ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico Bowl staff members grew understandably impatient Saturday night in a weight room facility outside Dreamstyle Stadium as reporters awaited the arrival of Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo, quarterback Nick Stevens and linebacker Evan Colorito for a postgame news conference.
The Rams were running late after a 31-28 loss to Marshall.
It’s likely Bobo needed an extra moment to reflect with his 7-6 team in the locker room.
“I told them I loved them,” Bobo said. “I told those seniors that I appreciate everything they’ve done for this program. How they represented this program. I did not recruit probably 85 percent of those guys in that room, but they were all in for Colorado State and all in with my vision, what I wanted to do with this program and the culture that we’re trying to set.”
But time to reminisce didn’t last long.
The Rams face an uncertain offseason with a program-defining year ahead. Internal expectations will exceed a seven-win season, but it will come at the hands of a new starting quarterback (Collin Hill) and at least four new assistants (offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, cornerbacks coach and a 10th assistant coach), in addition to an incoming recruiting class CSU hopes to mostly solidify on Wednesday, the start of the early signing period.
Bobo admitted to urgency in making his new hires official, and preferably before the recruiting contact dead period ends after Jan. 11, as coaches across the country once again hit the road before the traditional national signing day on Feb. 7. With a new five-year contract in hand, Bobo understands what’s expected. He spun CSU’s loss in the New Mexico Bowl as a learning experience for a roster that will return young talent at several key positions.
“I’ve got a good feeling of the direction we’re headed,” Bobo said. “Sometimes you say, ‘How can you say that when you’ve lost the game?’ That’s part of it. That’s how you grow, when you fail. If everything was easy all the time, nobody would amount to anything, in my opinion.”
CSU’s 2018 nonconference schedule looks daunting with three consecutive games against power five teams — Sept. 1 vs. Colorado, Sept. 8 vs. Arkansas and Sept. 15 at Florida — to open the season. Then it’s on to Mountain West games that include Air Force and Boise State on the road.
As Bobo addressed the future of the Rams on Saturday night, Colorito nodded his head with each positive note for what’s ahead. Colorito will no longer be on the roster to help, but he’s still confident the best is yet to come for the Rams.
“(Bobo) is a (heck) of a coach,” Colorito said, “and nothing short of that.”
The road ahead
Assessing several important changes that the Colorado State football team faces going into the offseason:.
QB Nick Stevens: CSU’s career passing touchdowns leader (70) wasn’t at his best in the New Mexico Bowl, but he will be remembered as being among the school’s great quarterbacks.
WR Michael Gallup: Few players in CSU history have shocked and awed with incredible performances like Gallup, an All-American who now aims to dominate against NFL defensive backs.
RB Dalyn Dawkins: He averaged 6.2 yards per carry and rushed for 1,399 yards this year as CSU’s Energizer Bunny in the backfield.
LB Evan Colorito: A defensive captain who led the Rams in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (12) this season.
CB Kevin Nutt: The Rams’ top cover corner will be missed as the unit rebuilds with a new cornerbacks coach.
QB Collin Hill: A redshirt year should prove valuable to a 6-foot-5, 210-pound passer with a big arm.
WR Olabisi Johnson: Gallup’s departure will create more opportunity for a proven playmaker with more than 1,200 career receiving yards.
OT Ben Knox: The junior college transfer will be a senior in 2018 and checks in at 6-6 and 325 pounds.
S Jordan Fogal: The NCAA granted Fogal a rare sixth year of eligibility, and he brings veteran leadership to the CSU secondary.
LB Max McDonald: The Rocky Mountain High School product finished the season fourth in team tackles (57) as just a sophomore last year.
2018 signing class
According to 24/7 Sports as of Sunday afternoon, CSU had 18 verbal commitments in its 2018 signing class. With 12 three-star prospects, the class ranks No. 2 in the Mountain West. The Rams’ highest rated recruit is wide receiver Jammal Houston of Marrero, La. He pledged to CSU in July.