Sonny Lubick has pretty much done it all during his time at Colorado State. He has taken the Rams from the bottom of the heap to the top of the mountain.
Eight of the school's 10 bowl trips, including five in a row, have come under his watch. And he has produced 10 consecutive winning seasons, the sixth-longest streak in the country.
Come fall, however, Lubick has something new on his plate -- rebuilding. For the first time since arriving in 1993, he has major holes throughout his lineup -- and a major threat to his run of success at Colorado State.
His to-do list includes replacing two-time Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year Bradlee Van Pelt at quarterback, MWC Special Teams Player of the Year Dexter Wynn as a cornerback and return specialist and the best group of linebackers he has coached.
And that's not all. The Rams face what has to be considered the nastiest schedule in school history, with the first three games -- at Colorado, at USC and home against Minnesota -- a potential season-killer.
But if Lubick is worried going into his 12th season, he's hiding it well.
"I like this team," he said. "Yeah, we've got to replace a lot of guys, but I like our young talent. I think we have a chance to be pretty good."
OffenseColorado State will return to its offensive roots this fall now that Van Pelt has moved on. When Van Pelt, the school's all-time leader in total offense, was in command, the offense was altered to suit his superior running skills. With Justin Holland under center, the Rams will go back to their familiar drop-back passing attack out of a one-back set that features two tight ends, two wideouts and an H-back.
Holland, who got significant playing time the past two seasons as Van Pelt's backup, is a superb passer. Holland is a former prep All-American who threw for 10,567 yards in high school, and Lubick has been waiting to unleash him on CSU's foes. Holland will have plenty of targets, too. Wideout David Anderson set school records with 72 catches and 1,293 yards last season, and H-back Joel Dreessen should contend for national honors. Tight end Matt Bartz is another huge, sure-handed receiver who will create coverage headaches.
The offensive line, which features returning starters Erik Pears, Mike Brisiel and Albert Bimper, should be very good. The key will be finding a suitable running back. Jimmy Green, who rose from No. 5 on the preseason depth chart to starter last fall, and Marcus Houston are the frontrunners, with Uldis Jaunarajs in the mix as well.
DefenseLubick faces a massive rebuilding project on defense. End Patrick Goodpaster anchors the front, and cornerback-turned-safety Ben Stratton captains the secondary. Both have all-MWC potential. In between are gaping holes.
End Luke Adkins and tackles Delroy Parke, Chris Kiffin and Jonathon Simon will get most of the playing time on the line. Jahmal Hall, Courtney Jones, junior college transfer Chris Davis and former safety Landon Jones are the top linebackers.
Brandon Cathy, Liddon Levine, Lukas Davis, converted linebacker Adam Lancisero and transfers Robert Clark and Robert Herbert figure to man the secondary.
SpecialistsThe Rams lost a huge weapon in Wynn, who departed with more than 2,000 career return yards to his credit. Anderson, who got some work returning kicks and punts last year, probably will open the season in that role.
Kicker/punter Jeff Babcock is very reliable, with 37 field goals the past two seasons and a 42.1-yard average last year on punts. Strong-legged freshman Jim Kaylor could take over at punter, if needed.
Final AnalysisWith perhaps the toughest non-league schedule in school history, Lubick picked a bad time to have his first major rebuilding season. The Rams will be fortunate to win one of a hellish three-game gauntlet to open the season that features road games at Colorado and USC and Minnesota at home. If Holland and the offense can live up to expectations, the Rams can score big points. Anderson and Dreessen are as good as the MWC has to offer, and the line should be solid.
Unfortunately, the offense probably will need to score and score often, because a youth-filled defense figures to be vulnerable. CSU's fortunes will be determined by how quickly the defense grows up. If the Rams can survive the opening stretch with minimal injuries and their confidence intact, they should have a decent chance to make their sixth consecutive bowl trip.