Mike Bobo’s doing the best with what he’s got.
Really, that’s all that can be asked of a second-year head coach in the wild world of college football.
Most of the players on Colorado State’s football team roster are ones which Bobo didn’t bring in himself. And with many more crucial players leaving recently due to graduation or even the NFL, some signs are pointing towards a possible rebuilding year in Fort Collins.
But Bobo knows; he knows this can’t simply be a down year, all of the momentum is currently building towards a bigger and brighter future.
When his defensive backfield was depleted with graduates like Trent Matthews and Kevin Pierre-Louis moving forward with their lives — DeAndre Elliott was also picked up by the Seattle Seahawks — Bobo went to the junior college level to find a replacement like A’Keitheon Whitner, a junior who was a JUCO All-American last year.
Finding JUCO players as replacements is an interesting strategy, one which former head coach Jim McElwain shied away from, reiterating time and again he needed to build the foundation first. Bobo sees it a different way; there’s no time to waste, only time to win, with whatever players he can find.
One of the standouts from his 2016 class, Detrich Clark from Eastern Arizona Junior College where he played with Whitner, showed off his blazing speed as a north-south option-quarterback able to blaze past opponents. But, with the backfield stuffed with a talented bevvy of running backs, Bobo moved Clark to receiver and the junior enjoyed a 68-yard receiving day – along with a 37-yard TD run – during Saturday’s second scrimmage of fall camp for CSU.
“Detrich Clark has ability with the ball in his hand,” Bobo said after the scrimmage. “He has never played receiver—he was a high school quarterback and an option quarterback in junior college—so he is learning how to play the position. He will be 10 times better two months from now, than he will at the start of the season. We have to continue to work him.”
Earlier in the year, at the player’s request and after much thinking on the matter likely, the head coach moved the senior wide receiver Jordon Vaden to cornerback. Vaden went through a roller coaster ride as a receiver with the team, a ride which ended the 2015 season when he caught a pass and decided to continue upfield instead of getting out of bounds during the offense’s final drive, a losing effort in the inaugural NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
Vaden’s 6’3” size will help to give Colorado State a cornerback who can line up against those taller, lankier receivers, and Vaden’s experience at wideout means he understands what the receiver wants to do in certain situations. And No. 11 enjoyed a pick-6 late in the Rams’ second scrimmage of fall camp yesterday afternoon, as the defense’s only scoring play of the day.
“We did get a stop coming out when Jordon Vaden got the interception, which would have been returned for a touchdown,” Bobo described.
Similar to Vaden, Darius May – a freshman who was brought in as a running back – has been moved to the defensive backfield and will likely play safety. Bobo’s unafraid of moving players’ positions because he must get the most talented 22 out on the field on defense and offense.
Losing playmakers on the offensive end like Rashard Higgins, Joe Hansley – each now in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, respectively – as well as Deionte Gaines (transfer), Bobo’s had to do some searching on that side of the ball, too. Part of that is turning Clark into that Gaines-like player, someone who can take handoffs, catch the ball as a receiver and even possibly return kickoffs.
Still more needs to be done in terms of getting a lacking element of speed onto the field for Colorado State. So it seems, Rams second-year head coach isn’t afraid of playing true freshman, at least in scrimmages.
Another speedy standout is true freshman Marvin Kinsey Jr. out of Atlanta, GA. who stole the show yesterday. Kinsey, bringing that much-needed speed, was able to rush for 158 yards on a mere 15 carries, good for a 10.5 yard per carry average. He also scored twice and enjoyed a 58-yard scamper. Behind him was Rashard Boddie, another freshman, but Boddie is a beastly back at 220 pounds. Still, even Boddie showed off his underrated speed, running wild down the sideline for 83 yards and a score on one handoff alone. All day he gained 93 net yards with two scores.
What this means for the running back situation, we’re not sure yet. But, it looks as though Kinsey and Boddie are playing their way onto the gridiron. Of course, there’s still Dalyn Dawkins (2 car. 41 yds.) and Izzy Matthews (5 car. 32 yds. 1 TD) ahead of the freshman, but keeping Kinsey and Boddie on the bench will be difficult come fall.
In all, Bobo is using the talented young men he found this offseason to fill voids left by the players who are now departed, both on offense and defense. And at running back – which may be the most important position in his run-first offense – Bobo bolstered the depth by finding Kinsey and Boddie.
Now, can it just be Sept. 2 and kickoff of the Rocky Mountain Showdown?