Colorado State linebacker Kevin Davis is ready to step into the spotlight and he thanks his Fountain-Fort Carson coaches for preparing him.
"(Longtime head) coach (Mitch) Johnson really made me the linebacker I am now by showing me the right way to do things," Davis said. "My linebackers coach (Bryan Ribaudo) showed me how to do it every day."
He has made the most of those lessons. The reserve linebacker emerged with 11 game appearances as a redshirt sophomore last season in the Rams' 3-4 defense; almost matching his 12 appearances in his first two seasons including an injury-shortened 2013 campaign.
New defensive coordinator Tyson Summers uses a 3-4 and the Army kid is confident he will be the starter for the season and home opener against Savannah State on Saturday.
"If I go out and do my job I will be the starter," Davis said. "I am pretty confident about that. I like either (defensive system) because there isn't much difference for me. I can cover (the pass) and defend the run."
Even with the coaching change from Jim McElwain to Mike Bobo, Davis said the transition, especially since linebackers coach Marty English was retained, was a smooth one for him.
"He knows all our strengths and weaknesses already so it isn't really a clean slate or new opportunity," Davis said. "As a team, I think we will be good. I don't worry about the opponents. I just go out and do my job and help the team win however I can, whether it is special teams or starting at linebacker."
He is focused on recording a breakout third season. He may need to.
In addition to losing quarterback Garrett Grayson and leading rusher Dee Hart, the top two tacklers of the past three campaigns were departed linebackers Max Morgan and Aaron Davis.
Despite those losses, the return of preseason Offensive Player of the Year receiver Rashard Higgins helped the Rams be picked third in the Mountain Division preseason poll, only one spot below last year's second-place finish.
They are picked behind Boise State and Utah State and ahead of fourth-place Air Force, Wyoming and New Mexico. San Diego State, which the Rams host on Halloween, is the top pick in the West. The Rams host Boise State on Oct. 10 a week after traveling to Logan, Utah.
Davis lived in the area since eighth grade so he already knew of the Rams-Buffaloes rivalry. But as an Army kid, he is more focused on Air Force, which travels to Fort Collins on Oct. 17, during what promises to be a decisive month.
"(Pac-12 Colorado on Sept. 19) is just another game on our schedule," Davis said. "We are more focused on our league and rivals like Air Force and Wyoming. My family always comes when we play Air Force and they'll be headed to New Mexico (Nov. 21) too."
"Getting a chance to play close to home and then getting to see me play is why I chose CSU. I am glad I did and excited to see what happens for me and the team this season."