Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild announced this week he will be starting true freshman Pete Thomas at quarterback behind an inexperienced offensive line when his team kicks off the season Sept. 4 in Denver against Colorado.
Conventional wisdom says the Buffs' defense should have the edge over the Colorado State offense considering the circumstances. The Buffs aren't falling into that trap for one simple reason. They believe Fairchild's skill as a coach can more than compensate.
"They have an awesome coach, and he's going to be able to dial up something and tell the quarterback what to do," CU fifth-year senior cornerback Jalil Brown said. "(Thomas') job is just to get the ball there. So whether he is a freshman or senior, I don't really think it makes a difference with their style of offense."
Brown said the Buffs know next to nothing about Thomas, but it doesn't matter. He said Fairchild wasn't surprised by anything the Buffs threw at his offense last season when the Rams upset CU in Folsom Field. He had his players ready for blitzes, disguised coverages and every package the Buffs used. The Rams started a relatively inexperienced senior quarterback in that game and won relatively easily.
"His history speaks for itself and he knows what he's doing," Brown said of Fairchild. "He understands every type of defense. He's seen everything. So whatever type of defense we throw at him, he's obviously seen it before and knows what its weakness is. That gives him a definite advantage for the offense."
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said his staff was aware of Thomas in recruiting, but didn't pursue the 6-foot-5 product of El Cajon, Calif. For that reason, CU coaches are not intimately aware of all of Thomas' tendencies and abilities.
Hawkins said it's a challenge for any player to start his career in a pressure position like quarterback at the major college level, let alone one who is doing so in a rivalry game played in a pro stadium. But Hawkins apparently doesn't believe facing a freshman in such circumstances will be much of an advantage.
"There will be something to it, but you know Fair wouldn't start him if he didn't have a lot of confidence in him and have guys around that can help him out," Hawkins said. "I'm sure he'll be fine."
Outside lineback B.J. Beatty figures to have the chance to put pressure on Thomas and try to rattle him in the opener. But Beatty isn't counting on his youthful opponent to wilt or falter. That isn't how Beatty prepares for any game or quarterback.
"He's the best quarterback in the nation right now," Beatty said. "That's how I look at it. Every week in and week out you have to think we're playing the best offense every time."
Brown said getting a hand a pass, getting early turnovers and knocking Thomas to the ground would help the Buffs' cause, but CU defenders can't go into the game worried about getting into the head of the freshman.
"I think it being his first game in a big stadium, that's going to be enough to rattle him itself," Brown said. "It's his first time being on the field, first play, first game. That in itself is enough to shake anybody. I don't think we have to do anything specifically to try to rattle him. I think that will take care of itself."
Hawkins said redshirt freshman running back Quentin Hildreth has been limited by a sore toe in camp but is returning to health. ... Offensive lineman Jack Harris is expected to be out several weeks recovering from a sprained shoulder. ... Hawkins said if the season started today Joe Silipo would be the short snapper for field goals and extra points and freshman Ryan Iverson would be the long snapper on punts. "They've both done a really nice job filling in," he said. The Buffs are trying to replace Justin Drescher, who served as long snapper each of the last four seasons. ... The second scrimmage of fall camp is closed to the media and the public today at Folsom Field from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. The scrimmage will be more like an actual game than the situational scrimmage held last week. Stats are not expected to be made available. ... The Buffs ended their morning practice Wednesday by asking defensive lineman Eugene Goree (310 pounds) and offensive lineman Sione Tau (350) to run deep pass routes and catch a pass from quarterbacks. Goree made his catch. Tau couldn't hold on to his.