Leading the way

Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, who usually lead the team out of the tunnel before games, wasn’t in front last Saturday against Fresno State, and he came clean as to why.

“I have to bust myself,” he said Monday. “I went down, by the way. I went down. You know the fog? Well, there’s something — and this is good there was all that. ”

McElwain isn’t sure what tripped him up, but something did, but with all the fog, nobody saw him take a tumble. That included the players behind him, he said.

“But there were guys leap-frogging over me. The good thing is they weren’t worrying about their coach, they were going to war. The heck with picking him up.

“I don’t know what I ran into, but got to get that figured out, but went down hard. But rallied right back up though, cat-like reflexes. And you know what? Feel good about it. I survived. So your worst nightmare, it happened, it’s over. I’m good with it.”

 

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Lee Clubb leaves Colorado State

Colorado State football coach Jim McElwain announced after Wednesday’s practice that Lee Clubb had left the team to pursue baseball, somewhere down in Texas, the coach believed.

This is probably a good move for Clubb, who wasn’t getting far in his football career with the Rams. He led the team with nine kickoff returns, but two of his teammates have a better average. One of them, true freshman Jasen Oden, is seeing more time. And at Clubb’s primary position, wide receiver, he hasn’t had a catch in five games. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound sophomore had just nine catches for 65 yards as a true freshman in 2011.

Clubb was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 27th round out of high school, and at the time, told his local paper he was planning on going the route of baseball. From the article, the fact he ended up at CSU would leave one to believe the Royals didn’t meet his signing demands.

 

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A few notes to wrap up camp

Jim McElwain has expressed on worries over the injuries on his team, as Momo Thomas and Zach Tiedgen were still riding bikes on Saturday. He does feel Tiedgen’s ankle injury is a little more serious than they thought, but wasn’t ready to rule him out for the opener.

As for Thomas, he said the cornerback will definitely be fine, and despite still sporting a cast on his hand, thinks he may still be able to handle punt return duties. He said Thomas has been fielding the ball well, possibly because he’s focusing more on catching it with the small cast.

Freshman lineman Fred Zerblis was back out in full pads, though he was still limited in what he did with a heavy knee brace. Just him being out there was a good sign to McElwain, who said the Georgia product had been having a great camp.

Another true freshman, Shaq Walker, was out of pads, but only because of a paperwork issue. He has been cleared, but another bit of information needed to be stamped out at the NCAA Clearinghouse.

McElwain said the young man had earned a day off because of how hard he had worked. The defensive lineman is listed at 320 on the roster, but McElwain admitted it was a lie — at the start and now, having shed many pounds.

“We were very nice,” McElwain said. “You know what, I think he’s under (that now).”

 

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McElwain upbeat with camp done

Colorado State football coach Jim McElwain said he wasn’t feeling “comfortable” heading into fall camp. As he closed it after Thursday’s scrimmage, he wasn’t acting like a coach who was full of questions.

Rather, he seemed quite confident with the team he’ll field this year, and was rather witty with the media at the end. He likes his team, said he was proud to be their coach, but still had a one-liner or two at the end.

When asked how he felt his team would play: “Growing up when you had that electric football field, and you put the guys on and they just go around in circles? I just hope we don’t do that.”

Asked about his excitement for his first season as a head coach and the game with Colorado: “I’m ready to get all the boos. What the heck. I’ll take it. That’s alright. I’ve got big shoulders. I’m very excited about it, but there aren’t any apprehensions, because you prepare. Really there should be nothing to be nervous about if you’re prepared. I’m going to jumping up and down with (the players) in the tunnel, just not as high.”

On how much he feels Colorado knows about the offensive system the Rams will run: “I’m sure they’ve had guys watching practice. This isn’t my first rodeo. It’s interesting. They’d probably have to go back to probably what we did at Montana State or Eastern Washington to find out what we are offensively. Maybe a little more Louisville.”

And what might that Eastern Washington film (circa 1985-94) look like: “Well, it’s 16 millimeter.”

He also shored up what his kicking situation looked like, in a serious tone. The awarding of a scholarship to Jared Roberts was a tip, and McElwain did say the sophomore would enter the season handling field goals. However, Hayden Hunt might be kicking off, with Keenan Adams possibly working his way on the travel squad because of his versatility to be the backup placekicker and punter.

 

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Not so bold at the ticket window

The “Bold New Era” Colorado State is selling this year for the football team hasn’t shown up yet at the ticket window.

