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New Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain has had a number of influences throughout his career: The longtime assistant coach has 25 years of experience with six different college programs and one NFL franchise. As Kelly Lyell of The (Ft. Collins) Coloradoan reports, a large chunk of that experience comes from McElwain's previous job as offensive coordinator at Alabama:
[I]t's no surprise that the new CSU coach is borrowing heavily from what he learned there while working for Nick Saban.
McElwain insists that his players keep their lockers neat and orderly, wear the same color socks and keep their jerseys tucked in during practices and look out for each other as if they were brothers, both on and off the field. He created a 16-class mental conditioning program with a Colorado State University doctoral candidate that is modeled after the ones IMG runs at Alabama and a handful of other powerhouse college football programs.
McElwain is also stocking practices with additional coaches and staff, closing practice to the press and public, and prohibiting players and assistant coaches from talking to the media -- all rules adopted from Saban.
The first-time head coach says the Colorado State offense will more closely resemble the pro-style system of his days with legendary Eastern Washington head coach Dick Zornes, but his defense will be pure Saban: a 3-4 formation and heavy on stunts and blitzes.
For their part, the players are buying in:
"Every time he speaks, you just feel it in your soul," Marquise Law said. "You just want to go to war for him. Every time I hear Coach Mac speak, it's like I'm hearing him for the first time."
"Alabama's a hell of a football team, but we're not them, and they're not us. I think he's really embraced us. He's our head guy, and all of us can't wait to follow him onto the field."
Colorado State opens its 2012 season next Saturday against Colorado in Denver.
The Colorado State Rams have shifted to a brand new 3-4 defense this season, owing to their plethora of solid linebackers and fairly small defensive line. Suddenly, though, the Rams will find themselves with the two biggest linemen in the Mountain West, as they picked up former Arizona Western Junior College man Calvin Tonga, who weighs 330 pounds.
"Calvin Tonga was here at practice," McElwain said. "He should be in pads tomorrow, just waiting on some paperwork to clear him on some things. He is in school, so everything is good there. He is part of the roster."
McElwain said he wasn't going to rush the 6-foot-3, 330-pound lineman onto the field but he is happy to have him.
Colorado State has one other lineman over 320 pounds, Shaq Walker. Tonga will add depth to the defensive line as they work in the new 3-4 style in 2012.
The other big news out of the camp day on Tuesday was running back Chris Nwoke practicing at full speed.
One of the first moves that was made with the Colorado State football team when Jim McElwain joined the Rams was to move the defense to a 3-4 system, rare for college teams but perfect for the players that were available to CSU going into 2012. With tons of solid linebackers but small defensive lineman, it looks like it might be a good fit for a defense that was bordering on terrible in 2011.
There are several adjustments being made of course, with McElwain putting a lot of care into training up the defensive line, a line that was ineffective for most of last season at making their blocks and keeping running attacks from gutting them:
He also said the group will do things a lot differently than what he spied on film, and that will be a major adjustment for them.
"I think so. I guess more so they're not used to the discipline to detail and being responsible for gaps," McElwain said. "The thing I noted last year is they just ran up field. It was almost like they didn't care. That's not the role of a D-lineman."
We'll see when the NCAA season finally begins how well the 3-4 experiment works out for the Rams, seeking their first good season in quite a while.
Colorado State will be working out of a 3-4 defense, and they're hoping that senior linebacker Davis Burl can be a big name player in it. Burl has moved around a fair amount since he joined the Rams, putting together starts at just about every defensive position -- he has been solidified as a linebacker in his senior year.
His statistics last season as a defensive end were impressive enough, putting together 14 tackles and forcing two fumbles. Now that he's at linebacker, he'll get to use his speed as much more of an asset. His speed is one of the top things he has going for him, and it should help him make an impact on the defensive unit:
"I believe it definitely fits my personality and my physical abilities to run around," Burl said. "I don't really have to mess with too many linemen with my little size, so that's not too bad.
"I get to use my speed a lot more than at defensive end. I get to run around, get to cover one-on-one a little bit. I definitely get to open up my speed."
Playing in a 3-4, the Rams will need guys who can rush the passer efficiently at the OLB position -- in that regard, Burl may be one of the most important guys in the squad going into 2012, at least on the defensive side of the ball.
