Last year’s virtually nonexistent preseason and subsequently reduced campaign extracted vital ingredients to the pie up front for Colorado State football.
And, while striving to build cohesion, offensive linemen can’t rely on explosive play-making or natural talent to the extent of surrounding areas on the turf.
For any given front five, hours upon hours in the trenches are indispensable, and the Rams’ offensive line lost an unprecedented amount of those hours before and during the stoppage-themed regular season. Yet, despite an inadequate, pandemic-tainted recipe, CSU’s offensive front managed to cook up a respectable entrée at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s really impressive. It’s a reflection of what (Steve and Louie Addazio) do each day,” offensive coordinator Jon Budmayr said. “Those two obviously work very closely with that group. And from what I’ve been able to learn schematically and technique-wise from that position in the short time I’ve been here, it’s easy to see why that group has success.”
The coronavirus-afflicted stint constituted a testament to the Addazio family’s knack for assembling a sturdy wall of quarterback protectors. Though Steve has been doing so with ease every year since first coaching an offensive front in 1985 at Western Connecticut State, 2020 surely supplied unique challenges.
With sophomore center Cam Reddy, junior left guard Elijah Johnson and graduate right guard Adam Korutz entering the starting rotation, CSU’s reconfigured offensive line faced the task of growing accustomed to one another on the fly in light of the preparation-deficient season.
Nonetheless, Steve and Louie Addazio –– CSU’s offensive line coach –– found a way to churn out three All-Mountain West honorable mentions in Reddy, Johnson and Barry Wesley.
One might ask how the unit found its footing under such tricky circumstances. Reddy, Johnson and Korutz may have been new to Fort Collins, however, upon transferring from Addazio’s prior destination, the former Boston College athletes were surely familiar with the way CSU’s coach handles business.
“The offensive line has really started to gel,” Addazio said. “They’ve really learned what it takes to become a legitimate front. Now they get a full fall camp to get everything down.”
Beyond the retained starting five, which also includes left guard Keith Williams, the Rams welcome back several pertinent depth assets –– headlined by backup LG Joctavis Phillips, who served as a key backup for the third-straight season upon competing in a trio of 2020 contests behind Williams.
Alongside eight combined three-star recruits from the 2020-21 classes, Addazio snatched a well-established transfer in Temple graduate Vincent Picozzi. Boasting promising prospects of obtaining a solid workload, Picozzi totaled 35 starts at LG/LT over his four-year tenure as an Owl.
Experience? Check. Better chemistry? Check. But is the offensive line genuinely willing to grind through the necessary labor to breed thorough affluence? Well, the group certainly seems committed to the Addazio family’s process.
“They’ve bought into the strength and conditioning program and nutrition side of it, which is huge at that position,” Budmayr described. “We’ve gotten bigger and stronger. But the other piece is they’re doing a great job in the film room and understanding their responsibilities. They’re making the right calls and understanding schematically why we’re doing what we’re doing. So, I think they have a chance to be one of this conference’s top offensive lines.”
Position: Offensive Line
Seniors (2020 statistics): Adam Korutz, 6-foot-2, 295-pounds (4 starts); Vincent Picozzi, 6-4, 300 (grad transfer); Keith Williams, 6-7, 300 (3 starts, 3 games played).
Juniors: Elijah Johnson, 6-6, 315 (4 starts); Barry Wesley, 6-7, 310 (4 starts); Joctavis Phillips, 6-4, 320 (3 games played).
Sophomores: Cam Reddy, 6-2, 305 (4 starts); Ches Jackson, 6-4, 295 (2 games played); Florian McCann, 6-3, 300 (did not play in 2020).
Redshirt & second-year freshmen (COVID ruling): Owen Snively, 6-5, 290 (didn’t play in 2020); Alex Azusenis, 6-5, 305 (didn’t play in 2020); Tautai Li’o Marks, 6-2, 305 (didn’t play in 2020); Brian Crespo-Jaquez, 6-6, 315 (didn’t play in 2020); Dirk Nelson, 6-3, 300 (didn’t play in 2020); Gage Gaynor, 6-4, 290 (1 game played); Tex Elliot, 6-4, 290 (didn’t play in 2020).
True freshmen: Justin Michael, 6-5, 265; George Miki-Han, 6-1, 310.
Players lost: Scott Brooks, 6-3, 300 (3 games played); John Blasco, Jr., 6-7, 325 (1 start, 3 games played).
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