Last year, CSU sold 4,507 season tickets to football games, the third straight season in which the team went 3-9 on the field. Since then, Jack Graham was hired as the athletic director with fresh ideas, namely the construction of an on-campus stadium. He also brought in Jim McElwain to coach the football team at $1.3 million annually and hired two new basketball coaches.

It all stoked some enthusiasm among the fan base and the boosters. However, the Rams enter the year with only a slight increase (5.2 percent) in football season ticket sales, which now stand at 4,743.

The school is most certainly counting on the product improving to help raise those numbers.

 

 

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Team and playbook coming together

Jim McElwain surprised his football team with a movie following Saturday’s scrimmage, part of the process of bringing the roster together.

It definitely caught the team off guard, judging from the flow of Tweets sent out that night. But the message he’s trying to get across was not missed. Nor are the benefits.

“I think that’s really helped us out as a team come together,” quarterback Garrett Grayson said.  “Last year, I felt like we really didn’t have the chemistry, and it kind of reflected on our record how we did. I feel like doing those things that make’s you really get to know everybody on a team — and that’s what Mac talks about, say hi to everybody every day.”

The team didn’t practice Sunday, but spent more time together, attending church and having brunch as a group before meetings. When the season hits, McElwain noted the team is pretty much together all the time, but he still hopes to mix in a few team activities along the way.

So far, he’s been impressed with how the roster is bonding off the field.

“Obviously, there’s some team building things you try to do,” McElwain said. “I tell you what, I’ve just noticed our guys, in general, they’re hanging around each other, they’re spending time with each other. They’re not just checking into the locker room and running away. Those are little things that I kind of thing are important in building a team.”

As it turns out, it is the thought that counts, not the movie. The team went to see “The Bourne Legacy,” which had the coach a little more in the dark than the normal dimming of the theater lights.

“We went and saw “The Bourne Legacy” thing, which doesn’t help when you haven’t seen the other ones, so I was lost,” McElwain said. “That’s all I can tell you. Somebody said (Leonardo) DiCaprio was in it, but all I saw were a couple of clips of his face on an ID, so he wasn’t even in there. I know nothing about the series.”

Which is clear, since Matt Damon starred in the first movies.

Looking Back — McElwain was happy with Saturday’s scrimmage, and that assessment didn’t change after combing over the tape. What stood out most to him was the effort, a target from the spring that is starting to be learned.

“I was, because for the most part, overall, they were draining their tanks, and that’s what you need to do,” he said. “Don’t save yourself for anything. So they drained their tanks, and yet, like always, it’s the details. I think the thing they’ve got to understand, it doesn’t matter who you are playing, it will have nothing to do with the team you are playing, it’s about what you do. It’s nothing the other team does, it’s what we do. Or don’t do. That’s kind of the mindset.”

Moving Forward — The Rams are progressing through the installation of the schemes at quicker pace early in fall camp, a compliment to the work the team put in over the summer. It’s also beneficial that the coaching staff can add in more and keep things progressing.

Moving off the base, the team is staring to throw in the corresponding movement that goes along with each play, as well as working on the personnel groupings, which he said will be multiple.

“It’s interesting, because you can tell what the guys did on their own over the summer,” McElwain said. “It looked like recall, so that allowed us now to be a little more aggressive, which, as an offensive guy, I kind of like that.”

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Protection improves in first fall scrimmage

Coming out of Saturday’s first scrimmage of the fall, Jim McElwain was quick to point out he felt the team was really effective in the passing game, adding protection was good.

It was supposed to be. In the spring, a lack of depth due to the absence of Joe Caprioglio, Jared Biard and even A.J. Frieler led to a rough estimate of a gazillion sacks in the three spring scrimmages. It may have been rougher on Ty Sambrailo, one of the few tackles left standing, as McElwain said he played 112 snaps in one particular 125-play scrimmage.

But the trio of injured were back, and it made a difference. There were four sacks by the defense Saturday, a far more excusable number. Three of them were posted by the first-team defense (according to the depth chart) — Aaron Davis, John Froland and Zach Tiedgen. The other came from Nolan Peralta.

“I was really happy with the protection, the quarterback’s patience shuffling in the pocket and getting the ball off,” McElwain said. “Those are all good things.”

The Anointed  One – McElwain said part of the fun of the first week in camp is the coaches get a look at the incoming freshman and generally get excited about one of them — The Anointed One — as he called him.

Saturday, he was asked to declare who that player had become, so he did — in his dry-wit way.

