After Season 3-9, Colorado State Football Now Looks To The Future – Loveland Reporter-Herald

While the entire season has been a disappointment, the Colorado State football team has a lot to offer for the 2023 season and the work to be better next year has already begun.

Optimism ran high from Jay Norvell’s hiring last December over spring and fall practice sessions and even after a season-opening loss to Michigan at The Big House. But after a 4-0 run through his non-conference schedule, that optimism turned sour.

The Rams showed brilliant flashes, particularly from quarterback Clay Millen and receiver Tory Horton, who had four touchdowns in CSU’s first two games, but an inability to take chances and score in the red zone were trends that plagued the team all season long.

As the schedule turned to the game at Mountain West, Millen found himself on the touchline for two games with a shoulder injury. When the Rams won two of their first three conference games, the run game found its footing.

When the Rams got to the Boise State game on schedule, they were 2-1 in the conference game, that one loss being a 17-13 loss to Utah State.

Also, more than a dozen players decided to leave the team, leaving Horton as the most experienced receiver and Avery Morrow as the most experienced running back.

Morrow, who joined CSU with Horton and several others from Nevada, finished the season with 834 yards and four touchdowns. Horton finished the year with 1,131 yards and eight touchdowns.

Both are juniors and when both return they will be relying heavily on them next season not only for production but also to mentor the next batch of skill players.

While he may not have posted any standout numbers, Millen, a freshman, broke the school record for graduation percentage and set the FBS freshman record by completing 72.2% of his passes. He went for 1,910 yards and 10 touchdowns – all to either Horton or freshman Justus Ross-Simmons.

“Clay did a good job and made good decisions,” Norvell said. “I think he has something that we can build on. We love throwing the football and if something good happens seven times out of ten, that’s probably a good thing to build on. We owe a lot. We can build on that.”

On the defensive end, second-placed players Jack Howell, Henry Blackburn and Ayden Hector established themselves as reliable mainstays, but the team loses two of their top three tacklers in Dequan Jackson and Cam’Ron Carter. Despite being seniors, Mohamed Kamara and Chigoze Anusiem are both entitled to one year of use if they wish.

Norvell said he will speak to both and others in the same position this week.

“We really don’t lose a lot of players defensively,” Norvell said. “They are important players with a lot of experience but the core of our defence, the depth we have on the defensive line, the quality play we get in the security position. Chigoze had a chance to come back. Mo has a chance to come back. It will become too important when they come back. My biggest recruiting challenge will be these guys.”

Amidst all of the adversity and disappointments of the season, the team ended the campaign with a shutout victory over Nevada.

While it didn’t earn them a conference title or qualify them for the Bowl, it will be something to build on this offseason and into next year.

“It’s always good to win,” Norvell said. “It’s always important to win your last game. No matter what your record is, it’s always important because you leave it with a good taste in your mouth. Everyone has a little momentum in their step. In a way, you can set the course for the offseason.”

With the 2022 season behind them, Norvell and his staff were already on the recruiting lane. The team already has 24 signings for 2023, Norvell said after Friday’s season finale, but with the addition of the transfer portal, it should be an interesting offseason.

CSU could gain and lose players in the process, but Norvell is optimistic about how things could pan out for the Rams.

“We’re at 59 grants, well below the competitive limit,” Norvell said. “I just feel like we have a foundation. We’re going to be a different football team and that’s encouraging for me.

“As we head into this off-season, this is where the big work will really begin. We could register up to 40 children here. I promised the players that we will have a cabin of players who are committed to CSU and who want to be here and want to be part of this team. want to sacrifice for their teammates.”

Seven rams deserve all-conference honors

The Mountain West announced its all-conference honors Tuesday, and seven Rams were recognized for their play this season.

Two Rams were called up to the first team – one on offense and one on defense.

Horton, a junior, was the offensive honors winner after his 1,131-yard season. That was the eighth best season in CSU history. He is also 10th all-time in receptions in a season with 71 and 11th in touchdown receptions with eight.

Colorado State defenseman Jack Howell (17) congratulates a defensive teammate on a big game against Wyoming on Saturday night, November 12, 2022 at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado.  The Rams lost the 2022 Border War Game 14-13. (Michael Brian/For the Reporter-Herald)
Colorado State defenseman Jack Howell totaled 108 tackles in 2022 and was an All Mountain West first-team selection. (Michael Brian/For the Reporter-Herald)

Defensively, Howell was the Rams’ only guest of honor on the first team. The runner-up finished the season with 108 tackles and 9.8 tackles per game. He led the nation among defenders in those categories. Howell also had three interceptions and a forced fumble.

Kamara was credited on defense with 44 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his senior second-team season.

Honorable mentions went to Horton as a punt returner, junior offensive lineman Jacob Gardner, graduate senior defensive lineman CJ Onyechi, graduate senior linebacker Jackson, and senior defensive back Anusiem.

Distinguished honorees for the conference included Air Force Senior Running Back Brad Roberts, Offensive Player of the Year; San Jose State Junior Defensive Lineman Viliami Fehoko, Defensive Player of the Year; Jack Browning, San Diego State Senior Punter/Place Kicker, Special Teams Player of the Year; Boise State Quarterback Taylen Green, Freshman of the Year; and Boise State’s Andy Avalos, Coach of the Year.

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