LAS VEGAS -- When fans think about hard-nosed, fast-paced football, Colorado State does not typically come to mind.
But new Rams head coach Mike Bobo, who is from Thomasville, played collegiately at Georgia and coached at Georgia for the past 14 years, plans to take the style of play synonymous with the SEC to the Mountain West.
“I grew up there, and I’ve spent my 41 years in the South,” Bobo told the assembled media members Wednesday during the Mountain West football media days. “Although I’ve moved out west to Colorado, I still have to be who I am. I have to be myself. Recruiting and coaching is about building relationships one a time, and I have to build them that way and be who I am.
“I have more connections in the South, as far as recruiting goes, and we’ll use those. I cannot be somebody I’m not. I’m a Southern boy in Fort Collins, and that is who I’ll be. We’ll play our brand of football, and at the end of the day -- whether it works, which I believe it will, or it doesn’t -- I can put my head on my pillow at night and have peace.”
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Success is something Bobo is certainly familiar with.
As a player at Georgia from 1994-97, Bobo threw for 6,334 yards, which ranks him third on Georgia’s all-time list for quarterbacks.
As an assistant coach and offensive coordinator, Bobo helped lead the Bulldogs to two SEC titles, five SEC Eastern Division titles and eight bowl victories. He also coached several talented quarterbacks at Georgia -- Aaron Murray, Matthew Stafford and David Greene. And he worked with first-round NFL draft choices Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno, wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Todd Gurley,
The Rams have enjoyed some recent success, winning 18 games the past two seasons behind former head coach Jim McElwain, who is now the head coach at Florida. The Rams also have the only returning Biletnikoff Award finalist in Rashard Higgins. The junior receiver led the nation in receiving yards (1,750), yards per game (145.8) and receiving touchdowns (17).
The program will break ground on a new football stadium in September. A chance to be successful and a commitment to the athletics program are just a few of the reasons Bobo decided to move to Fort Collins.
“First, it’s a great place to raise my family,” Bobo said. “I felt comfortable doing that, and it had to be a priority, whether I moved here or three hours from Athens. There has been a lot of success and positive momentum at Colorado State now. They’ve been to two straight bowl games. The program is on the verge of doing something special, and I want to be a part of that. I also felt comfortable with the administration and the direction it is going as far as supporting the football team.”
Bobo’s offensive philosophy doesn’t seem to be different from when he was at Georgia. He wants his offense to move fast, and he has a goal of increasing the number of plays his offense runs by about 10 per game, according to Lindy’s Sports Mountain West 2015 Preview.
While the Rams have a highly touted wide receiver in Higgins, Bobo will have to find a new quarterback. Garrett Grayson threw for 4,006 yards last season and was drafted by the New Orleans Saints. This season, sophomore Nick Stevens or freshman Coleman Key is projected to start under center.
“We had an open competition this spring,” Bobo said. “We might could have named a starter after three practices, but I didn’t think that was fair. I also wanted to see the growth when the guys digest new terminology from spring ball to fall camp. There is a big learning curve.
“I’d like to have a starter named by the time the second scrimmage is over. But, if it’s not clear-cut or my gut is not telling me one or the other, we might go further into the season. Whoever it is, he cannot be Garrett Grayson. He has to be himself, and we have to put him in a position to be successful.”
On defense, Bobo wants his team to play violent. The Rams will run a base 4-3 defense.
“He told me I was physical, but he wanted me to be even more physical,” fourth-year starting strong safety Trent Matthews said. “To tell me, that is telling me that he wants me to never be satisfied and always try to go for more and push your body further than you thought it could go.
“Our practices are up-tempo, 100 percent. That will help us in the season a lot. He is preparing us for the fourth quarter when everybody is drained and both teams are tired. He wants a violent practice. He instilled a program in our head that violence is the key and being physical is the mentality.”
Bobo also said the differences between being a head coach and an assistant are numerous. Assistant coaches only have to worry about football and contacting the recruits he has been assigned. A head coach has to deal with all the off-the-field issues, as well as focus on his main job -- winning.
But on game days, Bobo will resume one of his previous offensive coordinator duties -- calling plays.
“(Offensive coordinator Will) Friend said he wasn’t coming unless I called the plays, and I needed him to come,” Bobo said. “There is a lot that comes across my desk, and I’m having to step out of meetings to deal with those issues. I have to do a good job of managing my time so the staff is not wasting their time if I’m not in the meetings. I got a good picture of that from 01-06 when (Georgia head coach Mark) Richt was the offensive coordinator and head coach. I have to make sure every day is structured the right way.”