COMMERCE CITY – Jasen Oden still isn't comfortable calling himself a running back.
But the CSU junior sure looked like one Saturday, running for 69 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries during a public scrimmage in front of about 1,000 fans at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
He followed his blockers, made some nice cuts and even carried the pile forward for 6-yard gain on one play after being hit at the line of scrimmage.
"Today was a big day for me, honestly," Oden said after the Rams' annual spring practice in front of their Denver-area fans. "… It really is confidence. Once you develop your confidence, you begin to make moves that you didn't see yourself making."
The converted safety is one of two players getting work at running back with the No. 1 offense this spring for a Colorado State University team that lost its top two rushers from last season when Kapri Bibbs declared himself eligible for the NFL draft and Donnell Alexander asked for a release from his scholarship to transfer.
Oden was nursing a leg injury in the Rams' first spring scrimmage April 6 and had just one carry for 5 yards, while redshirt freshman Bryce Peters got the bulk of the work. Peters had 27 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries Saturday while working primarily with the No. 2 offense, which failed to score on its first two possessions but got into the end zone on the third with the help of a pass-interference penalty in the end zone on cornerback DeAndre Elliott.
Third-year coach Jim McElwain said after the 98-play session that he feels "pretty good" about the running back position at this point, knowing he's got three freshmen running backs coming this summer who will compete for carries with Oden and Peters next fall.
Senior quarterback Garrett Grayson, who is coming off a record-breaking 3,696 passing yards in 2013, looked confident and efficient while leading the No. 1 offense on 70-yard scoring drives for touchdowns on its first two possessions and to another score in a simulated overtime period at the end of the 98-play session. He completed 17 of 21 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown, a 13-yard pass to Charles Lovett for the first score of the day.
Redshirt freshman Nick Stevens also took a turn with the No. 1 offense, leading the unit on a two-play touchdown drive by throwing a 24-yard pass to sophomore Rashard Higgins on the first play and a 39-yarder for a touchdown to junior Joe Hansley on the next. Stevens completed 12 of 18 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw an interception that junior Saladin McCullough returned for a 41-yard touchdown.
That, and a stop by the No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense on fourth-and-inches in overtime on the final play, were the highlights for a defensive unit that generally was outplayed by the offense.
Higgins, who dropped a pass at the 2-yard line in overtime, finished with five catches for 93 yards.
With three more practices leading up to next Saturday's annual Green and Gold Game, the Rams are feeling pretty good about the progress they've made this spring.
"We're ahead of where we wanted to be, to be honest," Grayson said. "I didn't expect us to be in this far in install, moving the ball the way we're moving it. … I think expectations, we've definitely met them, and I think we're moving on up."
Follow reporter Kelly Lyell at twitter.com/KellyLyell and facebook.com/KellyLyell.news
• Jasen Oden — Converted safety, a junior, ran for 69 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries
• Garrett Grayson — Senior quarterback completed 17 of 21 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown
• Rashard Higgins — Sophomore receiver caught five passes for 93 yards
• Deonte Clyburn — Sophomore linebacker had a team-leading six tackles, all solo
• Saladin McCullough — Junior cornerback returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown
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