August 25, 2010

On the Matt: Most improved players

The point of practice is to improve one's skills and prepare themselves for the next game. So far in Colorado State's fall football camp, a select group of players have truly established themselves as the most improved since spring drills concluded back in April.

Below, Senior Analyst Matt L. Stephens breaks down the top five most improved players in this week's "On the Matt."

5. Pete Thomas - quarterback

It really helps when a college football recruit can graduate a semester early and participate in spring drills with his team, and that is really showing in Thomas.

The highest rated recruit from the Rams' 2010 recruiting class, Thomas will be starting under center when CSU and CU square off on Sept. 4 in the season opener. His physical mechanics look much better after working with both head coach Steve Fairchild and quarterbacks coach Daren Wilkinson, but he still has to limit the mental mistakes.

4. Lou Greenwood - wide receiver

It's hard to say whether or not Greenwood has improved tremendously or if he just was given ample opportunity to showcase his talents as a running back in 2009.

So far this fall, Greenwood as established himself as one of the top receivers CSU has on roster and brings to the position some pure athleticism and versatility the other wide outs lack.

Wide receivers coach Dan Hammerschmidt has said that the Rams will be throwing to Greenwood a lot this season. Look for him to make a lasting impact on CSU football by the time he graduates.

3. Ivory Herd - strong safety

Since his redshirt freshman season in 2008 playing special teams, Herd has always been known as a hard-hitter, laying a knock on any ball carrier unfortunate enough to get in his way. Last season, Herd moved from special teams to a more natural position - strong safety.

Playing much of the 2009 season for the injured Klint Kubiak, who moved to strong safety from free safety due to the graduation of Mike Pagnotta, Herd slowly started to mold into a starting-caliber safety, but never quite reached the point he needed to be last season.

This year is different and he looks to be a great counterpart to Elijah-Blu Smith. Now the task is keeping them both healthy.

2. Marcus Shaw - cornerback

Most people didn't expect Shaw to have to fill into the starting cornerback role so quickly, but that's the case. When fellow cornerbacks Dru Taylor and Brandon Owens transferred this summer, a big gap was left in the defensive secondary.

Shaw has really stepped up and put himself in position to be the starting corner for the Rams across from Momo Thomas, a spot in the depth chart ahead of senior DeAngelo Wilkinson, who looks like he'll be playing nickelback again in 2010.

1. Davis Burl - defensive end

Recruited to CSU from Grandview High School in Aurora as a safety, Burl made the move to linebacker in 2009 and once again made a switch to a new position this spring, now listed as a defensive end.

The defensive end spot had been cut pretty thin in terms of depth, especially with the departure of Cory Macon, but CSU has moved several players, Burl included, to test the waters at a new position - Burl is the one who seems to shine the most.

A homegrown kid, you can't help but cheer for him, and in both of the Rams' scrimmages this fall, Burl has looked outstanding and will likely remain at defensive end for the rest of his collegiate career should he keep performing in games the way he as on the practice field.

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