February 1, 2011

NSD Recruiting Roundtable - Part 1

With National Signing Day 2011 coming up on Wednesday, GoldandGreenNews.com Publisher Tom Lacock and Senior Analyst Matt L. Stephens have put together a two-part breakdown of Colorado State's recruiting class.

Below, Tom and Matt discuss the surprises, big names and disappointments of the Class of 2011.

With the recruiting Class of 2011 nearly in the bank, how do you summarize this recruiting season and, until this crop of athletes takes the field to change their reputation, how will you remember this recruiting season?

Tom Lacock: To me this was the season that started early. I believe 12 or 13 recruits had given a verbal commitment by the end of September, which is a far different thing than we are used to in covering Colorado State. Once again a premium was put on speed and athletic ability and the Ram coaches really sought out those qualities. I don't know that I am as excited about this year's class as I was last years and I can't put my finger on why. I think this class may have more depth than last year's but be lacking a headliner like Pete Thomas. A real bellcow of the class.

Matt Stephens: I'd have to summarize this recruiting season as somewhat of a head-scratcher. It's not a bad class, but it's definitely not as strong as 2010's. I realize that a lot of folks are excited about Kapri Bibbs, and if Isiah Norton ever makes it to campus it will be great, but there isn't really that one guy who stands out above the rest. Mainly, I'll remember this class as one where the Rams didn't get what they desperately needed - a solid defensive tackle.

How did the Rams get better as a football team this recruiting season?

TL: I think they got faster and more athletic. Four guys report a 4.4 or lower and three more run a 4.5 It is a group that collectively can run, but may be lacking in prototypical size. The linebackers are in that 210-pound range, but all are fast. I have to think that is by design and being done to attack the spread offenses of the Mountain West. I think the Rams also spread their net a little wider this year. I am counting recruits from seven different states and less of a dependence on Florida. Not sure whether that was by design or not, but the Rams are making more headway in Illinois, Ohio and Missouri.

MS: I like how much emphasis was put into the running back position, even if three halfbacks seems like a bit of overkill. It really looks like CSU is trying to get back to what it had been known for during the glory days - grinding it out in the trenches. We expected a lot more success on the ground in 2010, but the lack of a stable offensive line and not playing Leonard Mason enough really hurt that.

With this being the third recruiting class we have covered and the fourth brought in by this staff, what are we seeing are characteristic of the Rams' philosophy? What concerns do you have about this class?

TL: Once again athletic ability is the key for anyone to get recruited by CSU. I think we are seeing a theory of bringing in athletes and worrying about finding a position for them later. I find that true with running backs and defensive linebackers/ends. In terms of my concerns, When you have a freshman starting quarterback, it is tough to recruit someone interested in sitting for at least two, maybe three years and I think that was the case with the CSU quarterback recruiting this season. There weren't a lot of quarterbacks interested in what Colorado State had to offer and a lot of that comes from the idea of having to sit behind Pete Thomas and perhaps Garrett Grayson. Take nothing away from Conner Smith, but his numbers didn't impress last year and the Rams were never really seriously considered by some of the higher-ranked quarterbacks they targeted in this class. Another concern is the fact I didn't hear a lot of CSU consideration from the top prospects in Colorado. CSU was never really in it for Willingham, Austin, Rayshon Williams, Mustoe or Berglund. A lot of that has to do with wins and losses. Put up the "W," and the talent will find you. Depth along the defensive front continues to be a concern.

MS: A quarterback for every class is what I see. It was Nico Ranieri in 2008, Pete Thomas and Garrett Grayson a year ago, and now Connor Smith. I am a little worried about having to waste Smith's redshirt year with the current quarterback situation. This isn't a guarantee, but something he told me CSU might have to do. Personally, I don't think he has shown he's ready for the college level yet and a season to learn the system before wasting eligibility would be huge.

Offensively, this was a year of the running back with six running or fullbacks making a commitment. What is your assessment of this group and how many of them can be expected to stay at the position?

TL: I think if there is one thing Steve Fairchild has shown since arriving in Fort Collins, it is a willingness to use multiple running backs. For that reason alone, I expect more of these guys to come out of the fall as running backs than expected. At the same time, I think the best athlete on most high school football team generally plays running back or quarterback, so it isn't unusual for these guys to make a position change to a more natural position once college comes around. I could see Riddick making the move to wide receiver at some point, I could see Dorian Brown becoming a defensive animal, Alexander could play tight end someday, but I fully expect them all to be running back when camp breaks next fall. One person close to the program told me while Bibbs brings in the impressive numbers and highlight tape, he just as excited to see Alexander and said Donnell will turn some heads.

MS: I think it's an excellent class in the backfield, but I am a little concerned about this log jam in the depth chart the coaching staff may be creating. I think Bibbs will stay at running back and would honestly be surprised if Dorian Brown moved to linebacker. He has the size with good speed, but I don't think his lateral movement is good enough to play there. He's a down field runner through and through. It will be interesting to see what becomes of Donnell Alexander, and I'm still thinking that there is a 50 percent chance Davon Riddick signs tomorrow.

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