FORT COLLINS — On a scale of 10, first-year Colorado State quarterback Kyle James “K.J.” Carta-Samuels says he’s a nine when understanding the Rams’ complex offense. After Saturday’s scrimmage at Canvas Stadium, he’s confident he’ll be a ’10.’
Carta-Samuels isn’t your typical first-year player. Major college football isn’t new territory. He’s a fifth-year graduate transfer from Washington, where he backed up Huskies senior star Jake Browning the past three seasons. Carta-Samuels, 23, was originally scheduled to transfer to UCLA in March, before switching to CSU following the news expected starting QB Collin Hill re-tore his left ACL playing basketball.
Hill played in five games (three starts) as a true freshman in 2016 while competing with the now-graduated Nick Stevens before taking his redshirt in 2017.
“I really do feel good about where I’m at,” Carta-Samuels said Thursday before his sixth practice with the Rams. “The first couple practices were heavy installs, so there was a lot thrown on your plate. Kind of scrambled a little bit, trying to figure everything out. But now that we’re getting through fall camp a little more, I have way more understanding. It just becomes quicker. It becomes less thought and more reaction-based.”
He should feel confident. If the Rams’ season opener was tomorrow instead of Aug. 25, he’d be the starter. Coach Mike Bobo has Carta-Samuels atop his unofficial depth chart, followed by redshirt freshman Justice McCoy and Hill. Hill has been working out in pads with a brace on his left knee, but it’s Carta-Samuels and McCoy taking snaps with the Nos. 1 and 2 offenses.
Bobo is thrilled with his new QB’s work ethic and hunger to finally become a starting quarterback. In three seasons at Washington, Carta-Samuels completed 54 percent of his passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
“He did a really good job of acclimating himself to this football team,” Bobo said. “You see him around seniors, offense, defense, the newcomers who come in. He didn’t come in and say, ‘Hey, it’s my show, I’m the baddest thing on campus.’ He really acclimated himself into the team, worked extremely hard in workouts, and then right after (July) 4th, he started to become a little bit more vocal. I think he kind of earned the respect of the guys, how he was working, taking a little more ownership in the workouts — just being vocal, which is a good thing for a quarterback.”
Carta-Samuels has worked tirelessly with assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Ronnie Letson, who came to CSU from Georgia with Bobo in 2015.
“He’s a grinder. He’s constantly in that film room. He’s constantly calling Coach Letson late at night, asking him questions because he’s watching film on his iPad,” Bobo said. “We see him getting better every day.”
But as much as Bobo likes Carta-Samuels, he’s not ready to announce him as the opening-day starter. The Rams have a legitimate competition on their hands.
“Justice McCoy is a guy I’ve constantly talked about since camp started,” Bobo said. “Really been pleased with him and his maturity since spring practice (when) he wasn’t ready to play. I just point-blank told him that and Coach Letson told him that. He didn’t pout. I feel like he’s grown up. He’s taking things seriously from meeting rooms to individual to every rep he’s taken in practice. I see a guy who is improving.”
And about Hill, “I like where he’s at,” Bobo said. “We’re just taking him one day at a time.”