With junior running back Chris Nwoke not participating in Colorado State's scrimmage, Rams head coach Jim McElwain was able to get plenty of looks at Colorado State's backup running backs.
Brown ran for 54 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and also caught three passes for 38 yards, according to statistics provided by the school's sports information office.
"He became the emergency tailback," McElwain said. "And you know what? I'm kind of excited to see the film, because it looked like he made some pretty good cuts, and he does know how to run behind his pads."
Be sure to check back at SB Nation Denver for the latest on Colorado State.
When news that Chris Nwoke injured his ankle began to spread, everyone in Fort Collins probably panicked, but it looks like the running back isn't in too bad of shape. Nwoke has a sprained ankle and his foot is in a walking boot, but despite missing practice on Thursday and Friday, he should see some carries in Saturday's scrimmage.
"It's purely precautionary," head coach Jim McElwain said. "Obviously, we know what Chris is about and what he can do. Right now it's more of a precautionary thing with an ankle sprain. It isn't anything more or less than that."
The Rams are starting to run low on running backs after Dorian Brown left the team and Davon Riddick broke his wrist. What was once a position of depth doesn't look so good anymore. McElwain had just three running backs at his disposal for practice on Thursday so besides the fact that Nwoke is the Rams' best ball carrier, they need to get him back just for the numbers.
Nwoke finished third in the Mountain West with 94.2 rushing yards per game last year, totaling 1,130 yards on 5.7 yards per carry. The 6'0'', 230 lbs. junior is a preseason All-Mountain West selection.
After playing defensive back for most of his collegiate career, Dominique Vinson is hoping to use his speed to his and the Rams' advantage this season as he converts to wide receiver.
The 6-foot, 175-pound senior told The Coloradoan he will use his instincts as a defensive back to read defenses from the other side of the ball.
"I’ll look at the ‘D’ when I line up, and I can sort of tell what they’re in," Vinson said after a recent practice. "So, as I’m running down the field, I don’t have to keep looking at how they’re going to drop, because I know ahead of time. … It’s like I know where they’re going, so I know the route I’m running for sure."
Vinson's first attempt at converting to offense was during last year's fall camp, but then-coach Steve Fairchild moved him back to DB right before the season opener. New coach Jim McElwain is giving Vinson another shot at the skill position. McElwain's offensive knowledge helped Alabama to two national titles in three years, which certainly bodes well for Vinson's transition.
Colorado State wide receiver Thomas Coffman will miss the team's season opener. Coffman had emergency abdominal surgery on Wednesday, and will be out of action for two to three weeks, according to the Coloradoan.
Coffman alerted trainers to severe abdominal pain on Tuesday. He was rushed to the hospital shortly thereafter. Specifics of the surgery were not revealed at this time.
The Rams open the season on Sep. 1 with a game against the University of Colorado in Denver.
The loss of Coffman is a temporary setback for the team. The sophomore was penciled in as a starter this season. Measuring 5'10, 180 pounds, Coffman played in all 12 games with the Rams last season, starting three of them. He was being counted on as the team's top kick returner as well.
Head coach Jim McElwain took the news in stride.
"You have to plan without him. I look it not as a deterrent, but actually it allows somebody to step up, grab the flag, take his reps on offense as well as in the return game, and it gives somebody an opportunity to step up and be a player."
Senior Colorado State quarterback M.J. McPeek has yet to see any on-field action for the Rams, but the backup quarterback is getting high praise from new coach Jim McElwain, reports Kelly Lyell of the Coloradoan . Should starting sophomore quarterback Garrett Grayson be sidelined with an injury, it appears McElwain would have no trouble turning to McPeek.
"He brings maturity," McElwain said. "He has an understanding of how to study and how to work, and he’s not selfish. He’s helping everybody. He’s helping the wideouts get lined up, he’s helping Grayson and Conner (Smith, a redshirt freshman QB) with their reads and their signals. It just tells me a lot about who he is, what’s his character, and what he’s all about. So, I’m really proud of him."
Appearing to move up to second string on the depth chart has been a long time coming for the the 6-foot-4, 236-pound Aurora, Colo., native. Last season when starter Pete Thomas went down, then-coach Steve Fairchild skipped McPeek in favor of Grayson, who had his redshirt pulled as a result. It's still not McPeek's team to captain, but should growing pains or injuries befall Grayson, having a vote of confidence from McElwain could be just the break McPeek has needed.
