Colorado's Week 1 opponent, Colorado State, is entering its second season under the direction of head coach Mike Bobo.
The Rams are coming off of three consecutive bowl appearances and will look to make it four this year.
BuffZone.com caught up with Mike Brohard, who covers the Rams for the Loveland Reporter-Herald, to get his thoughts on CSU heading into the Rocky Mountain Showdown.
BuffZone: Heading into year No. 2 of the Bobo era, is there more comfort among the players and coaches, in terms of knowing the expectations, the schemes, etc.?
Brohard: I don't think there's any doubt with that. The players, even by the end of last year, had a good feel for who Mike Bobo was, not only just as coach, but as a person, as a man. He does a lot of things with his players off the field. Earlier in camp they went to church one day, and then all the players went to positions coaches' houses for a meal, and he invited over the newcomers and the true freshmen. They've gotten a very good feel for who he is, how he runs his program and how he's going to treat them as people and players.
BuffZone: CSU has a quarterback that earned all-conference honors last season in Nick Stevens, and yet Bobo has been unwilling to publicly name a starter. Is there a legit competition there, or is Stevens the guy?
Brohard: There was a legit competition, and Nick Stevens won it. He brought (Faton Bauta) in because one of the things Mike was disappointed in was he didn't feel like there was real, true competition that pushed Nick from week to week that would spur even more of his growth. I think that's what Faton Bauta brought in. The first thing he said about Faton was that nobody was going to out-prepare him. I think that's what Nick needed and Nick even said that helped him and pushed him to watch more film and be more prepared, not just for games, but for practice. When (freshman) Collin Hill came in for spring ball, he attached himself to Faton and Faton has served as a mentor for him on how to watch film, how to read a playbook, how to prepare for the day to day football preparation.
BuffZone: A pair of receivers that have given CU and other opponents fits for a while - Rashard Higgins and Joe Hansley - are now gone. Who are the most dangerous weapons among the receivers this year?
Brohard: I think it's still to be determined. I think you have a young group. Michael Gallup and Detrich Clark, who are JUCO transfers, and a true freshman in Anthony Hawkins who all looked really good practice and are very athletic, but they'll start the season kind of with a limited offensive package. Then you have Olabisi Johnson and Sammie Long, who have looked very good and consistent as returning vets coming back to the field. I still think the guy with the most talent and the most potential is Xavier Williams. If he keeps doing everything right on and off the field, he could really develop into the type of go-to receiver that they've had in the past.
BuffZone: The Rams lost a lot of starters on defense and now transition back to the 3-4 after running the 4-3 for a year. Do you expect some growing pains early in the season on defense?
Brohard: Most definitely, because they replace their entire defensive line and three-fourths of their secondary. Even in the places where you've got sophomores, juniors starting, they haven't played much of a role in the past. The defensive line is not big by defensive line standards, so they're going to have to move, stunt, roll, do all those things to make them more effective and kind of hide the undersized quality they've got to them. Then, in the secondary, you have people that have to learn how to communicate, play the field and technically ... they're going to be in the nickel package most of the time, so they're going to have five defensive backs, four new ones on the field.
BuffZone: The opening of the new stadium is a year ago, but is there a buzz and excitement about that project that can impact the team this year?
Brohard: I don't know that it impacts the team on the field. It does impact the program off the field and there is a lot of excitement. But, the thing that excites this team more so on the field this year is the recruiting class that they just bought in. It's one of the biggest ones they've had in the past decade and they have a lot of talent and athleticism in that class. Much of it is going to see the field. I think they played four true freshmen last year, and I think they'll exceed that number just in Week 1 alone, and more could come. Off the field, yes, there's a big buzz with the new stadium and having gone to three straight bowl games. But, on the field, it's that recruiting class and talent and athleticism that they brought in.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.