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09 Homer Preview: The Rams Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview is courtesy of Jim Kenny, a loyal Colorado State alum and fan, as well as poker player extraordinaire, and aside from being a Red Sox fan, an all around good guy.

Homer Preview: Colorado State Rams

colorado-state-logoWhat You Need To Know
The CSU Rams are starting their second season under new coach Steve Fairchild. Fairchild came to CSU after the rocky departure of long time coach Sonny Lubick. Lubick, who had garnered great success early in his career at CSU, saw his success steadily deteriorate starting with the 2003 season. Aside from his inaugural campaign in ’93, Lubick had a streak of 10 winning seasons and won 6 conference championships. He also brought a stingy defensive philosophy with him and mentored future NFL players like Joey Porter and Clark Hagans. However, there was a sharp decline in his final 4 seasons, when he went 17-30 overall and, in 2007, landed his worst season with a 3-9 record. Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk was forced to make a change, which was heard with conflicted ears by the community. Lubick was put off by his offer to stay on as an Associate AD involved with PR and fundraising, which caused much of the friction. It was also reported that Lubick contacted one of his former assistants, Urban Meyer at Florida, about a job on his staff. In the end, Lubick turned CSU down and did not run for Gainesville, instead choosing to ride what was left of his fame out in Fort Collins. With all due respect to Lubick and his supporters, I love when people whine about losing and then complain when you fire the coach for being “such a nice guy.” You know what is nice? Winning games. You know what Sonny did towards the end of his career at Colorado State? Lose games. If it takes the sting away, I’ll bring my buddies to your new steakhouse, Sonny, and buy a few porterhouses. I applaud the AD for making the hard choice and aiming the PR heat squarely at himself.

Okay, now that I am down from my soapbox, let’s talk about the 2009 season. Steve Fairchild is starting his second season as the head coach. Fairchild came to the Rams from his position as Offensive Coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. Prior to that, he was Offensive Coordinator under Mike Martz in St. Louis. What made Fairchild a phenomenal choice given the PR situation were two things. First, he is a CSU alumnus and played QB for the team. Second, and perhaps most important, he was on the coaching staff at CSU for 6 years as QB coach and then Offensive Coordinator under…wait for it…his predecessor Sonny Lubick. In his first press conference, Fairchild said more nice things about Lubick in 30 minutes than the entire Fort Collins press corps had in the previous 5 years.

Fairchild’s first year was, by all standards, very solid. He led the team to 7 wins, the most by a first year coach in CSU history. He also brought the program its first winning season in 5 years and, with their win over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl, Fairchild became the first coach with a bowl victory in his first year. The strong performance last year was largely because of RB Gartrell Johnson, who racked up more than 1400 yards, 12 TDs and the rushing crown for Mountain West Conference. Combine that with the solid QB play of Billy Farris, you had a decent year. The only blemishes would be the 4-4 conference record and the defensive play under coordinator Larry Kerr.

The CSU defense was pretty awful last season. Opponents averaged 190 yards rushing per game and the defense only had 9 sacks and 10 INTs all season. This was because of a less than stellar secondary, inconsistent D-line and young LB’s. The lone bright spot was freshman LB Mychal Sisson, who led the team with 105 tackles and was named a freshman All-American, CSU’s first player to earn that award. Sisson will anchor a solid linebacking corps this year and the secondary should improve given they are returning 3 out of 4 starters. However, their D-line may still be their Achilles heel with only one returning starter.

Who You Need to Know
QB: Coach Fairchild has yet to commit to a starter, I think it will come down to one of the following: Jon Eastman, a Junior College transfer or Senior Grant Stuckey
WR Rashaun Greer – a Senior with more than 1,100 yards last year and is on the Biletnikoff Watch List.
LB Mychal Sisson – a Sophomore who led the team in tackles last year with 105

Games to Watch
Because of the question marks surrounding the key offensive positions of QB and RB, I am choosing to highlight some key games, instead of one matchup. For CSU this year, their key games with be those in October vs. conference teams San Diego State and Air Force. I think the team with be 4-3 heading into these contests and, depending on the results, will either set them up for a great year with a great bowl game or a disappointing year where they are watching TV while others are playing football in December.

They’ll Do Well If…
… their O-Line stays healthy. The line comes into this year with a combined 125 starts, the most of any school in the country.

… they find a QB who can be effective and throw it a lot to WR Rashaun Greer

… the RB competition inspires excellence and not conflict. Juniors John Mosure and Leonard Mason will likely lead the pack, but look for freshmen Lou Greenwood and Chris Nwoke to challenge them for carries.

Season Outlook
Unfortunately, I think this season is going to be either really good or really bad. With only 10 days before their season opener, the Rams have yet to name a starting QB and but have announced they are likely to have a “RB by committee” format. They have an experienced offensive line, but you still have to have producers at the QB and RB positions to take advantage of their skill. I think their schedule will make for a roller coaster season. I think they win their first 3 games, but will most likely drop 3 of their next 4 when they play away against BYU and TCU and at home against Utah (even with my cheers at the game). The key to their season, as I mention above, will be winning the following home games vs. SDSU and Air Force. If they can prevail in those two contests, CSU should be able to run the table and go onto another solid bowl at the end of the year. If they struggle in those two games, then I fear they will under perform in the final stretch of the season and not be bowl eligible. As an alumnus, I am certainly hoping for a solid second year for Coach Fairchild and the Ram program.

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2 Responses

  1. Excellent write up, Jim. It’s going to be tough sledding for CSU in the MWC, but that conference is reputable enough to mean a good season is truly an accomplishment.

  2. Good preview. The MWC should be an interesting race to watch this year

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