With little more than three weeks until the 2023 season kickoff against Washington State, Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell is making the media rounds in Denver today.

That included a stop at Altitude Sports Radio, where Norvell excitedly shared updates about the 2023 Rams.

“We’re a full inch taller at every position this year,” Norvell explained. “And I think we’re better at every position.”

That’s a huge step forward, if true, to be better at every position on the field.

It also is plausible because the Rams were 3-9 last year, arguably the worst offense in all of college football, and that was partly due to how young the team was in all three phases.

“We kinda had to take our lumps and bite our lip last year, and take our medicine,” Norvell said. “But, we’re much better [this year].”

On one hand, there was nowhere to go but up. CSU’s 13.2 points per game were 129th of 131 teams, which is never a good look for an offensive-minded head coach.

But, the expectation always was for Norvell to have the team moving in the right direction after those first year struggles. Especially with a roster that was quickly assembled following his hiring by the school in December, 2021.

Simply, Norvell did the best he could with the talent he had, and simultaneously helped a ton of young players get needed experience.

Now that he’s recruiting—with the best class in the conference—Norvell is looking forward to having a bigger, more physical offense overall. And that all starts with the offensive line.

Rams physicality on offense starts with O-line

“We were small and slow,” the head coach said unapologetically of last year’s team. “I’m 6’2” and a half, and 6’3” with heels on and to be honest, I was looking down at too many of our linemen last year. You can’t pass protect if you don’t have length.”

Of the nearly 50 players the Rams brought in this recruiting cycle, 10 were offensive linemen. And all of those guys are 6’4″ or taller, with 6’6″ 275-pound Jakob Belton and 6’4″ 295-pound Cameron Jackson being two of the biggest. Both Belton and Jackson, along with Ethen Erickson are transfers from junior colleges and have experience, meaning they should be able to step in immediately to better protect quarterback Clay Millen.

“I think we’ll be a much more physical team this year on offense,” Norvell beamed. “I love the guys we got up front. They’re just kinda old-school, kinda dirtbag linemen. They’re tough guys and they’re CSU guys.”

Speaking of Millen, he and the offensive line were standouts during the annual Green and Gold Game back in April.

Of course, being the quarterback, a lot hinges on Millen’s play in the pocket. Last year, even with little protection, Millen went 169-234, a scorching 72.2 completion percentage, for 1,910 yards. He also tossed 10 touchdowns—which is far too few—with only six interceptions.

But, expect Millen to be much-improved this year. Not only because 2022 was basically his first experience behind center at the college level, but also because of the revamped O-line.

“Clay led the country in pass efficiency last year,” Norvell said. “He threw for 72%. Pretty impressive for a young guy. He also got whacked a bunch in the pocket. And that was because we have to improve our offensive line. He’ll be a leader this year.”

While everyone is rightfully talking about Tory Horton, who the head coach called, “as good as any receiver around,” Horton can’t catch passes if Millen can’t deliver an accurate ball. And it all starts up front. Not just for the Rams, but for every team.   

Speaking of Horton, he’s already on multiple award watch lists, including the Biletnikoff, Paul Hornung, and the Maxwell Award lists. But, he can’t be the only solid pass-catcher for the Rams this year.

Multiple young receivers need to step up. Specifically, Justus Ross-Simmons, and likely Louis Brown. Others, like the 6’7″ Vince Brown and SMU transfer Dylan Goffney, will look to contribute too and give Millen lots of weapons to utilize.

Speaking of weapons, Norvell mentioned Dallin Holker, the 6’3″ 245-pound junior tight end, today too. “We added a great tight end from BYU.”

Of course, if Colorado State is going to find their way back to a bowl game for the first time since 2017, they’ll have to be improved on defense, too.

Norvell: CSU to have one of the best defenses in the MWC

Yet again, three weeks until the year kicks off, Norvell is confident on that side of the ball as well as the offense.

“I think we’re going to have one of the best defenses in the Mountain West Conference,” he proclaimed. 

“We’re taller in our secondary. We added some tall corners with length,” Norvell continued. “I think we’ve got the best secondary in the league. I think we have the best safeties in the league.”

Just as the offensive line has been a weakness lately, so has the secondary, outside of safety Jack Howell. Howell has been named to the Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe Award watch lists. He’s to the Rams defense what Horton is to the offense; a star.

At cornerback, Chigozie Anuseim was an absolute beast last year, being named First-Team All-MWC by Pro Football Focus, and Honorable Mention by the league. At 6’1″ tall, he’s got great length for a corner, and Anuseim broke up nine passes last year but only allowed 22 receptions. The Rams also signed Ron Hardge, a transfer from Oregon State, who’s also 6’1″ and has a solid chance to start opposite of Anuseim.

And then, up front, there’s the dynamic Mohamed Kamara who easily led the team with 8.5 sacks last year and added 2 forced fumbles.

In all likelihood, this team will face some growing pains early this year considering so many young players and new faces. But, if the Rams can get some momentum, look for them to win at least half their games and make it to the postseason for the first time in six seasons.