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2022 Colorado State quarterback preview: Clay Millen highlights a group of talented, young gunslingers

Justin Michael Avatar
May 26, 2022

FORT COLLINS — We are officially within 100 days of the 2022 football season, so it’s time to start looking ahead at what the team is going to look like this fall.

Obviously we still have the entire summer and of fall camp to go before the Rams open the campaign at Michigan this September. During that timeframe it’s completely realistic to assume that some individuals that shined during the spring will fall off, while others will rise to the occasion after having more time to get comfortable in their roles. Plus, the majority of the 2022 signees were not even on campus for spring ball, so those guys will have a chance to factor into the mix as well.

The quarterback position, though, is one of the easier groups to forecast, as all four guys that are expected to be on the depth chart this season were here. So, with that in mind, let’s discuss the QBs.

Who will start? 

While the Rams do have a couple of intriguing options in the QB room to try and develop for the future, and we will get to those guys momentarily, outside of an injury situation, there was never any doubt about who QB1 was going to be for CSU this fall. And that of course, is Clay Millen. 

One of 11 transfers that followed Jay Norvell from Nevada to CSU, the former 4-star recruit has been highly anticipated ever since his days of tearing up the Washington prep scene for Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie. 

Initially in line to succeed Carson Strong, Millen technically saw his first FBS action in garbage time during last year’s season finale, a 52-10 beatdown of the Rams by Strong’s Wolf Pack on Nov. 27, 2021. Funny enough, less than one month later, Millen was in Cavas Stadium once again — this time as a new member of the Green & Gold. 

When asked about the decision to follow Norvell, Matt Mumme and Co. to CSU this past spring, Millen was honest about the situation. He explained that the reason he committed to Nevada over multiple power five offers in the first place was almost exclusively because of the coaching staff. 

Clay Millen (11) eyes the defense during the CSU Spring Game at Canvas Stadium on April 23, 2022.
PHOTO: Cris Tiller | USA TODAY

“I wanted to play in that system. That’s why I chose Nevada,” Millen said. “So as soon as they came here, the decision was easy. It was the same choice as high school.”

While operating with the ones throughout the 15 practices during spring ball, Millen’s arm strength, as well as his accuracy with the deep ball were consistently on display. And in the spring game Millen threw for just shy of 300 yards and four touchdowns in what was a little taste of what Ram fans hope to see on a weekly basis this fall. 

“The thing I’ve loved about Clay so far through the spring is he’s been very consistent,” Mumme said of Millen in March. 

Mumme continued, explaining that while there is still a long way to go when it comes to Millen’s overall development, what’s encouraging is that he was likely further along at this stage of his career than Strong was at UNR. The arm talent is there, and so is the understanding of the system. What’s going to be key for Millen, according to Mumme, is just learning to let the game slow and working through his progressions. 

Outside of Millen, there are three other young quarterbacks on the roster, only one of which was on the team in 2021. Giles Pooler, a redshirt freshman from Fort Collins, decided to stick around after joining the team as a walk-on under Steve Addazio. And to Pooler’s credit, the local product has done enough to be in the mix for the backup role this fall. 

“I was really pleased with Giles Pooler,” Norvell said after the spring game. “He has had an amazing spring.”

With Evan Olaes recently electing to transfer to Indiana State, you’d assume that Pooler will get put on scholarship at some point, especially if he is going to end up being the backup QB. Based on how the reps were distributed this spring and the way the coaches praised him, that seems pretty likely at this point.

Pooler is definitely a less flashy QB than Millen, probably the true freshmen, Jackson Stratton and Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi too. He easily has the biggest body frame of the group, though. Plus, while his deep ball may not be quite as pretty as Millen’s, Pooler has a nice release and can really rip the hell out of the ball. Honestly, he is good enough to start for a lot of mid-majors in the FBS, and it makes you wonder why Pooler was not given more of an opportunity to play in 2021. 

Giles Pooler, a former Rocky Mountain player, warms up on the sideline before the CSU Spring Game at Canvas Stadium on April 23, 2022.
PHOTO: Cris Tiller | USA TODAY

Finally, behind Pooler we have the aforementioned first-year guys, both of which were verbally committed to Norvell at Nevada and then flipped to CSU. Neither is expected to play much early on — Millen and Pooler, respectively, were first and second on the depth chart all spring. In a limited sample size so far, though, both Stratton and Fowler-Nicolosi have flashed legitimate arm talent.

Fowler-Nicolosi is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback out of Aledo, TX. As a senior he threw for 2,051 yards in 12 games, completed 67 percent of his passes and threw 24 touchdowns and just one interception. According to 247Sports, he was also offered by Arizona, Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada Oregon State, Pittsburgh and Toledo.

Stratton, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound QB out of La Jolla, CA. He was recruited by Washington, had an offer from Florida International and significant interest from a couple of Ivy League schools. The young gun who gets called “Sunshine” after the character in Remember the Titans ultimately ended up at CSU and Ram fans should be stoked he did.

From top to bottom this is the deepest that CSU’s QB room has been since the beginning of the Mike Bobo era, when the Rams had a veteran Nick Stevens and an up-and-coming Collin Hill competing with each other. In the modern era there is a good chance that one of, if not a few of these guys end up transferring elsewhere down the line, particularly if Millen ends up cementing his status in the starting offense this year. But ultimately you are always an injury away from having your season completely disrupted. It’s encouraging knowing that if something awful were to happen, or if for some reason Millen fails to pan out, CSU has talented young options to throw in the ring — something the program has not really been able to say for a couple of years now.

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