Ian Cunningham, or "bhsmarine," a site author at MWC Connection, took the time this week to answer a few of our questions in relation to Saturday's game in Provo. So thanks to Ian and enjoy his valuable insights below...
1 - What will the Rams' general game plan be for stopping Max Hall and BYU's versatile offense?
We will call it slowing them down, not sure you can stop the BYU offense. Steve Fairchild said he is going to rely on the front 4 to get pressure and look for the secondary to make plays. The defensive line was a concern in the off season but has come up with 7 sacks so far and decent pressure. I would also expect to see a few different blitz packages from the Rams, they have been good about using LB Mychael Sisson's speed to get in the back field and create pressure. Don't expect many full out blitz packages as they need to cover Pitta, among others, who creates a mismatch problem in the secondary. Bottom line is if Max Hall has all day in the pocket the Rams are in trouble.
2 - Steve Fairchild tied Sonny Lubick at 10-6 for the second-best start by a coach in CSU history with last Saturday's win over Nevada. What is the general consensus on Fairchild in Fort Collins?
Last year it was a tossup, Lubick was the program for so long that people had a hard time letting go. Fairchild was in his first year as a head coach anywhere after a seven year stint as an NFL O Coordinator. It was a mixed bag at the start of the year but once they got to the New Mexico Bowl it seemed everyone was on board. I liked Fairchild from the start, the attitude he brings to the program is refreshing and already working. His offensive style is fun to watch. Even in blow out losses they seem to be well coached, it's a talent problem at this point and not a coaching problem. Winning again in Fort Collins feels good. Steve Fairchild brought those wins because of how he runs the program in my eyes.
3 - Who is the one CSU player VTF isn't necessarily familiar with already and should be aware of going into Saturday's game?
I am not sure if you know about LB Alex Williams. When honorable mention all-MWC LB Ricky Brewer was suspended for the year no one really knew how the position would fill out. Meet Alex Williams, special teams player last year and stud middle linebacker this year. He has 22 tackles, 2.5 for losses, 2 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery (according to CSURAMS.com). He will be flying around making tackles and will be the key to stopping Harvey Unga and other BYU backs. Limiting teams to 85.3 yards a game on the ground is a team effort but Alex Williams has been a big part of that.
4 - Outside of Mychal Sisson, what/who has most impressed on the Rams' defense thus far?
The "what" would be the turnovers and the "who" is Elijah Blu-Smith. They have forced 10 turnovers which is turning into their new identity on defense. Defensive coordinator Larry Kerr set a 3 turnover per game goal for the defense to reach, they have twice this year. Blu-Smith has three interceptions in as many games along with a hit on CU WR Scotty McKnight that left him without the ball or a clue where he was. Due to injuries last year Blu-Smith was able to get some playing time and took his bumps. It is paying off this year as he is showing a knack for making big plays.
5 - QB Grant Stucker had a 35 yard TD run last weekend. Exactly how mobile is Stucker and what should be BYU's biggest concerns with the Rams' offense.
He is fairly mobile, last year he was installed into some wildcat and direct snap running packages. I have hoped the Rams would use his speed this year and they finally did last game. However, don't expect to see him running the option as that doesn't seem to be a part of Fairchild's offense. The biggest concern is protecting at all three levels of the field when you play the Rams. By the three levels I mean the run, short-medium passes, and deep passes.
They can run the ball with John Mosure and Leonard Mason behind the experienced offensive line. Fairchild will make you defend the deep pass, if it is single coverage count on the ball going deep. I haven't seen a Fairchild coached CSU game where there weren't at least three to five deep passes thrown to a streaking receiver. Once you start to drop a safety they have multiple medium routes that can go above the LB's and under the safety.
Fairchild is throwing in a few more gadget plays this year evident by WR Dion Morton's two touchdown passes this year. I think BYU should count on at least one if Fairchild sees something to exploit.