New CSU Rams coach Jay Norvell makes introduction: “Today is a great day to be a Ram” – The Denver Post
FORT COLLINS — Jay Norvell was overcome with emotion at the podium near the end of his introduction as Colorado State’s next head football coach.
A 58-year-old husband to his wife, Kim, and proud father to his son, Jaden, paused to reflect on his family’s future at a Tuesday news conference. Norvell briefly wiped tears from his eyes during a 15-minute speech before a standing-room-only crowd inside the Iris & Michael Smith Alumni Center.
“Kim is my best friend and my soulmate,” Norvell said. “She’s the most important person in my life. We are very proud to make your home our home. Today is a great day to be a Ram. … It’s been an emotional few days.”
CSU’s interconference poaching of Norvell from Nevada is complete. It happened quickly. CSU athletic director Joe Parker needed only four days to identify a replacement for fired head coach Steve Addazio. Norvell is expected to sign a 5-year, $9-million contract at CSU, according to a term sheet provided by the school.
What can CSU fans and boosters expect from their new leader? Norvell said his coaching philosophy boils down to three main pillars: Respect, 100-percent accountability and hustle.
“The best teams that I’ve been a part of, we haven’t had a lot of rules,” Norvell said. “But the rules that we had, we lived by them and never cheated them.”
Norvell participated in a roundtable conversation Tuesday with reporters. Here are the major takeaways from his first day on the job as CSU head football coach.
What Norvell said: “This team is not far away. They’ve played a lot of close games. But it’s your reaction to when things go bad that really defines who you are. That’s what our kids have got to understand. Getting knocked down is part of the journey. It’s part of the adversity that you go through. … You’ve got to be willing to go through that to get to the prize. … I told the kids the goal and I’m not afraid to say it. We want to play on New Year’s Day. We do. We want to be in the big bowl game. Or why get up every morning? I don’t want to get up and be average.”
Analysis: Norvell views CSU as a sleeping giant in the Group of Five capable of mirroring the success of College Football Playoff-bound Cincinnati. A serious recruiting flex. But calling a 3-9 program “not far away” from contention is hyperbole at best. Norvell also recognizes that program building doesn’t happen overnight.
On the job
What Norvell said: “I was very interested to visit with them and find out what their vision is for this program. I have always had an amazing respect for Colorado State. … The facilities (are) amazing. We played here but I didn’t get a tour and get to see everything this stadium has to offer — the meeting rooms, weight room, and training room are incredible. They did an amazing job putting this together. … This stadium does not have to take a backseat to anybody in football.”
Analysis: It appears two main factors played into Norvell’s decision: Financial resources and facilities. He’s getting a significant raise (up from $619,250 last season) plus an assistant coach salary pool of $3-million at CSU. Canvas Stadium is the crown jewel of the Mountain West despite a mostly apathetic fanbase leaving it empty under the past two head coaches (Mike Bobo and Addazio). But facilities don’t win games. Players do.
On offensive identity
What Norvell said: “Number one is the vertical passing game. I’m an offensive coach. I just believe that you (need) an attack mentality to get the defense to respect you. The only thing they really respect is if you try to run by them. It’s one thing to say that. It’s another thing to have the players that can do it. But you’ve got to practice it and you really have to make it part of your philosophy. We love big receivers and tall guys that can run.”
Analysis: Norvell mastered Air Raid offense concepts over a three-decade run as a college/NFL assistant. Nevada led the Mountain West in average passing yards (365.8) last season. Expect a similar brand of football in Fort Collins with an aggressive downfield passing game that opens up running opportunities. But Norvell must stack up consecutive recruiting classes with players capable of running his system for it to work.
On recruiting strategy
What Norvell said: “We’re on the road now. We’re talking to guys. As I’ve been sitting here, my phone’s buzzing off in my back pocket. Recruits are calling right now. … We already recruit the footprint that will work here at Colorado State. I’m going to also look at some history. … We primarily recruit the state of California — northern California, the central region, and southern California we recruit deeply. … People don’t recruit Los Angeles the right way. … We’ve been recruiting Colorado since our time at Nevada. … We’ll go anywhere there are players.”
Analysis: Norvell is giving CSU fans a dose of reality. Building a championship contender won’t start in the Rocky Mountains. The staff must attract a national pool of recruits mostly overlooked by Power Five programs. CSU is wise to offer early scholarships to the best in-state players from each recruiting cycle. But it should not be the main recruiting focus.
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