Rams football camp blog: Practice 20
Aug. 21, 2011
By Nick Frank
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – With the lights of Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium shining down upon the players, all of whom were glistening in sweat after conditioning, the final horn of fall camp sounded at 8:02 p.m.
Players let out celebratory yells signifying their pleasure that the grind of camp was now over, and broke down their huddle with the word “family.”
It was fitting for a team that has emphasized trust, chemistry and doing the right thing throughout fall.
“I liked our team bonding,” said Head Coach Steve Fairchild. “I think the players were into it. Obviously, you look back as a coach and you’re always thinking, ‘We’re not good enough here; we need to work on this more.’ But top to bottom I was pretty pleased with where we’re at.”
Sunday’s practice was relatively light from a hitting standpoint; players wore only shells. However, there were still plays made. Immanuel Mitchell picked up a fumble off an attempted pitch play and returned it for what would have been a touchdown. Also helping the defense stand out was defensive back Ezra Thompson, who skied high in the air to intercept a pass.
“I think defensively we’re learning that if we play fast,” said Fairchild, “and we bring energy and emotion into the equation, we’re a much better defense. I think offensively, same thing. We’re going to be pretty good if we don’t beat ourselves. Stay onside, not turn the ball over, right assignments, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
Offensively, Pete Thomas connected with Marquise Law on two big passes at practice. The first came when the sophomore quarterback threaded the needle between two defenders for a 25-yard gain. The latter reception was made when Law blazed past the defense and caught a 50-yard pass down the middle of the field.
Peanut gallery: Prior to the two catches made by Law, injured offensive linemen Brandon Haynes, Jared Biard and Mason Hathaway were talking trash with defensive backs coach Tim Duffie. After a few stops by the defense, Duffie asked the players, who were sitting on the bench, if they wanted popcorn. After the two big receptions, the peanut gallery was hollering at Duffie, changing the order from popcorn to soda.
Stairs: Jake Gdowski, Haynes, Biard and Hathaway ran up and down the stairs at the stadium since they were held out of contact drills. The players ran them for so long, they probably ran as many stairs as there are at the stadium.
BBQ: Earlier Sunday, the CSU athletic department held its annual Welcome Back Barbeque for all student-athletes. The event is held before the start of classes every year.
Kick return: Also Sunday night, Derek Good, Thomas Coffman and Lee Clubb practiced returning kickoffs. Good broke the Mountain West record for kickoff return yards in a game (263) at Air Force last season, and at one point was leading the nation in kick-return average.
More Fairchild quotes…
On K Ben DeLine:
“He looks like he’s striking the ball better than he has at any time since I’ve been here. It would surprise me if he doesn’t have his best year.”
On DeLine’s kickoffs:
“That’s what I mean. When I say striking the ball, I don’t mean being able to back him up for a 48-yard field goal. I’m talking about kicking it in the end zone on kickoffs. The ball comes off his leg better than any time since I’ve been here.”
On whether he was happy with fall camp, which concluded Sunday night:
“The format I was happy with. The schedule, we keep tweaking; in terms of schedule, this was probably the best one we’ve had. I liked our team bonding. I think the players were into it. Obviously, you look back as a coach and you’re always thinking, ‘We’re not good enough here; we need to work on this more.’ But top to bottom I was pretty pleased with where we’re at. And then tonight, I wasn’t sure I’ve been conditioning enough. I was a little concerned, with still a week to go we could work more on that, but I tell you what, they ran their butts off tonight. That was pretty impressive right there.”
On what he learned about his team over the last 10 days:
“Well, I think we’re as talented as I thought. I think there are still areas of concern, and we knew that. We’re not out of the woods yet, in terms of filling a roster out. I think defensively we’re learning that if we play fast, and we bring energy and emotion into the equation, we’re a much better defense. I think offensively, same thing. We’re going to be pretty good if we don’t beat ourselves. Stay onside, not turn the ball over, right assignments, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
On determining the 64 players CSU will take to New Mexico:
“I think we’ll probably cross the Ts and dot the Is tomorrow in our meetings. I know 64 will get on that plane. There are still a few unanswered questions at this point, or things where I think I know what we’re going to do, but there’s still some time to let it play a little bit more. I know Garrett Grayson had a nice night out here tonight and if he were to take a couple steps forward, maybe we’d revisit that prior to game week.”
On Austin Gillmore, who moved to fullback Thursday:
“I haven’t spoken to our staff but I’m pretty convinced Austin will stay at fullback.”
“I think Dominique and Scott Carter are worth having a conversation on. I think I know in my mind what I would do, but I’d like to hear everybody’s opinion. Nothing’s in granite. Injuries might dictate it. If we were to lose a fullback or two in the New Mexico game, Scott Carter’s coming back to fullback. Same thing if we lose a DB, (Vinson’s) going back there whether he’s playing receiver or not. But, like I said, I’d like to have a conversation before we make anything final.”
On Sunday night’s practice:
“We were sharper tonight than we were in some periods yesterday.”
On what will change at practice beginning Tuesday:
“Well, for the first time we’ll have some look teams. It’s the first time we’ll actually draw a card of New Mexico’s offense and defense, and have some of our people emulate that for us. And we’re not going to wholesale to that quite yet; I want to keep competing against each other. But we’ll start that.”
On whether Conner Smith will serve as scout-team quarterback:
“I think so, and Garrett might go down there a little bit.”