Rams begin Spring Football practices on Tuesday, March 25

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Colorado State begins its 2014 Spring Football practice period on Tuesday, March 25, with the first practice set for 3:15 p.m. All practices will take place at the Rams’ on-campus practice fields, located just south of the McGraw Athletic Center complex, with the exception of several scrimmages at Hughes Stadium, one practice at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and the annual Spring Game on April 19.

Per NCAA rules, Colorado State may conduct 15 practice sessions in the spring period.

Back at It: Colorado State returns 46 letterwinners from its 2013 squad, including 11 starters -- five on offense, six on defense. Two special teams “starters” also return, with first-team All-Mountain West kicker Jared Roberts and punter Hayden Hunt back in 2014.

Returning Award Winners: Four Rams who earned All-Mountain West recognition last season return in 2014 and look to begin a tradition of winning bowl games at Colorado State. Here is a look at those four honorees:
• K Jared Roberts (Sr.) - First-team All-MW; second-team Phil Steele All-MW
• OL Ty Sambrailo (Sr.) - Second-team All-MW; third-team Phil Steele All-MW
• LB Max Morgan (Sr.) - Honorable ment. All-MW; third-team Phil Steele All-MW
• TE Kivon Cartwright (Sr.) - Honorable ment. All-MW; third-team Phil Steele All-MW

Returning Productivity: Despite the loss of Walter Camp All-America running back Kapri Bibbs, who declared for entry into the NFL Draft after his 1,741-yard sophomore season, the Rams return a great deal of their offensive and defensive production in 2014. CSU brings back 100% of its passing, 73.6% of its receiving, 77.6% of its tackles and 80% of its interceptions.

Leading the charge is senior quarterback Garrett Grayson, who is the top returning passer in the Mountain West after throwing for a CSU-record 3,696 yards in 2013. Three of the Rams’ top four pass-catchers also return in 2014: Rashard Higgins (837 yards), Joe Hansley (613) and honorable mention All-Mountain West tight end Kivon Cartwright (462).

The running game is in good hands with the return of two-year letterwinner Donnell Alexander. A junior who has played in 20 games for the Rams, Alexander rushed for 428 yards and two touchdowns in 2013. Ultimately, the Rams return 23.5% of the team’s 2013 rushing yards. CSU also returns second-team All-MW left tackle Ty Sambrailo to fortify the offensive front.

Defensively, CSU brings back its top two leading tacklers from 2013 in All-MW honorable mention Max Morgan and fellow linebacker Aaron Davis. The Rams’ defense also returns players who produced 54.9% of its tackles for loss, 51.6% of its sacks and 77.8% of its forced fumbles.

CSU returns two-thirds of its special teams unit in All-Mountain West kicker Jared Roberts and punter Hayden Hunt. In 2013, Roberts converted 21-of-24 field goals and was a perfect 58-for-58 on point after attempts.

Ram U: Implemented upon Head Coach Jim McElwain’s arrival in the winter of 2012, Ram U is the second phase of CSU’s offseason strength and conditioning program, concluding just before spring break.

Over a five-week period, Rams players gathered four days per week, first for a one-hour morning weight-lifting session, with the offense and defense alternating between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. lifts.

The unique feature of the regimen is the one-hour afternoon set of drills that alternate by day between linear motion and change-of-direction. Players move quickly as a group from station to station, with each drill designed around a specific purpose that translates to the game.

What’s Returning:
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 46/20 (Returning - 16 offense, 28 defense, 2 specialists)
Total Starters Returning/Lost: 13/12 (Returning - 5 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialists)

Position Changes: During spring camp, the Rams coaching staff will experiment with five players at new positions.

Blake Jones -- from TE to OL
Jasen Oden -- from DB to RB
Nolan Peralta -- from LB to TE
Davon Riddick -- from RB to CB
Willie Udofia -- from WR to S

Career Record Watch:
Senior linebacker Aaron Davis
- 90 total tackles to enter CSU’s career top 10
Senior quarterback Garrett Grayson
- 1,959 passing yards in 2014 to become the school’s all-time leading passer
- 159 completions to register most career completions in CSU history
- 20 more passing TDs will give Grayson the most all-time by a CSU QB
- 3,066 total yards of offense in 2014 will give Grayson the most career total offensive yards in CSU history
Junior linebacker Cory James
- Needs to record 1.5 sacks to enter CSU’s career top 10
Senior linebacker Max Morgan
- 74 total tackles to enter CSU’s career top 10
Senior kicker Jared Roberts
- 22 field goals to set the CSU career mark for field goals in a career
- 99 points in 2014 to pass Jeff Babcock on CSU’s career scoring list for a kicker

Freshmen in 2013: Last season, Head Coach Jim McElwain called upon seven true freshmen to help guide the Rams to their first bowl appearance since 2008. Those seven freshmen combined to make 19 starts --14 by WR Rashard Higgins -- and appeared in 71 games. Defensively and on special teams, those seven newcomers tallied 78 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss. Offensively, Higgins led the team with 68 receptions for 837 yards and six touchdowns. RB Eric Williams, a walk-on from Rock Canyon in Castle Rock, Colo., carried the ball five times, but made his biggest impact on special teams.

DL Austin Berk (5/0)
LB Deonte Clyburn (13/1)
WR Rashard Higgins (14/14)
DL Josh Lovingood (3/1)
S Jake Schlager (14/0)
DB Tyree Simmons (14/3)
RB Eric Williams (8/0)

New Opportunities: In February, the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Colorado State’s undergraduate student assistant Joey Porter as a defensive assistant coach.

Porter’s tutelage, assisting the defensive coaches with the team’s outside pass rushers, produced significant results for the 2013 Rams, who posted their best record since 2002, at 8-6, and earned a victory in the New Mexico Bowl over Washington State. Senior outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett posted 12.0 sacks and set a Mountain West record with 20.5 tackles for loss en route to winning MW Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Schedule Notes:
· The Rams have two bye weeks in 2014. The first coming after CSU’s home opener against UC Davis, on Sept. 20. The Rams’ second open date is the weekend of Nov. 15, one week before Senior Day vs. New Mexico.
· Colorado State fans in the state will be spoiled as the Rams play eight of their 12 games in Colorado.
· The 2014 Rams will face three teams that appeared in bowl games last year (Boston College - AdvoCare V100; Boise State - Sheraton Hawai’i; Utah State - Poinsettia).
· The Rams begin their eight-game Mountain West schedule with two road games, the first time it has done so since 1994 when they opened WAC play at Air Force and at No. 22 BYU. CSU won both contests, and went on to a 10-2 season and were WAC champions.
· CSU will host Wyoming for the first time since 2011. The Rams had to travel an hour north to Laramie in 2012 and 2013, splitting the games 1-1, but defeated Wyoming handily (52-22) last season.
· Colorado State and Boston College will meet for the first time since the 2003 San Francisco Bowl, in which the Eagles handed the Rams a 35-21 defeat. This will be the 6th time CSU has played a current member of the ACC. In those games CSU is 2-3, with its most recent victory over an ACC opponent coming in 2002 at No. 22 Virgina (35-29).
· When the Rams travel more tha 1,780 miles to Chestnut Hill, Mass., it’ll be the farthest east they have played a game since 1959 at Army. Army bested CSU 25-6. This years trip will also represent the longest flight the Rams have taken inside the contiguous United States.
· When Colorado State and Boise State meet on Sept. 6, it’ll be the Rams’ earlier conference opener since 2011, when they traveled to Albuquerque to take on the Lobos in the season opener. CSU was victorious, defeating UNM 14-10.