Colorado State’s offense found stability in its running game in 2016, but that stability eventually came from somewhere else as well.; as the Rams also found some semblance success through the air.
Wide receiver Michael Gallup had a big first season for the Rams after transferring from Butler County Community College. Gallup finished the 2016 campaign with 1,272 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. On the other side, Olabisi Johnson added 613 yards of his own and four touchdowns.
The Rams as a team totaled 3,181 receiving yards in 2016. While head coach Mike Bobo admitted early on in camp that he was pleased with portions of the passing game, there were aspects that he wants his team to improve on as they work through spring practices.
“We’ve got to be more efficient in the passing game,” Bobo said following the team’s first padded practice of the spring on March 25. “We were pretty good at the deep ball last year. That was one thing we wanted to improve on and we were good at the screens but our intermediate passing game we were not at the level we need to be to be a championship football team, so we’ve got to improve in that.”
Part of the Rams’ struggles in the passing game could be chalked up to the tight end position. A tight end never emerged as a pass catching threat over the course of 2016. Of the Rams’ tight ends, Danny Nwosu led the way with 14 catches for 155 yards and one touchdown.
According to tight ends coach Joe Cox, this is something that he is emphasizing in the tight ends room as they work through the spring.
“That was a goal that we talked about after going through last season’s cut-ups,” Cox said. “I thought we did some good things in the passing game as an offense, but we didn’t have a ton of go-to intermediate quick game plays where we could call and we knew that we were good at it.”
“For tight ends, that’s where you kind of make your money,” Cox said. “That’s where you are that guy that’s always somewhere intermediate in the quarterback’s vision, and you’ve got to understand how to work routes vs zone and vs man. If you can do that, you have a chance to do some good stuff in our system.”
While the tight ends play a large role in the part of the passing game that the Rams are set on improving in, the receivers know that they play a part in it as well. According to Michael Gallup, he enjoys the shorter routes that receivers have to run.
“I don’t have a problem with the short routes,” Gallup said. “That’s the real test to a wide receiver to see what you can do after the catch.”
As the Rams approach the halfway point of spring camp, quarterback Nick Stevens feels like the offense is already starting to the improvement that Bobo is looking for.
“We started hitting some things that maybe we would’ve missed last year,” Stevens said. “It’s definitely improved. I think it was a little bit lacking last year. When we started clicking it started picking up. We’re grooving right now on that and it’s definitely adding another leg to our offense.”
Despite the Rams’ inexperience at tight end, Stevens is confident that the tight ends will make significant contributions to the passing game with spring camp under their belts.
“We definitely have the guys,” Stevens said. “I think they still have a ways to come but they’ve come so far since we’ve started spring ball. None of the three playing right now have really gotten reps at tight end for us game wise and that’s hard, but I think that they’re definitely coming along and they’re going to contribute to that intermediate game and some of the quick game as well.”