Coaches knew defense would take time to jell
boise, idaho» One always hopes. Marty English certainly did, but even the Colorado State defensive coordinator expressed patience at the beginning of the season. He knew at that point it was going to take time. How much, no one was really sure, but the hope is it happens sooner rather than later.
As a unit, the Rams’ defense sees what it has been doing lately and thinks it could have been there all along. Buck linebacker Evan Colorito said as much last week, but then thought again.
“OK, let me rephrase it. I think we thought we should have been doing it all year, but I think the thing is we were young, we had a lot of inexperience,” the junior said. “I mean, I didn’t really have that much experience coming into the season and I think skill-wise, and just the way we played during camp, we knew we were all capable. The games is what we needed under our belt.”
So true, with only two defensive starters returning — senior linebacker Kevin Davis and senior cornerback Tyree Simmons. Both have been solid this season, Davis with his team-leading 101 tackles, Simmons tied for the team lead with six pass breakups. They not only provided strong play, but leadership and guidance as the rest of the group caught on.
The Colorado game was an eye-opener, and English said at the time he thought CSU’s defense was ready for more than it could provide. As the season played out, the Rams hit that point. Colorito wasn’t the only one getting the hang of being a starter and playing an entire game. Jake Schlager had to do it. So did Josh Watson, Braylin Scott, Tre Thomas, Jakob Buys and Darnell Thompson. The list was extensive. So were the lessons. “It has paid off tremendously down the stretch,” Schlager said. “We’re not going to make any excuses for how we played at the beginning of the year, but just that added experience, the added opportunity we’ve gotten throughout the course of the year has definitely helped at the end of the year.”
The overall numbers are not all that pretty, allowing 404.1 yards of total offense and 213.1 rushing yards per game — but they improved in the final five games.
What had been unlikely early became possible late.
“I wouldn’t say it wasn’t possible. You always have hope that sometimes things are going to click a little bit faster than they did,” CSU coach Mike Bobo said. “They didn’t, and you had to go through growing pains and the growing pains were tough. But what encourages me is that there was improvement each week with them and how they approached it.”