There’s a new sheriff in town. Ft. Collins will have a new man roaming the sidelines hoping to bring a little bit of coaching know-how to Colorado State. Jim McElwain is the designated savior for the Rams football program and he’s bringing the SEC with him.
As offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Alabama, McElwain enjoyed success of the highest order. From 2008 to 2011, McElwain led the Tide offense to two national championships. During his span, ‘Bama went 47-6 overall, and consistently were among the top SEC offensive units.
Most importantly, McElwain saw first hand how to build a dominant program by sharing the sideline with Nick Saban. There are no illusions that Colorado State can recruit the same athlete that Alabama does, but it is clear Saban has a formula for success, and the new coach is following it.
Alabama is built in the trenches with a strong offensive and defensive line, that can both stop the run and play smash-mouth offense. The old Sonny Lubick Rams had a similar recipe. Where Steve Fairchild failed to gain traction in Ft. Collins, going 3-9 in each of his three seasons, McElwain will succeed.
Talking to beat reporters who are watching the Rams Fall practices, there is a difference in tempo and discipline. One writer told me that McElwain has basically took the Alabama blueprint and inserted it onto Colorado State. The Rams have a solid recruiting backyard in their home state and the coach knows it.
McElwain has made it clear from day one that he wants to win the in-state recruiting war with rival Colorado. This commitment was made not in word but in deed. A Denver Post article highlighted the immediate scholarship offers McElwain made to top prep talent within Colorado.
Out of the current eight verbal commits for the class of 2013, there are three offensive lineman, one defensive end, two tight ends, and a running back. If that doesn’t look like a coach that wants to build from the inside out, I don’t know what does.
Another good sign for Rams faithful is the caliber of athlete that McElwain is reaching with verbal commitments. Defensive end Austin Berk from Grand Junction is given a three star from both Rivals and ESPN. The same can be said for offensive lineman Blake Nowland out of Castle Rock.
Utah product Kapri Bibbs is another Rivals three star. Fairchild preferred to look out of state for his top verbals. McElwain is looking inside first.
Challenges await McElwain on the recruiting trail. There is uncertainty in the Mountain West Conference moving forward, with Boise State and San Diego State set to leave for the Big East next season. While CU has been living in the cellar of the Big 12 and Pac-12 over the past couple years, it remains the top destination for in-state recruits when viable.
Suspensions and injuries haven’t helped CSU either. Defensive stars Nordly Capri, Mike Orakpo, and Coulton Paulhus are no longer on the team because of an off-the-field incident.
Just this week reserve up-and-coming running back Davon Riddick was lost for an undisclosed amount of time due to surgery on his wrist.
While the present is filled with question marks about the upcoming season, the future looks about as certain as a Rocky Mountain sunset.
Coach McElwain has already started the foundation for a better tomorrow. If a proposed new on-campus stadium is approved (which should happen within the first few weeks of school), it would give the new coach a helpful pitch to future Colorado products.
Saturdays are about to get a whole lot friendlier for the green and gold.
James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America
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