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Colorado State's spring scrimmage at Dove Valley a learning experience

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April 11, 2015

No college football team is ready to take the field on the second weekend in April. But Colorado State did just that in their spring scrimmage – which was more game-like than a practice – in front of fans and some former players as well at Denver Broncos headquarters in Dove Valley.

And when they got into the scrimmage, the teams (first-third offensive and defensive squads) showed strong energy on both sides of the ball as plays were made by a variety of young men. Mistakes were made and great plays were too, each creating learning experiences in the lead-up to the season.

“I thought we improved from the last scrimmage,” head coach Mike Bobo said of Saturday’s practice. “We improved in our execution in between the 20s offensively. And inside the 20 we turned the ball over too many times, missed snaps, missed assignments. But I thought the execution was better, a lot of big plays. Defensively, I thought we ran to the ball harder, thought we hit harder. Still giving up way too many big plays in the passing game, explosive plays. But they did a nice job of bowing their necks at times and holding the offense to field goals.”

Don’t read too far into this, because Bobo explained after the scrimmage his starting quarterback won’t be named until the fall, but redshirt sophomore Nick Stevens ran with the ones while redshirt freshman Coleman Key took almost all his reps with the second team.

“I thought both of them had their moments,” Bobo said. “Nick knew where he was going the whole day, going to the right guys. I thought he was aiming the ball a little bit, was high on some stuff, high on way too many throws. Just trying to be a little cautious instead of letting it rip. But he knew where to go. Coleman had a better day than he had last time of knowing where to go with the ball and threw some good balls. He’s still just gotta keep learning the offense and feel comfortable. He’s still quite not as comfortable as Nick is, but he’s improving. I’m definitely pleased with both of those guys.”

Stevens was good and bad – that’s the nature of these spring games and scrimmages – his final stats were 16-27 for 165 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT. One of the picks came on an awesome tip-to-himself grab by defensive lineman Jakob Buys and the other followed some contact on Stevens as he threw. That second pick was snagged out of center field by defensive leader Trent Matthews, a senior looking to impart embracing coaching to the young guys. Stevens’ best throw came on a corner fade to Cole Anderson for a score.

Key was similarly off and on. He possesses a strong arm but doesn’t yet understand how to put touch on the ball on short and leak-out routes to running backs. Key’s lone drive with the first-team offense resulted in a touchdown and he went 18-28 for 298 yards with that score.

With Stevens under center, the starting running back was Dalyn Dawkins, who really impressed with his catches out of the backfield which turned into big gains. The 5’9” 180-pounder is smallish but makes up for the lack of size with a heavy dose of speed. And Dawkins – nephew of former NFL safety Brian Dawkins – doesn’t shy away from contact, finishing two carries with by running over defensive backs. The Purdue transfer had five runs for 33 yards and two catches for 47.

Senior Jasen Oden Jr. got more carries than anyone, with 13 for 52 yards and a score, but was banged up late in the scrimmage. Bobo said he believes it was a minor “roll-up” and hopes Oden will be fine moving forward. At 5’11” and 218 pounds, Oden has really bulked up in the weight room during the offseason and he could be CSU’s go-to guy up the gut, mixing the speed of Dawkins and Treyous Jarrells, who sat out due to a minor injury.

Rashard Higgins, the All-American wide receiver, was held out of the game for precautionary reasons with a sore hamstring. But “Hollywood” Higgins was on the sideline and certainly made his presence known with trash talk to the defense mixed in with words of encouragement for fellow wideouts.

Defensively, Matthews was a standout at safety, as per usual. He snagged that interception and racked up a second-most eight tackles. Senior Cory James’ nine tackles led everyone, while Bryan Ohene-Gyeni had two sacks.

“I’m telling some of the freshmen that are making mistakes, but I tell them every time, ‘You’re going to make mistakes, but it’s what you’re going to do afterwards,’” Matthews said of being the senior leader of the D. “Once you get it honed in with those players, once the little guys know it, we’re going to be an even better team as a whole.”

Multiple former CSU players roamed the sideline and took in the action, including Joel Dreessen and Garrett Grayson. Colorado State has done well to get former players involved the last few years and it seems to be continuing currently.

Next Saturday brings the Spring game, which will be held at Sonny Lubick Field and Hughes Stadium at 11 a.m. and is open to the public.

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