Three new starters for of­fen­sive line

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Bro­hard

FORT COLLINS» The process just doesn’t feel like a re­build.

As tal­ented and deep as Colorado State may be when it comes to ex­plo­sive play­mak­ers, the Rams have to re­place three of the guys up front, the group that al­lows it all to go.

The makeup of the ros­ter is al­low­ing the of­fense to en­ter pre­sea­son camp not only stress free, but even con­fi­dent when it comes to the line.

“I feel real com­fort­able that we’ll get five guys ready to play,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. “We’d like to get eight to 10 who we can de­pend on. We have two guys com­ing back, but the guys that we’re play­ing right now in the start­ing po­si­tions all played in games and they’ve got ex­pe­ri­ence. They have ex­pe­ri­ence hav­ing suc­cess, they have ex­pe­ri­ence hav­ing some fail­ures in games, and both of those are good.”

Re­plac­ing depart­ing starters Fred Zerb­lis, Nick Cal­len­dar and Paul Thurston stared at the Rams in the spring, but a safety net was be­ing built dur­ing the 2016 sea­son. Colby Meeks con­tin­ued to ro­tate in at guard, as did Trae Mox­ley at tackle. Be­tween them they have 10 ca­reer starts. True fresh­man Jeff Tay­lor was part of the team’s short-yardage jumbo pack­age, so he has an idea of what to ex­pect.

In the 15 spring prac­tices, of­fen­sive line coach Will Friend spent the time mix­ing and match­ing in an ef­fort to make sure his five best line­men could all be on the field as part of the start­ing unit. Cen­ter Jake Ben­nett and his 26 con­sec­u­tive starts in the mid­dle are locked in, but the other re­turn­ing starter, Zack Golditch, played not only both tackle spots, but spent some time at guard.

It not only pro­vides some flex­i­bil­ity, but it also iden­ti­fied strengths and weak­nesses.

Tyler Bjork­lund came in as a ju­nior col­lege tackle, but Bobo said they learned quick he was bet­ter suited as a guard in the Rams’ sys­tem, so that’s the po­si­tion he will fo­cus on this fall.

Mox­ley is one of the more in­trigu­ing play­ers in that group. A se­nior, he ad­mits he’s feel­ing the fi­nal­ity of it all. There’s come cu­rios­ity, too, as he has been viewed by for­mer team­mates as mean and nasty enough, but not al­ways in tune with the play­book and the con­sis­tent ef­fort re­quired.

One of the pri­or­i­ties of the spring was re­plac­ing the vi­o­lent dis­po­si­tion of Zerb­lis, and Mox­ley is one who can fill that void. When he’s locked in, all 6-foot-6, 330 pounds of him can be a hu­man road grader.

The Rams will con­tinue to mix and match on the line, at least for the first few weeks, Bobo said. By the end of the first scrim­mage (Aug. 5), as long as the group re­mains healthy, they will start to make a move to lock down a start­ing five, while build­ing depth with seven new­com­ers to the spot on the team.

Not that any­body is show­ing any signs of con­cern. To them, it’s more a case of is­su­ing the old stan­dard with new parts.

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