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CSU football prepares for offensive explosion – The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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Fort Air Raid was cleared for takeoff.

After a season in which Colorado State football led the Mountain West in passing yards, the return of Tory Horton and the development of sophomore quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi put the Rams in position to explode offensively.

The continuity with which the Rams will enter the 2024 season is almost unheard of in the transfer portal era, especially from a school in the Group of Five.

“I just think we have more guys coming back that understand what we expect of them,” coach Jay Norvell said. “We have eight returning starters on offense; We have seven on defense. Our punter, our kicker, our long snapper, our return men are all back. So there's just a lot of familiarity, and I think that's rare in the age of transference and (names, images and likenesses).”

That continuity will only help Fowler-Nicolosi, who threw for more than 3,000 yards and earned his way onto the Honorable Mention All-Mountain West list.

Fowler-Nicolosi accomplished this despite coming into spring camp last year as the backup QB. Now he's the guy, and that just boosts his confidence, which is already a huge strength for him.

“I think he’s a completely different player,” Norvell said. “He just feels much more comfortable behind the center, communicates with his teammates and then shows leadership qualities. And I think it's really important that the players understand that Brayden is our quarterback, that he's a guy that they can rely on, that he knows what to do, that he's going to protect the football. “

Expectations on offense are higher than ever before in the Norvell era, and that hasn't been lost on his players.

In fact, the sense of urgency has only increased throughout spring camp. The Rams' focus is on three things: effort, detail and finish.

“We're doing a lot more finishing blocks and closing down the field, even when the game seems dead,” Horton said. “We’re still finishing and that’s just a big jump in our game – we’re just going to tire teams out just because we’ve been finishing for so long now.”

At almost every position, it feels like the Rams are ready to take a leap forward. Whether it's developments or new additions, the 2024 season is starting to feel like a bust.

Iron sharpens iron, and the Rams have plenty of talent at the wide receiver position. But each of the receivers is a competitor, and Washington State's Donovan Ollie is ready to compete with all that talent.

“At the end of the day, it just makes me better,” Ollie said. “Going out with people like Tory every day and learning from him – we feed off each other. When the time comes, we will be ready for it.”

When Horton announced his decision to return to the CSU, he mentioned, among other things, that he wanted to “put on more armor.”

This has been one of his biggest focuses in camp so far. The Rams' offense depends in large part on Horton's ability to make plays. As his development continues, the idea that CSU has the best offense in the Mountain West no longer seems so far-fetched.

“Yeah, that was one of the things,” Horton said. “I’m getting bigger, stronger, faster, just cleaning up my routes and my technique. You’re never perfect, so just extra years, let me just go out there (and) refine my game and just be the best that I can be.”

Given the new weapons, a better understanding of the offense and all the other little things Fowler-Nicolosi has gained this offseason, it's fair to say that expectations can't be much higher – so much so that if the way he takes care of the ball, Norvell might see him as the best quarterback he's ever coached.

“Brayden had the best season of any freshman we’ve ever had,” Norvell said. “But he has to cut sales in half. … He threw for 1,000 more yards than Carson Strong as a freshman, and he threw twice as many touchdowns as Carson. So he has the chance to become the best player we’ve ever had in this position.”

Reach Damon Cook at [email protected] or on Twitter @dwcook2001.

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