LAS VEGAS -- Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo is no the offensive coordinator at Georgia, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to be asked about his time in Athens during the annual Mountain West football media days this past week.
Bobo was asked about the 2008 Sugar Bowl against Hawaii, and he revealed that head coach Mark Richt took the team into the locker room to avoid being distracted while the Hawaii players were doing their pregame haka dance. It must have worked, as the Bulldogs routed the Warriors 41-10.
He was also asked about calling plays on the sideline as opposed to from the coaches’ box. Bobo, who played quarterback at Georgia, is known as a quarterback guru, having groomed David Greene, first-round pick Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray, a fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Bobo will be grooming a new quarterback at Colorado State after last year’s starter, Garrett Grayson, was drafted by the New Orleans Saints. Bobo plans to call plays for the Rams this season, and of course, the head coach will be on the sidelines working with his quarterback. Quarterbacks coach Ronnie Letson will be Bobo’s eye in the sky on game days.
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“I called plays on the field in 2009,” Bobo said. “We had a senior quarterback (Joe Cox) who was struggling a little bit, and I wanted to look him in the eye and feel his vibe. I stayed on the field the next year for Aaron Murray because he was a freshman.”
Cox is now an offensive graduate assistant at Colorado State.
Bobo was also asked about how tough it was to leave running back Nick Chubb. Chubb, a sophomore, rushed for 1,547 yards on 219 carries and scored 14 rushing touchdowns last year. The versatile back also caught 18 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.
Chubb is being talked about as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate for 2015. But the cupboard isn’t bare at Colorado State as Bobo inherited a Heisman candidate in wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who is the top returning receiver in the nation.
Bobo recruited Chubb to Athens. The former Georgia offensive coordinator describes the former Cedartown standout as a man of few words.
“He is one of my favorite players just because of who he is,” Bobo said. “He reminds me a lot of A.J. Green, except he wasn’t as highly recruited as A.J., but he’s such a humble kid. He just comes in and works. He doesn’t really say anything. I always tell him to keep being Nick Chubb, and he’ll text back, ‘I am coach.’ ”
In his first game as a starter after Todd Gurley was suspended for an NCAA infraction, Chubb ran for 143 yards on 38 carries and scored a touchdown to lead the Bulldogs to a 34-0 rout of the Missouri Tigers.
But it was Chubb’s ability to recover from such a heavy workload that really impressed Bobo.
“On Mondays, we get out there in full pads and practice, and he was going full speed,” Bobo said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. The way he works, the way he prepares in the weight room. I’ve seen him lift 315 pounds before a game in high school. When he first got (to Athens), he felt he wasn’t lifting enough, and he wants to constantly work and lift.
“He made Todd Gurley better last year when he showed up on campus with how he worked and how he went about practice every day.”
Bobo also had high praise for senior split end Malcolm Mitchell and the way he has blossomed in Athens. Bobo said Mitchell did not like to read when he first arrived on campus, but now he’s a published author. Bobo also recruited Mitchell to Georgia.
“He was a little bit of an introvert, not outgoing and a chip-on-his-shoulder-type kid,” Bobo said. “It’s amazing to see this kid grow into the person he is now.”
Bobo said Mitchell’s growth came during the times he was injured and realized there was a world outside of football. While he plans to keep injured players involved in football meetings, Bobo also plans to use Mitchell’s experience to help his current charges at Colorado State realize their full potential.
“When he was dealing with injuries, he had the time alone,” Bobo said. “It’s tough when you are injured. You are not a part of the team. You are in that training room, and you see a different person. Many times when a guy gets injured they ask, ‘Why me?’ Malcolm used it as an advantage to grow outside of football. When he came back, you noticed something was different about him. Football is important ,and he loves football, but he realized there is a world outside of football.”
Of course, Bobo still has fond memories of Richt, who hired Bobo as the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach in 2001 before promoting him to offensive coordinator in 2007. Bobo still speaks to his former boss, and he built the Rams’ meeting structure around Richt’s plan.
But the Rams’ practice schedule is built on the model that arrived in Athens with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who developed a practice model based on his experience working under Nick Saban at Alabama.
“When Pruitt came in at Georgia last year, we changed our practice schedule, and I liked it,” Bobo said. “I thought our linemen got better because of the number of reps they had. For the receivers, we had to watch them a little bit at that volume of practice, but there are different things you take from different folks. At the end of the day, I‘ll do what I think will give us the best chance to be successful.”
Pruitt’s influence -- as well as that of Bobo’s former Georgia teammate Will Muschamp -- also will help Bobo relate to his new players at Colorado State. Muschamp is now the defensive coordinator at Auburn.
“When Coach Pruitt is coaching on the field, they see that he is real, and the kids play for him,” Bobo said. “Will Muschamp is very similar. Both of those guys have that passion and desire, and when they talk, the guys know they are genuine. That is how Coach Pruitt got those guys to play last year and play hard. At the end of the day, different schemes can win. It all comes to down to if the kids believe in that coach and what they are doing.”