FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild knows his quarterback will be a freshman, but he couldn't tell you his name.
Pete Thomas and Nico Ranieri finished the spring in a dead heat and Fairchild said after Saturday’s spring game that the competition would continue into the fall. While starting a freshman quarterback after starting a pair of seniors in each of the past two seasons might seem daunting, Fairchild knows that one of those two players gives his team the best chance to abolish the memories of last year's 3-9 campaign.
“I think we’re always going to play the quarterback here who gives us the best chance to win,” Fairchild said. “Whether that’s a fifth-year senior or a true freshman, that’s who we want to line up with. I think we owe it to our fans, the program and the seniors to do that.
“I think right now, it’s probably one of those two young guys who gives us the best chance to win.”
Billy Farris and Grant Stucker, the seniors who started in 2008 and 2009, respectively, also were first-year starters and both had mixed results. Farris started slowly, but ultimately led the Rams to seven wins and a bowl victory. Stucker started 3-0 before the Rams faltered and failed to win another game.
Fairchild has said that his first two teams probably should have fallen somewhere in between and he expects a similar result from his young 2010 bunch.
“I like our talent level right now,” Fairchild said. “I know two years ago coming out of spring we didn’t complete a pass and I was distraught, but Billy Farris kind of developed and played well for us. We kind of figured out what he could do. Last year it wasn’t just the quarterbacks. It was our entire football team offensively. It was very inconsistent. I never felt like we got into a good rhythm. We’re probably a little more consistent right now. “
Ranieri has the benefit of having been on campus for a year as a redshirt, but Thomas narrowed that gap by skipping his final semester of high school in El Cajon, Calif., to enroll in classes in January.
Both players have had their moments through spring football, which made the race a little too close to call, especially as the Rams continue to break in a young and inexperienced offensive line and some new receivers and running backs.
Thomas had the edge in the final scrimmage of the spring, completing 2 of 5 passes for 46 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown in the Gold’s 18-17 win over the Green at Hughes Stadium just off the Colorado State campus.
Ranieri was 7-of-10 for 73 yards.
“I feel like I definitely set myself up [to win the job],” Ranieri said. “Coaches know I can play. I’ve just got to get out here and prove it. I need to be consistent and let everything else fall into place.”
“That’s what I came here for,” he said. “If I am the starter, I’ll be prepared.
“It’s a good competition. We both bring some things to the team. We’re real good friends. We help each other out and we’re just competitors.“