SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Colorado St. Rams

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Sonny Lubick (11th year, 84-38)
2002 record: 10-4 (Lost to TCU 17-3 in Liberty Bowl)
Mountain West finish: 1st
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 205.7 ypg
(3rd in Mountain West, 24th in nation)
Pass: 182.9 ypg (6th, 83rd)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 167.6 ypg (5th, 77th)
Pass: 205.8 ypg (2nd, 47th)
Projected Starters
Offense (8 returning starters in bold)
SE  Eric Hill  Sr. 
FL   6   Chris Pittman   Sr.  
WT   63   Mike Brisiel   So.  
WG   77   Albert Bimper   So.  
C   70   Mark Dreyer   Sr.  
SG  60  Jamie Amicarella  Sr. 
ST   74   Erik Pears   Jr.  
TE   92   Matt Bartz   So.  
HB   81   Joel Dreessen   Jr.  
QB   11   Bradlee Van Pelt   Sr.  
RB  Rahsaan Sanders  Sr. 
Defense (7)
DE   99   Patrick Goodpaster   Jr.  
NT   95   Bryan Save   Sr.  
DT  57  Lavell Mann  Sr. 
DE  96  Andre Sommersell  Sr. 
SLB   9   Adam Wade   Sr.  
MLB   50   Drew Wood   Sr.  
WLB   33   Eric Pauly   Sr.  
CB  16  Ben Stratton  So. 
CB   5   Dexter Wynn   Sr.  
SS   25   Benny Mastropaolo   Sr.  
FS  10  Landon Jones  Jr. 
Special Teams
14  Jeff Babcock  Jr. 
14  Jeff Babcock  Jr. 
KR  Dexter Wynn  Sr. 
PR  Dexter Wynn  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  #Colorado 
Sept. 6  at California 
Sept. 13  Weber State 
Sept. 20  Miami (OH) 
Sept. 27  Utah 
Oct. 4  Fresno State 
Oct. 9  at BYU 
Oct. 16  Air Force 
Nov. 1  at Wyoming 
Nov. 7  at New Mexico 
Nov. 15  San Diego State 
Nov. 22  at UNLV 
   #Denver, Colo. 
How high has the bar been set at Colorado State? So high that last year's 10-4 campaign, which included wins over Colorado and Virginia, a third Mountain West Conference title in four years and a fourth straight bowl berth, is being viewed as a major disappointment.

Why? Simple, really. After rising to 13th in the coaches poll and cracking the BCS top 15 for the first time, the Rams closed the season in a funk. Not only did they blow an unbeaten MWC season with a home loss to UNLV, but they were also embarrassed in the Liberty Bowl by a TCU team that was faster, tougher and more motivated.

"All I know is that I was ticked off for three weeks after we lost to TCU," senior quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt says. "The way we finished the season was unacceptable."

The good news is that the Rams are locked and loaded for another shot at the BCS big time. They return 14 starters, including Van Pelt, the 2002 MWC Player of the Year. And the schedule isn't nearly as taxing as last year, when the Rams played 13 regular-season games and were worn down when they played their most meaningful contests. "I think we have the chance to do something special," 11th-year coach Sonny Lubick says.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

If the key to a good offense is a good quarterback, Colorado State is doubly lucky entering the 2003 season. Not only do the Rams have Van Pelt, but they also have backup Justin Holland, who got valuable experience last year as a redshirt freshman.

Van Pelt terrorized opposing defenses last year with his tough, deceptively fast running and improved enough as a passer to complete 52.3 percent of his throws for 2,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. Van Pelt will line up behind a front that includes four returning starters. Center Mark Dreyer and tackle Erik Pears are as good as any linemen in the league, and sophomores Albert Bimper and Mike Brisiel are bound for stardom.

The receiving corps lacks depth but not talent. Senior Chris Pittman and sophomore Dave Anderson are a solid starting tandem, with standout cornerback Dexter Wynn expected to move over for 15 to 20 plays per game to take advantage of his game-breaking speed. The deepest talent pool on the team is at tight end -- a very good thing for an offense that often utilizes two tight ends and an H-back. Joel Dreessen appears to have NFL-type tools.

The only significant question on offense is at running back, where the Rams have to replace Cecil Sapp and his 1,601 rushing yards. Senior Rahsaan Sanders and redshirt freshman Tristan Walker should battle for the starting job, but Colorado transfer Marcus Houston is also eligible immediately.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

CSU has great experience at linebacker and tackle but has big questions at end and in the secondary. The linebacking trio of Drew Wood, Eric Pauly and Adam Wade is set for a third season of starting together. All are capable of all-league honors, while Pauly and Wood are Academic All-America candidates.

The strength of the line is at tackle, where Bryan Save, Chris Kiffin and Lavell Mann return. Both starting ends graduated, leaving senior Andre Sommersell as the only end with any experience. Patrick Goodpaster, a starter last year at tackle, has been moved to take advantage of his size and agility, but the Rams will need to find at least one more end.

The only given in the secondary is Wynn, a solid cover guy at corner. Ben Stratton and Benny Mastropaolo saw time at both corner and safety last year, and Landon Jones started several games at safety. The wild card is sophomore Adam Hayward, who appears to have star potential at safety.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

CSU's solid kicking game tradition should continue despite the graduation of standout punter Joey Huber. Wynn is one of the nation's top returners, and kicker Jeff Babcock returns after finishing fifth nationally with 24 field goals last year.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

With 15 starters returning, CSU should have an excellent chance to win its fourth MWC title in five years. The Rams, though, want more -- including a possible push for a BCS bowl. And they might actually have a shot with Van Pelt at the helm. He is a fearless leader who hates to lose, and his teammates believe in him. The Rams face a softer schedule, so if the defense can hold up and Van Pelt stays healthy they could be in line for a special season.

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