If you have three quarterbacks, you have none.
It may seem like an old Yogi Berra saying, but the adage rings true.
With the Rocky Mountain Showdown set for kickoff tomorrow afternoon, Colorado’s QB is Connor Wood, Colorado State’s is still to be determined.
Rams head coach Jim McElwain told us after Wednesday’s practice he won’t name a starter until the team is in the locker room on Sunday, which plays two his advantage in two ways.
First, as he explained, it keeps all the quarterbacks hungry, forcing them to all prepare as if they’re the starter.
McElwain’s no dummy, he knows he’ll almost certainly need multiple quarterbacks over the course of the season. To wit, CSU used three QBs in each of the last two years due to injuries; it’s a football reality.
And secondly, by keeping his starter secret, he keeps the Buffs guessing as to which player he’ll go with.
Are junior Garrett Grayson and true freshman Nick Stevens that dissimilar?
Well, yes. Grayson is more a dual-threat option and he’ll run the ball for first downs at times. Stevens is a pocket passer – at least from what I’ve seen at practice – and to the competition, he’s a complete unknown.
So, who will McElwain start?
Picking the true freshman would be a disservice to seniors and other talented players on the team.
It’s gotta be Grayson if the Rams want to win.
He’s the most experienced quarterback, the one that knows the playbook the best, and he’s shown improvement passing the ball both in the spring and in fall camp.
Grayson’s accuracy has improved, and with a better understanding of the offense, he now knows where windows will open and when to get his receivers the ball.
He’s stepped up in the leadership department, too, which is exactly what Coach Mac asked him to do. Grayson’s admitted to being quiet in the past and becoming more vocal this offseason. Beyond that, he continues to mentor the younger guys gunning for his job, happy to help them get better as well.
Simply, he’s matured over the last year; you can hear it in his quotes.
“Obviously, I would like to have the spot, I think any competitor would.,” Grayson told me two weeks ago when Stevens was brought into the fold. “Knowing he (McElwain) has more guys in here now just brings more competition. That’s what we want to have at every position, competition. Your spot should never be safe, you should be out there battling every day.”
He also took the blame for his mistakes in a scrimmage, while also admitting he held onto the ball for too long at times.
Anyone that’s seen Grayson play complains he holds the ball too long, taking unnecessary sacks instead of throwing the ball away. He’s seemed to improve in this area too, working through progressions and better understanding how much time he has to get the ball out of his hand.
Of course, only gametime will tell how much Grayson’s come along. Physically, he battled back from a broken clavicle sustained while running last season. Mentally, he’s fought hard to regain respect of teammates after fading away post-injury.
While the Rams will run the ball relentlessly this season, the quarterback is still the most important position on the field for a reason, and McElwain’s QB will be asked to complete passes at times.
If Grayson can lead, protect the ball and protect field position by avoiding sacks, Colorado State will win some games, and even compete to go back to a bowl.
The Rocky Mountain Showdown pitting Colorado State versus the Colorado Buffaloes kicks off at 4 p.m. MT on Sunday, September 1. It takes place inside Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.
More CSU Rams:
McElwain hopes for close contest in Showdown
Injury report: Charles Lovett questionable
Young receivers important to Colorado State
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. Follow Rich on twitter or facebook.