell it was going well.”
On leadership from younger players: “I know. Orakpo and Pete are true sophomores. Leadership comes in all different shapes and sizes, years and experience.”
On Pete Thomas Thursday compared to his first fall practice a year ago: “Well, the big thing this time last year, he wasn’t our starting quarterback, No. 1. I think he was still saying goodbye to his parents. It’s totally different. He’s a returning quarterback, the first time we’ve had that around here in four years. It makes a difference.”
On the level of pressure on his shoulders: “That’s the type of kid he is. He has real high expectations. I know I do and I’m pretty sure he does. He’ll get better every year. I’ve said this all along: He has a very bright future for CSU.”
On running backs, specifically Derek Good: “We’ll always need more than one, and I thought Derek had a really good spring. Chris Nwoke is talented. That’ll play itself out. We do want to get a good look at the freshmen backs.”
On getting a good look from true freshmen during the fall camp: “Today’s installation was fairly base but as we start going here in the midst of the eighth, ninth practice, with the volume of offense, the volume of what we’re doing, those freshmen kind of hit plateaus.”
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