“The anointed one,” he started. “I was really excited; I tell you what. I thought the Hansley kid (Joe), he did a great job in flex today. Unbelievable. I mean, he was on every stretch. I was really excited. Got to his spot. He was sharp.”

Hansley was also the only true freshman to catch a pass in the game, three in fact, for 33 yards. The day before, Garrett Grayson said he’s been impressed with the Highlands Ranch product, so maybe he really is the one.

Never welcome — McElwain said there were a “few balls on the ground”, which didn’t make him happy. From the stats that the sports information department released, there were four turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble.

“We had a couple of turnovers. Ball security … we had the ball on the ground twice,” McElwain said. “We got them back, but that’s unacceptable. It is unacceptable to put the ball on the ground, and we will learn from that.”

Backup quarterback Conner Smith threw two picks, Craig Leonard one. McElwain said Smith played well early (7 of 13, 114 yards), but needs to learn keeping the ball is key.

“I thought Conner Smith, he really started the scrimmage really well, yet he’s got to understand taking care of the football,” McElwain said. “There were a couple of interceptions you’ll see — good plays by the defense — but understand the key to playing great quarterback is taking care of the football, and if you can’t do that, you’re going to struggle.”

On the flip side — Turnovers mean the defense did a few things correctly, which McElwain acknowledged.

“I was happy with the way they were stripping, and really got after the ball,” he said. “I thought they gang-tackled pretty well. They ran to the ball.”

Marcus Shaw, Immanuel Mitchell and C.J. Glenn grabbed the interceptions; Mitchell, Curtis Wilson and Shaq Bell forced fumbles, with Aaron Davis recovering one.

Teamwork — One of McElwain’s main pushes is to bring the roster together as one, and on more than one occasion this fall, he’s said he’s seen more displays of team outreach. It extended to Saturday’s scrimmage.

“It’s interesting when you’re out on the field,” McElwain said. “You hear the interaction in the different huddles, and I really heard some positive things. When something not real good happened, it wasn’t a negative. It was, ‘hey, get your head up, let’s go, let’s move forward.’ Overcoming adversity, I think this team needs to understand.”

Surprise — After the scrimmage, McElwain surprised the team with a trip to the movies according to their Tweets.

From @CHRISkingD (Davon Riddick): “Thought we was about to get chewed out and coach surprised us with a movie”

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Black and gold don’t mix in Fort Collins

At Thursday’s practice, something looked oddly out of place.

As normal, the quarterbacks were wearing black jerseys, a sign they were off limits to hit. They were also wearing the gold game pants the team wore last year.

Is it making sense yet?

Make no doubt Colorado State coach Jim McElwain doesn’t want it in his defenses mind they can’t hit somebody wearing that color scheme come Sept. 1.

“You said it, I didn’t,” he quipped.

So Friday, the quarterbacks came out in orange jerseys, so no, that wasn’t Payton Manning on the field, it was still Garrett Grayson sporting the orange with 18 on his chest.

McElwain said it hit him a few days ago, that the team should be using its school colors, not random ones. He understands the red for injured players (a universal mark), but black or anything else doesn’t add up.

“So, here’s the deal. We have two color schemes,” McElwain said. “We have green and gold, and we’ve got alfalfa green and pumpkin orange. So reaching into the past, rather than have red or black or whatever, we’re using school colors.”

The pants the team wears to practice in are actually last year’s game pants. The Rams will sport new uniforms this season, but McElwain felt it didn’t make any sense to get new practice pants when they could save money and use the game-worn ones.

Besides, it gave him a few dollars in the budget to purchase the “pumpkin orange” threads for his quarterbacks.

“He told us the other day, but I thought he was talking he got some new jerseys for the season that were orange like our Aggie Day things,” Grayson said. “So I didn’t know until today, we came into the locker room and they were there.

“I think that’s the reason they changed it up; we looked a little bit too close to their colors.”

Student tickets — The school is urging students to pick up their special-priced tickets for the Colorado game before the rush comes when school starts Aug. 20. Up until Aug. 24, students can purchase tickets for $35 (including a service fee), and can also purchase guest tickets for $65 up until that date. After the 24th, the ticket prices go up.

Colorado State has 10,000 tickets to sell for the student section.

Stripped shirts — It was common to see referee’s out at CSU practices in the spring, but they haven’t been as common this fall. It isn’t because McElwain doesn’t want them around.

