Colorado State coach Jim McElwain arrives in town
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - Colorado State coach Jim McElwain is settling into his new office less than 24 hours after helping Alabama win a national championship.
Fresh off beating LSU 21-0 on Monday night, McElwain, who served as Alabama's offensive coordinator, began plotting a course to restore the luster to the Rams. McElwain said his priorities include recruiting, selecting his staff and getting to know his players.
"The main focus, plain and simple, is on recruiting,'' McElwain said. "Without good players, you are going to get beat.''
He may have to pitch the program to quarterback Pete Thomas, who's contemplating a transfer. A highly touted recruit, Thomas started both his freshman and sophomore seasons at CSU. He injured his left knee against San Diego State on Nov. 12 and missed the final three games.
McElwain said he didn't know how many players he would be able to sign or how many players he needed to replace.
"I am sure there is going to be some attrition, there are some medical things that are out there, so I can't give you an exact number,'' McElwain said. "It won't be one of those deals where I'm into over-signing and have to cut guys loose.''
As for filling out a staff, he's hired only two assistants so far. Dave Baldwin will be the offensive coordinator and holdover Tim Duffie will help oversee recruiting.
"Dave has been a neighbor of mine for four years,'' McElwain said. "He does a heck of a job mowing lawns.''
McElwain has been juggling his job at Alabama with his new responsibilities at CSU since accepting a five-year deal with the Rams last month to replace Steve Fairchild. He's had the full support of Alabama coach Nick Saban, who even set up a makeshift work area for him.
"He set up a CSU satellite office right there in Tuscaloosa,'' McElwain said. "It was manned 24 hours a day by our secretaries, who manned all three and four of my phones.
"I can't say enough for what Nick Saban did to help me in transition.''
McElwain didn't have much time to enjoy winning the national title. He was whisked away to the airport soon after the game, flying back to Fort Collins in the company of new CSU athletic director Jack Graham.
"We got here about 3 a.m. and hit the ground running,'' said McElwain, whose office is cluttered with unpacked boxes and a desk full of messages and congratulatory cards.
Now, reality is beginning to set in. He leaves a highly successful program for a school that has suffered through three consecutive 3-9 seasons.
"I'm still pinching myself,'' McElwain said. "You can't believe how excited I am for this opportunity. I am really excited to get this going.''
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