Veteran CSU wide receiver is confident in Carta-Samuels as team prepares for Hawaii
Colorado State football opens up the season against the University of Hawaii on Saturday, but the Rams will look much different than they did in 2017, especially on offense. CSU returns only eight starters from a year ago and when the offense snaps the ball for the first time in 2018, the unit will feature a new quarterback, starting center and left tackle.
Last season's leading passer, receiver, rusher and the three most experienced players from the offensive line all have moved on. According to Phil Steele's annual college football preview, the Rams are the least experienced team in all of college football with only eight returning starters.
When looking at the massive roster turnover and also factoring in the uncertainty around head coach Mike Bobo's status for weekend and beyond, it would be easy to assume the CSU players' heads are spinning. That does not appear to be the case though. Senior wide receiver Olabisi Johnson explained that the team is worried about its head coach, but the players have focused primarily on what is in their control.
More than anything though, the guys in the locker room are trying not to dwell on the current situation, and are concentrating on executing the offense, so the Rams can start the year on the right note. According to Johnson, brooding over the fact CSU may be without its leader would only make the situation worse, so the team is doing its best to block out any and all distractions.
"We hope he is out soon, but we also have to go out there and handle our business. That is what he would want us to do," Johnson said. "It is definitely difficult, but honestly you just have to put it all in the back of your head. We just have to go out there and play our game so we can win this for coach Bobo whether he is there or not."
One of the things Johnson has been able to control has been his effort in practice. Widely recognized as one of the hardest workers on CSU football, Johnson was faced with the difficult task this offseason of developing chemistry with a quarterback that had never previously been in the program. After spending the majority of his career catching balls from Nick Stevens, Johnson now had to establish timing with K.J. Carta-Samuels.
Coming out of high school, Carta-Samuels was ranked the No. 10 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 26 overall prospect in California by Rivals. ESPN, Rivals and Scout all ranked Carta-Samuels as a top-300 player in the country. By the time Carta-Samuels graduated from Bellarmine Prep High School, he received a variety of Division 1 offers, including one from previous CSU head coach Jim McElwain. Carta-Samuels was a career backup with the Huskies though, attempting less than 50 passes in his four seasons at Washington. So, when the 23 year-old announced he would be signing with Bobo and the Rams, nobody was 100 percent sure what kind of player the Rams were getting.
With such a short time to get comfortable and established within the offense, the timing with his receivers simply was not where it needed to be when Carta-Samuels first hit the field at the beginning of training camp. Now within three days of the first kickoff, Johnson says that his chemistry with Carta-Samuels is incredibly solid and it continues to improve by the day.
"I am a lot more confident now," Johnson said. "At the beginning of fall camp, we were working on our timing, (establishing) our relationships and his leadership in the offense. I think he has handled this whole thing really well."
Carta-Samuels' position coach, Ronnie Letson, mirrored those comments, calling the Washington graduate transfer a student of the game. Letson explained that the offensive staff will regularly be up in the office watching film and his phone will blow up with questions from Carta-Samuels on things he can improve on.
"He is constantly studying and learning," Letson said. " You totally will not know until he gets in the game and see how he handles everything, but with what he has shown so far, I am pretty pleased."
Saturday will answer quite a few questions for the Colorado State faithful, but the most important will be whether Carta-Samuels is going to be "the guy" for the Rams this season. Collin Hill is close to being fully medically cleared and may even be given the okay from the team's doctors before Saturday's game. If Carta-Samuels comes out and puts on a show, the staff may be more hesitant to rush Hill back, but considering he will likely not be able to receive a medical redshirt for this season, all signs point to Hill coming back and fighting for the starting position. At the moment though, the position is Carta-Samuels' to lose. How will he handle the moment?
PHOTO: Justin Michael | Rams Report