Rough Start For The Jim McElwain Era at Colorado State

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 04: (L-R) Elijah-Blu Smith #22 and Ivory Herd #35 of the Colorado State Rams prepare to face the Colorado Buffaloes during the the Rocky Mountain Showdown at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 4 2010 in Denver Colorado. Colorado was awarded the Centenial Trophy after they defeated Colorado State 24-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

After three consecutive seasons with a record of 3-9 under Coach Fairchild, Colorado State decided to make a change last winter. They first fired their athletic director to hire Jack Graham who had no experience working in collegiate athletics. Graham's first duty as AD was to hire Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain as his new head football coach.

McElwain was hired in December and then went back to Alabama to prepare the Crimson Tide for the National Championship game which they won. Since that win there has been a lot of great news coming out of Fort Collins. Not saying that McElwain is doing a poor job, just that the news of the football program has gone from bad to awful over the last several weeks.

After looking over his roster McElwain discovered that he basically did not have enough linemen available to properly run practices. So he did an open call to any big guys on campus that had decent grades and could strap on a helmet to join the team.

Once the spring practice began the new coach finally had his first look at the school's facilities and how his team can utilize them. Turns out at the $13M indoor practice facility that is only 70 yards long is almost useless and McElwain isn't sure if they can ever use it again. The Rams haven't really been forced into that situation since practices in December haven't been needed since 2008.

"I've got to really evaluate," McElwain said after the 1-hour, 50-minute session in the 2 1/2-year-old facility, which cost $13 million to build. "And to be productive and successful, it doesn't do us any good to practice in here."

Here are some more quotes on the indoor practice facility:

"Obviously, it's disappointing that it's so small that you're not able to actually get a full day's work out of it. That's why we had to condition at the end, because we weren't able to actually run a practice."

"We wanted to, as a staff, get an idea of our limitations and really what it showed is we aren't really going to be able to use this much," McElwain said.

So the $13M facility that is less then three years old may never be used by the football. Meanwhile Jack Graham is trying to build community support for an on campus stadium. It may hard to gain the trust and support from taxpayers if the current projects aren't being used fully.

Well maybe things would get better one the scrimmages started. In the first scrimmage of the spring the Rams had 131 plays and the quarterbacks were sacked 27 times. That is one sack for every 4.8 plays. If you are wearing your Green and Gold glasses then you can make the case that defense for the Rams is just dominant. That may be the case but they will probably be worn out because the offensive line can't block the pass rush to save their life. Nordly Capri had four sacks and Mike Orakpo had seven tackles to lead the defense.

After going through several practices the next revelation that McElwain had was that there weren't enough special team players on the roster. He then had another open house for anyone interested in being a punter, kicker or long snapper. You know how Dave Christensen handled the need at those postions? He filled them with scholarship athletes instead of hoping some kid with a power leg walks in off the street.

The worst situatuon for the Rams just happened this weekend. On Friday night four Colorado State freshmen were allegedly beaten by members of the football team. McElwain has since suspended: Nordly Capri, Mike Orakpo and Colton Paulhaus who were all reported to be involved in the incident. Orakpo and Capri were also involved another incident over St. Patricks Day where a teammate was stabbed with a knife. Capri led the Mountain West with 10 sacks last season and Orakpo was third on the team in tackles. If these players are gone then it willl make a huge dent in the Ram defense.

The bigger impact here is how will this impact the image of the football program. McElwain didn't recruit any of these athletes but the way he handles the situation will certainly give us some insight into what type of philosiphy he has towards athletes behavior.

In the statement McElwain said: "I understand people want me to remove them from the team immediately. But until the investigation concludes and due process takes its course, suspending them indefinitely is the strongest action I can take."

There is plenty to be done on this case before anything is filed. But certainly there has been a downward spiral in the news coming out of Fort Collins. It may hard for McElwain to perform the same kind of quick turnaround that the Wyoming experienced under Coach Christensen.

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