FORT COLLINS — They’re running it back.
Scott Patchan, Ellison Hubbard, Manny Jones and Toby McBride are all returning as Colorado State football’s defensive front for the 2021 season. The four starters decided to use their final year of eligibility with a mission to help turn the program around.
The veterans are being counted on to anchor the Rams’ defense.
“Last year definitely tested us, a lot of adversity, canceled games, COVID, all these hoops we had to jump through brings you closer as a unit,” McBride said. “It’s already night and day from where we were last year. We’re 10 times better, 10 times closer as a team, 10 times better fundamentally — we can handle all the adversity.”
In their four games played last season, the Rams’ defensive line led the country in tackles for loss averaging 10.5 per game. They also finished at No. 12 in run defense, a huge improvement over 2019 when they were No. 104 in the nation.
The veterans know how important having a close bond is, and under second-year head coach Steve Addazio, the building blocks started to form during a trying 2020 season.
“I felt the need as a fifth-year senior to come out here to lead the D-line, lead the younger guys, showing them that we’re almost 100 percent in building a culture here, so we can keep passing it down the line in the future,” Hubbard said.
Patchan, a 2020 first-team All-Mountain West honoree, ranked third nationally in sacks per game last season with 1.38. The 6-foot-6 defensive end said that program culture ties in with teammates “buying in,” understanding the playbook, knowing their assignments and accepting their roles.
Addazio added that it’s not just the veteran returners, such as Patchan, who need to take on a leadership role, but every player needs to “compete at a high level.”
“Leadership is setting a standard and to hold everybody accountable to that standard,” Addazio said. “By nature, as coaches, players, we have to be pushed and we’ve got to get to that point where the standards are met. That’s what training camp is for to me and I just know we have a lot of work to get there.”
For McBride, slipping into a leadership role was natural for him, especially growing up with his younger brother, Rams’ tight end Trey McBride.
“One thing that I really hold true to my heart is you can’t lead without setting the example,” Toby said. “You set the leadership by setting the example and show how it needs to be done.”
Patchan said the biggest difference between this season and last is continuity. Having at least a consistent training camp schedule and a “normal” game schedule should help, he said.
“We were always thinking, ‘Are we going to play the game? Are we going to practice tomorrow? Are we going to be in contact tracing and off for two weeks?’’ Patchan said. “That was limiting us for sure last year, so I think it’ll be a much better season this year because of that alone.”
Now, with a full schedule ahead of them, the Rams’ defensive unit is bringing their veteran experience and leadership for their final run.
“We trust each other to put each of our back’s on the line and we’re going to fight for each other,” Toby McBride said. “At the end of the day, the goal is winning and we’re going to do that together.”
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