Three new starters for offensive line
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.