C.J.’s Endpoints: On team mentality, player transfers, negativity, and more

C.J. Onyechi - C.J.'s Endpoints - RamNation.comEach week Colorado State defensive end C.J. Onyechi will share his viewpoints on the team’s performance, as well as the upcoming week.  Learn more here on how to contribute to RamNation’s NIL fund for C.J. and future student athlete partners.

You’ve mentioned the 24-hour rule. Coach Norvell gives players 24 hours to celebrate a win or be dejected about a loss. But, after a third-straight loss, is it taking a toll on the team’s psyche at all? We’ve seen with teams over the years as losses mount, the team loses confidence, and when the first thing goes wrong in a game the collective thought seemingly among fans and players is, “Here we go again.” How are you feeling after the 0-3 start and what’s the sense you’ve got of your teammates’ psyche right now? 

We knew going into this season that our first three games were going to test our team. We had set a goal to win every quarter of the season if you split the season into 4 individual seasons, which means we had to win 2 out of every 3 games. Of course, we didn’t reach that goal for the first quarter, but moving forward as we play teams we are more familiar with and get the well needed rest from a bye week, I believe our team will have a much stronger mindset heading into our next three game stretch. 

You personally had your third straight solid game – 3 tackles for a loss (-10 total yards), including 2 sacks, AND a forced fumble. What is working for you personally right now? And any areas you particularly want to improve in? 

Well, personally I can say I have built a very strong bond and trust with my defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. They trust my skillset and put me in positions to make plays. The first two games, I played fairly well, but I left some plays out there on the field. I felt that was because I didn’t take the full advantage of  my preparation like with watching film, studying personnel and their tendencies, etc. This past week, I took the initiative in really studying film and seeing where my skillset would be an advantage. By game day I felt way more confident and the results showed! 

The defense had a rough first half, giving up 21 points in the first quarter and 28 total for the half. But the D had a pretty dominant second half, outside of the first drive of the 3Q (7 plays, 70 yards for a FG) and a late TD drive in the game’s final minutes. In six second-half Washington State drives, you forced two punts, a turnover on downs, and an interception. What went wrong in the first half and how did the defense turn it around in the second half? What adjustments were made? 

In these last three games, its clear that we haven’t been the best first half team. I believe that’s less of a schematic issue and more of a mindset issue. We, as a defense, have to be able to make the offense ‘feel us’ early. If we set that tone early, it’s some teams that won’t be able to recover. Defense ended up turning it around by making some adjustments in the back end with coverage disguises and mixing up coverages to confuse their quarterback and allowed for our pass rush to work efficiently.   

We’ve seen a few players depart the team in the last week. Any thoughts on why we’ve seen this from a player’s perspective? 

As a transfer, I really don’t speak on other players’ decisions to leave a program. If a player felt he had a reason to leave, then I respect it. I felt like I had to leave my previous team, and that ultimately was one of my greatest decisions, even though it also was a huge risk. I believe all the players consider Coach Norvell to be a great coach and know he will win at CSU, so the departing of players is more on a personal level than on a team level. We, as a team, are focusing on the people that want to be here and want to win. 

Like anywhere, public negativity (media, fans, rivals, etc.) gets worse when a team loses. Coach Norvell preaches tuning out the negativity. Are you able to do that, or is impossible because we all live with the phone in our hand where social media is just a click away? How does that affect you as a student athlete? 

Its not as hard for me because I’m more focused on how our team can get better. I try to not follow the people who are negative on social media anyway, so it makes it easier. The worst thing we could do right now is look to fans who aren’t with us practicing, or even at the games to tell us what we are doing wrong. We have to come together as a brotherhood and work and get better each day.  

This Saturday you’re playing a team from the FCS level. They 2-0 this season and ranked No. 7 in the FCS and have been a regular in the FCS playoffs in recent years. What can you tell us about them and what does CSU need to do to perform well in this game and come away with a win?  

Of course, the first thing we can’t do is take this team lightly. For one, they are a very competitive team on the FCS level and are accustomed to winning. We have seen in the past and even this season what can happen if we take a team too lightly. Also, since we’ve had a rough start to our season, we can’t feel entitled to anything. We still need to prepare harder than ever to get our first W. 

How do you like the Ag Day “pumpkin orange/alfalfa green” unis? Are you looking forward to the Orange Out? 

These uniforms are my favorite uniforms in my opinion. Ever since I committed here, I’ve been excited to try those uniforms on. I’m excited to join in on this Ag Day tradition and am expecting a big fan turnout!  

About our student athlete

Christian “C.J.” Onyechi is a fifth-year senior from New Jersey who starts at defensive end for the Rams. He is studying Communication & Technology (in the in the Journalism and Media Communications department). You can read all of his “C.J.’s Endpoints” features here

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  1. Really enjoy hearing CJ’s perspective and I admire his positivity. This isn’t an easy season, but it’s still very cool to get a chance to hear it from a guy on the inside. Thanks for doing these and excited to learn more about him and the team, especially when we can figure out how to get a win.

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