– By Gary Miller

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – The CSU Rams are preparing to face off against the CU Buffaloes in their first game of the season later this month.

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Here are the Top 9 Rams players to watch in this year’s Rocky Mountain Showdown. (Stay tuned for a list of Buffaloes players to watch):

5. Jasen Oden, Bryce Peters and Dee Hart – With last year’s star running back Kapri Bibbs now in Broncos training camp trying to win a spot on the team, the Rams are in need of a replacement. Junior Jasen Oden made the switch from the secondary to the offense and played well in spring practices in the backfield. He’s currently considered their starting running back, but Rams head coach Jim McElwain is known for a splitting up the carries, so keep your eyes on redshirt freshman Bryce Peters and Dee Hart.

(credit: CBS)

Rams head coach Jim McElwain (credit: CBS)

Hart is certainly a running back to be excited about, but time will tell how that potential plays out. While he was coaching at Alabama, McElwain recruited Hart while he was in high school.

RELATED: Top 5 CU Buffaloes Players To Watch In The Rocky Mountain Showdown

Hart just transferred in from Alabama, where he hurt his knee two different times and didn’t have the career people thought he would. Now he’s got two years of possible eligibility for the Rams.

4. Cory James, Aaron Davis and Max Morgan – The strength of the Rams defense is clearly the linebackers, and if the Rams aim to compete in the Mountain West Conference they’ll need defenders Aaron Davis, Max Morgan and Cory James leading the charge. All three college veterans are outstanding linebackers who have great tackling skills. Morgan is a Greeley native.

(credit: CBS)

An image from the CSU Rams Practice at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in April. (credit: CBS)

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3. Rashard Higgins – This wide receiver had a huge impact as a freshman. Last year, besides watching Bibbs run there was nothing better than seeing Garrett Grayson get the ball to Rashard Higgins in the open field and watching Higgins run with it. Higgins showed his big play ability, scoring 6 touchdowns and totaling 837 yards on 68 receptions. He’s got great speed and will get better and better.

2. Ty Sambrailo – Left tackle Ty Sambrailo is the lone returner from the Rams’ great offensive line of last season. That line included Weston Richburg, the 2nd round pick of the New York Giants in this year’s NFL Draft. Sambrailo, a senior, is a terrific lineman and team leader who is also considered by most experts to be an excellent NFL prospect. He protects the quarterback’s blind side — a critical position. Much of his job will be to bring along four new starters on the offensive line. The line was one of the key strengths of the team last year and this year it is one of the great unknowns.

Garrett Grayson (credit: CBS)

Garrett Grayson (credit: CBS)

1. Garrett Grayson – Senior Garrett Grayson took his game to a new level last year. He became one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West Conference with a tremendous year. When he went into last season he was the No. 1 QB, but he had to continue to earn it week by week. That’s exactly what he did, to the point where this season he’s the undisputed No. 1 QB. He’s also on many national watch lists that measure who the best quarterbacks in the country are.

He’s a great leader and a very good passer, and he also just attended Peyton Manning’s passing camp.

LINK: CSURams.com

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– Gary Miller is the radio play-by-play voice of the Colorado State Rams men’s football and basketball teams (along with color analyst Brian Roth) and he can currently be seen on CBS4’s airwaves covering sports.