Welcome to welcome back Monday.
For students of Colorado State, Monday started the fall semester. Welcome back to school.
For Jim McElwain, Monday was his chance to welcome back the media for his first weekly press conference of the new football season.
“It's at that point where it's about time,” McElwain said. “In other words, it's time we go test our team, it's time we find out a little bit more about our young guys, it's time we find out – and really get some answers – as to how far we've come.”
And with the press conference came the initial depth chart, compete with a few surprises.
The most notable may be freshman Rashard Higgins being listed as one of the starting wide receivers, with fellow freshman Jordon Vaden behind him. Higgins has impressed fellow players all camp long – using speed, size and aggressiveness to attack the ball – and he's clearly made an impression on coaches, too.
“82 runs fast, that's a good deal,” Coach Mac said of Higgins. “That's a novel concept to have at that position.”
Similarly, true freshman Tyree Simmons is listed as the team's first kick returner, which McElwain said was done because of the need for speed on special teams.
Another small shock is sophomore DeAndre Elliot starting at left cornerback over junior Bernard Blake, though both will likely see lots of action this season.
Also, Max Morgan would start according to the chart, though Coach Mac hinted at Kevin Davis getting the nod at middle linebacker. While Morgan walked fine into the press conference Monday, he's still a bit slowed with that knee injury.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the quarterback battle continues to rage on.
All three of Conner Smith, Garrett Grayson and Nick Stevens are bolded, with the word or next to two of them. Basically, Coach Mac still hasn't named a starter and he said he may wait until just before gametime Sunday to do so.
“Where I'm prepared to make our decision is to see who handles 'perfect Thursday' the best,” McElwain explained. “Conner has had a great last eight days. Maybe has understood a little more of the attention to detail and what he needs to do. He had another good practice Saturday, as did Garrett.
“For us, 'perfect Thursday' is the game plan, the speed at which it's repped, the attention to detail at which it's executed. And the affirmation by every player in their calls to understand exactly what we're doing based on our gameplan,” he finished.
Of course, as with any team, people shouldn't buy too much into the initial depth chart, and McElwain said there are many players not listed that will find time on the field. And as the season goes on, some will step up as others fade.
Still, it looks like there will again be multiple true and redshirt freshman influencing games for the Rams this season, as McElwain's recruits look to make immediate impacts.
“I'm excited for the game, I'm excited for the opponent, I'm excited for the venue, I think it's something that's pretty awesome,” McElwain said of the Rocky Mountain Showdown. “And this is the way to kickoff a college football season.”
The Rocky Mountain Showdown kicks off Sunday, September 1 at 4 p.m. MT inside Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. It's annually the biggest college football game in the state of Colorado and will also be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.
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