With Garrett Grayson playing well down the stretch last season and seemingly entrenched as Colorado State's starting quarterback, Rams coach Jim McElwain isn't going to be fielding questions after each spring practice about the state of the quarterback race.

"Isn't that nice?" McElwain said with a smile Monday.

But that doesn't mean Mc- Elwain isn't still challenging Grayson, a senior-to-be from Vancouver, Wash. He did so again Monday at a news conference on the eve of Tuesday's opening of spring practice.

"Garrett has overcome a lot and has learned a lot," McElwain said. "I think his maturation, the light kind of started to glimmer a bit for him at the end of last season. He had a pretty productive year from a numbers standpoint — nowhere anywhere near what I expect, yet he kind of realizes that too, I think."

McElwain also said he believed Grayson's planned attendance at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana this summer will help too. "That's huge," the coach said. "I've had some guys go in the past. The idea to be among the elite and learn from some guys, how they prepare. That to me is kind of the key at that position, is how you prepare, how you make the game slow down. I think there are some good things that he'll come away from with that. I'm really excited that they took notice."

McElwain said backup QB Conner Smith, still listed on the spring roster, has expressed interest in transferring.

"I'm excited for him and we'll give him as much support as we can in whatever he wants to do," McElwain said.

That leaves redshirt freshman Nick Stevens and sophomore Craig Leonard as the likely backup QBs, at least this spring. Freshman recruit Coleman Key, from Broken Arrow, Okla., will join them in August camp.

McElwain said Stevens "has a bright future. I'm pretty fired up to throw him in there. Seeing how this guy studies and attacks the game from a cerebral standpoint is something that really helps Garrett, like the situation I had (at Alabama) with John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy."

McElwain said of Leonard: "He just keeps kind of hanging in there, if that makes sense, and that's not a derogatory statement. This guy really wants to be the quarterback. I really like the way he practices."