While head coach Mike MacIntyre has expressed confidence his Colorado Buffaloes will see Nick Stevens under center for Colorado State on Friday night, the reality is the Buffs' defense can't be one hundred percent certain who they will face in the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown.
It likely will be Stevens, who set a CSU record for passing yards by a sophomore last year while earning second team All-Mountain West Conference honors. Yet it also could be transfer Faton Bauta, who has a long history with CSU head coach Mike Bobo from their time together at Georgia, or even Collin Hill, a true freshman who has impressed since arriving in Fort Collins in time for the Rams' spring drills.
Bobo has been coy about who will get the nod at Sports Authority Field, listing all three together at the top of the Rams' depth chart this week. And so CU's defense has no choice but to plan accordingly.
However at least one prominent Buffs defender, senior outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert, understands his part in slowing the Rams won't be dictated by who is calling the signals.
"You always have to be aware of what a quarterback can do — some quarterbacks are better runners, some quarterbacks are better passers," Gilbert said. "CSU has well-rounded quarterbacks. Me as an outside linebacker-defensive end, the quarterback isn't really what I'm looking at. I'm looking at the running back. I'm looking at the line. I'm looking at the receivers, because those are the guys I'm responsible for.
"I have to go coverage. I have to set edges. I have to stop the run. When the passing times come after we do all that, then I worry about the quarterback. Then I worry about getting to his edge and putting him to the ground when I can."
During CU's weekly press luncheon on Tuesday, MacIntyre once again reiterated his belief that Stevens will be the man for the Rams on Friday. While it may seem unlikely coach Bobo will send out a true freshman like Hill to make his debut in such a pressure-packed situation, the Buffs still could face more than one of the CSU quarterbacks by the end of the night.
"My personal opinion is they'll play Nick Stevens, but that's just me," MacIntyre said. "We'll be ready for whatever they do, and we've got to stop them no matter who walks out there. That could change in the course of a game, like it does in some games. We're just trying to get prepared for CU's defense to stop CSU's offense."