For the latest on Colorado State, be sure to check out SB Nation Denver.
The Colorado St. Rams are still getting ready for their 2012 season, but they have received some unwelcome bad news before their first game kicks off. Running back Davon Riddick, who was poised to have a breakout season, broke his wrist during last Saturday's scrimmage and will need to have surgery to repair it.
Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post reports that head coach Jim McElwain doesn't know how much time Riddick will miss as a result of the injury. The Rams coach is understandably disappointed.
"He kind of fell on his wrist and we didn't think much about it, but the x-ray shows he'll probably need surgery," McElwain said. "He was really having a great camp. I feel real bad about that."
Riddick will undergo surgery on Wednesday. Chris Nwoke is still set to be the starting running back. With Riddick out, Donnell Alexander, Tommey Morris and Mark Woodbury will compete for time at the backup position.
While the Colorado State defense allowed an average of 31.2 points a game in the 2011 season and ranked No. 91 among FBS teams, it wasn't the fault of the pass defense. With just 179.6 passing yards allowed per game, the Rams ranked No. 13 in pass defense. It was a strength for CSU in 2011 and is expected to be a strength again during the 2012 season.
Speaking to the Coloradoan on Monday, new head coach Jim McElwain echoed that sentiment:
"I'm really proud of what they're doing that way, because as long as everybody's on the same page, you've got a chance not to leave somebody there screaming wide open, so I think that's No. 1. And I really believe they're playing physical, and you know I like that. We've got some safeties that can fill it, and that's a good deal."
With Momo Thomas and Austin Gray both returning to start in the secondary for Colorado State, the team will have some experience and some fresh young talent in pass defense.
The wide receiving corps for the 2012 Colorado State Rams football team doesn't boast a strong resume for impactful production on Saturdays, but Marquise Law and Charles Lovett are hard at work to make sure the big plays happen in the passing game more often this season. The two talented Florida natives recently spoke about their connection from on and off the field with Matt Stevens of the Coloradoan, and it all links back to their high school careers in Florida, according to Lovett:
"Me and ‘Quise, we have a thing called ‘swag,' you know? We have to represent Florida because we have a reputation of just having talent," said Lovett, who's from Tampa. "We came up here to Colorado State, 29 hours from home, and need to show what we can do on the field. It's been going well so far.
"[Law] gels off me; I gel off him. I teach him; he teaches me. We feed each other."
The competition at the WR spot should be wide-open in 2012, as the leading receiver to return (Lou Greenwood) only produced 26 catches for 396 yards last season. Sure, that trumps the five catches and 25 yard for Lovett and three receptions for nine yards from Law, but perhaps the two Florida natives will turn up their intensity during the upcoming season and rise to the occasion.
The Colorado State Rams have officially added some depth to their defensive corps, as coach Jim McElwain announced the addition of four players to the roster on Thursday: defensive lineman Lanston Tanyi and Eli Edwards, defensive back Jasen Oden and wide receiver Jordan White.
It had previously been reported that Tanyi was transferring from Appalachian State to Colorado State for his graduate studies, but this announcement seems to confirm that he'll be joining the Rams for his final season of eligibility.
In addition to Tanyi, the Rams add Edwards out of Cerritos College (Calif.) to bolster their defensive line. Edwards has two remaining seasons of eligibility after his sophomore season ended prematurely due to a torn ACL.
Oden is a freshman out of North Carolina Tech Christian Academy in Charlotte, while White is a freshman wideout out of California that was also recruited by the likes of UCLA, San Diego State and Washington. Both should help in the passing game, albeit on different sides of the ball.
The Colorado St. Rams lack depth on the defensive line and may even play linebacker Shaquil Barrett there, but head coach Jim McElwain has reportedly picked former Appalachian St. Mountaineers defensive end Lanston Tanyi, according to Josh Buchanan. Tanyi has reportedly graduated already and will transfer to Colorado State under the NCAA's graduate studies rules, allowing him one more year of eligibility and to play immediately. His paperwork still needs to be completed, however.
Tanyi missed the 2010 season with a foot injury, redshirted and then didn't play during the 2011 season due to an unspecified university issue.
If this report holds true, the Rams have a bit more depth, but how fast will he be able to fit into the defensive scheme?
