Nine days before spring practices kicked off for Colorado State football, Mike Bobo heard the terrible news about Collin Hill’s re-injured knee.
“I was heartbroken for the young man,” Rams head coach Mike Bobo said during his spring practice press conference Monday afternoon. “Just heartbroken for that kid for how hard he’s worked. He’s had a really good offseason in the fourth quarter program. He stepped up as far as being a leader on and off the field.”
Hill will be held out for the entire 15-practice spring session for Colorado State, and Bobo admitted he didn’t know if the redshirt sophomore would be ready to go for in the fall.
Hill, who started four games as a true freshman, impressed with his big arm and mobility. But, he tore his ACL while running late in the comeback win over Utah State on the road. With Nick Stevens as a redshirt senior last season, Hill stayed on the sideline all year and preserved his redshirt, setting him up as the unquestioned starter this year.
Then, he tore his ACL for a second time, this time, while playing pickup basketball.
“If there is a silver lining, it happened now,” Bobo said, holding out hope the Rams could get him back in August. “It’s not out of the question, but it’s a long rehab.”
So, if Hill can’t make it back to the field in the fall, who will Colorado State start?
The three options on the roster currently are redshirt junior J.C. Robles and two redshirt freshmen in Justice McCoy and Judd Erickson, none of which have attempted a pass in college.
“These two guys (Robles and McCoy), the focus will be on them,” Bobo said. “They’ll have a lot of opportunities. The spotlight will be on them. See how they handle a little bit of pressure.”
Robles has been a run-first quarterback and McCoy has been heralded as a dual-threat quarterback, but Bobo corrected that on Monday.
“J.C.’s probably more a dual-threat than Justice McCoy,” he said. “Justice was mislabeled in recruiting, he’s more of a passer.”
McCoy has put on 20 pounds since arriving on campus, Bobo explained, but the head coach said the young quarterback needs to process information more quickly. As for Robles, Bobo said the junior needs to be more accurate with his passes and more disciplined with his feet, while also being a more vocal leader.
So, if one had to take a guess at which quarterback is ahead at the moment — given their skill sets — it would likely be McCoy, who can sling the pigskin at a high level. And if it’s not McCoy (or Robles) as the starter in the fall, who could it be?
Bobo didn’t mince words on the topic, saying they were looking for a quarterback before Hill’s injury — albeit, a backup — and they’re still looking for a QB now.
“We’re actively recruiting (a quarterback),” Bobo said. The Rams didn’t sign a quarterback to their 2018 class, and because of that, they were already out recruiting a QB. Now, they won’t just look to sign someone, but likely a graduate transfer quarterback who could come in and start immediately.
One consistent name coming up is former Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady. Dormady is a junior who completed his degree and graduated from the University of Tennessee, and announced he’d be transferring from the program in mid-January. He split time last year with Jarrett Guarantano early before electing to have season-ending shoulder surgery in October. In three years with the Volunteers, Dormady played in 17 games, throwing for 925 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions in his limited time last season.
If it’s not Dormady, there are other options out there. Like Wilton Speight, formerly of Michigan, or Jeff George from Illinois and Isaac Harker of Indiana State, among many others.
Starting today, the pressure is on Robles — who Bobo said was already asked to step up and be a leader last week during drills — as well as McCoy, as they each try to prove they could be “the guy.” Even if one of them do take the lead in spring, it doesn’t mean the Rams won’t go out and sign a graduate transfer QB.
Likewise, if the Rams do sign a transfer, it doesn’t mean he’ll come in and lead Colorado State to that coveted Mountain West title. Two years ago, Bobo brought in Faton Bauta, a graduate transfer quarterback from Georgia. After wild inaccuracy in practice, and glimpses of that inconsistent play in two games, Bauta was benched in Week 2 of the 2016 season to make way for Hill.
After losing a litany of starters to graduation on both sides of the ball, the hill to climb to the top of the Mountain West was already steep. Without their surefire starter quarterback in Hill, Colorado State’s journey to the top seems like a long shot and spring practices just began.