“We’ve tried. This is a tough time of year for a lot of guys, and it’s not like we’re forking out a big budget for them,” he said. “It isn’t from choice. We’re trying to get as many officials out as we can who need work and want work, and we’ve circulated that message, and the guys that have really been out to help us, I really appreciate what they’re doing to help us get better.”

It was obvious why he wanted them. The Rams were flagged 82 times in 2011 — 16 more than their foes — many of them falling in the lack-of-discipline department.

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Getting a do-over

Mulligans in golf are good, a second chance to do things right.

In football, they are more of a lesson in how to do things the correct way. Colorado State’s football team had one Thursday morning, the first day of two-a-days. As Jim McElwain put it, the team was sluggish coming out of the gates, so practice began anew.

It could have been because it was the second straight session in full pads, or even the fact it was a quicker turnaround than the players have had. Nonetheless, things need to be done right.

“I think probably that, and I think knowing that you have to come out and go to work everyday … Look, everything’s not going to feel great when you go to work in the real world,” McElwain said. “But you know what? You still have to get up and produce and focus on what your job is. We had some guys that weren’t quite ready to roll, so we gave them a little reminder that we could do practice over again, and we did that.”

The team finished the day with a night practice at Hughes Stadium that began at 7:30. Friday the Rams are back in full pads at 2:30 p.m., with the first scrimmage set for Saturday at the stadium at 2 p.m.

 

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Rams put on the pads

The first day of practice in full pads is one the players generally look forward to, because they get to pop a little bit. And really, isn’t that why they’re out there?

Then again, coaches can look at it in a different way for what they usually expect.

“Let me tell you what you usually see,” Colorado State coach Jim McElwain started. “You usually see guys late for meetings, because they haven’t put all the pads in their pants. They need to strap it up just a little bit more. That’s usually what you see, but these guys were good about making sure they came to meeting dressed and ready to go, and we actually got an early start to practice.”

Under McElwain, there won’t be a lot of live sessions in practice. Most of it, he said, will come during individual drills. The bulk of the hitting will come during scrimmages, the first of which will come Saturday.

Safety Austin Gray prefers that method, saying the players can get a good flow going mentally.

“We kind of did that in the spring, from what I remember, and I liked it,” the sophomore said. “The way we used to do it is throw in a little live here and there, and you kind of get your mentality out and back in, then out and back in again. This way, when we go to scrimmage, we’re going live the whole time, which gets your mindset set and you can go all day.”

The Rams are dealing with a few new injuries, two of them to hands. True freshman Nick Januska has worn a club on his left hand for the past two days, and senior cornerback Momo Thomas will be sporting one tomorrow. The team took X-rays, and he’ll play in a hand cast, leading McElwain to tell him he’ll need to learn to catch punts one-handed. McElwain said it wasn’t a long-term issue, and Thomas should be able to fill that role for the season opener.

The only other injury was to cornerback DeAndre Elliott, who was in a boot after spraining an ankle.

Some other notes from the first day in pads:

Talking about the defensive line, McElwain said the team is definitely looking to add depth. He said in a perfect world, the team would have nine ready to go — two full rotations and a backup at each spot. To that end, true freshman Shaq Walker out of Barnesville, Ga, may have a shot at 6-foot-2, 320 pounds.

“In a depth standpoint, you’re hoping to get some plays out of him,” McElwain said. “He needs to get himself in shape, he needs to learn what it is to be a college football player. I’ll tell you this about Shaq, he’s trying. Right now sometimes, he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.”

McElwain likes what he has in terms of kickoff returners, with the trio of Lee Clubb, Thomas Coffman and Charles Lovett up first to carry the jobs. The coach feels their speed can pay dividends for the team this season, saying “we have a little juice back there.”

“Right now, we’re kind of trying to figure out which guy is going to be which as far as the off or the lead, that kind of thing,” McElwain said. “I think that’s something we can use to our advantage, because of some of the speed we do maybe have back there.

Somebody has to take over the role of place kicker, and the three guys on roster took their first shots at practice Wednesday. Jared Roberts was really the only healthy kicker during the spring, and he looked solid. True freshman Keenan Adams was still trying to come off knee surgery to his plant leg that hampered him, and now walk-on Hayden Hunt is in the mix. McElwain felt all had quick legs, and though they looked good the first day out.

Day five always represents the first day in full pads, and the day after is the first time team’s can go twice a day, always a fun couple of days for the players.

“Of course,” junior tight end Jake Levin said. “Great time.”

 

 

 

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