Don't be surprised this season if Colorado St. Rams junior linebacker Shaquil Barrett puts a hand down on the defensive line, says first-year head coach Jim McElwain (via CSURams.com). Because the team lost Nordly Capi and others during the offseason, the Rams lack depth on the defensive line. And those players currently on the defensive line are mostly just freshmen and sophomores.
Barrett, 6 feet 2 and 250 pounds, had 99 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2011. McElwain will certainly pay close attention to how he works there at camp, but the head coach is also looking for the freshmen to step up. In particular, 320-pound defensive tackle Shaq Walker is one of those players McElwain wants to step up. However, it doesn't sound like it's close to happening yet (via CSURams.com):
"You’re hoping you’ll get some plays out of him," McElwain said. "He has to work himself in shape. He has to learn what it is to be a college football player. I’ll tell you this about Shaq, he is trying."
That's not encouraging, but it's not admitting defeat. There is plenty of time for Walker to play his way into the rotation.
Running back Dorian Brown has left the Colorado State Rams football program before ever playing a game with the team due to poor grades, as his mother told Kelly Lyell of Coloradoan.com. The Loveland, Co., native was hoping to improve his grade-point average through summer classes, but he apparently doesn't believe he's done enough to maintain his eligibility.
The Rams had tentatively been planning for a season without Brown given the uncertainty regarding his eligibility, but now we know that CSU will have to go in a new direction. Brown never appeared in a live game with the Rams, as he redshirted his freshman season after tearing his ACL as a high school senior in 2010.
Brown once earned accolades as an elite high school player in Colorado, compiling 1,975 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns as a high school junior. Those performances earned him opportunities at CSU, but injuries and academic issues have prevented him from ever taking advantage.
The Colorado State Rams were on the field for Day 4 of fall practice on Tuesday, and head coach Jim McElwain praised QB Garrett Grayson, who has begun to assume the role of team leader.
The new 3-4 defense is getting some early positive reviews from the Colorado St. Rams players and coaches. According to senior LB James Skelton, the new scheme allows for the linebacking crew to play to their strengths:
Skelton on 3-4 scheme: We've got 1 more linebacker on the field. We'll be flying around more. I'm confident in myself & the guys beside me.— CSU Rams Football (@CSUFootball) August 6, 2012
And co-defensive coordinator Marty English says the 3-4 will also fit better with the recruiting outlay of the Colorado area:
English: We think in the 3-4, where we're at, we have the ability to recruit more linebacker kids. The 3-4 fits our personnel.— CSU Rams Football (@CSUFootball) August 6, 2012
A 3-4 defense consists of three down lineman and four linebackers -- though many outside linebackers are actually just fast defensive ends who start from a standing position. The unique defensive style returned to the sport's forefront in the early 2000s when NFL teams like the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers began to employ it with great success.
The Colorado St. Rams started fall camp on Saturday, but several players were absent for the first half of practice due to attending a funeral. They went through the same practice later in the day, but on Sunday the entire team was finally together to complete its first practice.
New head coach Jim McElwain likes how quickly they are gelling together (via CSURams.com):
"Some of our young guys were kind of, ‘which way did they go?,’" McElwain said. "I noticed for the first time our older guys (saying), ‘hey you got to get over here.’ That is a sign that things are good. They’re being accountable for each other and they’re helping each other. I was happy with that."
McElwain is in his first year as the Rams' head coach, making it critical that not only his players work well together but that he and his players all work in rhythm. Early on, that seems to be happening.
With camp just entering its third day, there isn't much big news to be found yet. CSURams.com does report that freshman defensive lineman Mitch Frentescu is dealing with plantar fasciitis and get to wear the no-contact red jersey.
The Jim McElwain era at Colorado State continues with the beginning of fall camp. On Saturday, the players took to the practice fields to get ready for their Sept. 1 opener against the Colorado Buffaloes. McElwain was pleased with the way the players worked the huddle (via CSURams.com):
"That is what the most impressive thing was," McElwain said. "They attacked their summer workout and summer group work the way it was supposed to be done, because they were really in and out (of the huddle) and I was really proud of that."
But there are still plenty of big questions that McElwain needs answered over the next few weeks. How quickly does a quarterback, likely Garrett Grayson, emerge to lead this team? How will the defense deal with losing several players to dismissal?
McElwain has a tall order ahead of him this fall. It all starts now.
Colorado State Rams head football coach Jim McElwain knows that his big plans need to start with small points of emphasis.
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