Colorado State announces Fairchild's second signing class
Feb. 4, 2009
FORT COLLINS, Colo.Steve Fairchild this afternoon is announcing his second recruiting class as Colorado State head coach...The class includes 20 true freshmen and two junior-college players...Several players have already enrolled and will begin practicing with the Rams in March.
A step in the right direction
The Rams are building strong momentum and kinetic energy coming out of Steve Fairchild's first season as head coach. The team finished the most successful campaign in school history for a squad with a first-year coach, and ended with a resounding exclamation point -- CSU's first bowl win since `01 and first winning season since `03.
Now, the Rams have taken another strong step forward with what many are already calling a solid 2009 recruiting class.
"We don't have this program back to where it was in the 1990s and earlier this decade," Fairchild said, "but with our season last year and this recruiting class, we've taken strong steps in the right direction. Now, we want to take the next step."
A collective effort
Since the day he was hired, Fairchild has maintained that Colorado State football can be as good as it wants it to be. And in the past year, including the effort the Rams put in with this recruiting class, he's seen a lot of signs that CSU football wants to be really, really good.
"If we resource this thing the right way," he said, "and we have the best people in place on our staff and put in an honest day's work, which I believe we have, I see very clearly that we're firmly on the best path. If we get the whole CSU nation behind us, we can be as good as anyone in the United States."
Fairchild also said last year that if CSU gets all of its people pulling in the same direction, the program can do amazing things.
"Just like last year's recruiting class," he said, "we again got tremendous help from the campus community, especially our faculty and athletic administrative staff. It was a collective effort.
"When most of these kids make such a monumental decision like this, fortunately they don't do it alone. They do it with their families. And, families - including moms and dads - usually have a lot of interest in what we offer academically and how we're going to take care of their kids, especially if they're far from home. I feel very good about what our campus community has been able to promise them these last two years."
"If a young kid comes in here and proves he can help us win, he's playing immediately," Fairchild said. "That message was clear when we covered the country and we won't change that philosophy at Colorado State. If a guy can help us win, he's playing; he's not going to redshirt."
CSU's program is built around competition. Competition makes the team better, in the opinion of the coaching staff. Many observers and players alike noted that CSU's level of practice competition -- and competition in the offseason program -- was very intense.
Rams expect to compete with top programs
At Colorado State, the coaching staff feels like its product in Fort Collins, its city, the quality of life, the great weather, the school, the people and the history and tradition, should allow the Rams to appeal to prospects everywhere.
The program in 2009 was extremely productive in Texas and Florida, and not in Colorado. Fairchild knows that combination might not always be the case.
"I promise you," Fairchild said, "we will compete in recruiting with the top teams in the country. We'll go toe to toe with the Pac-10, the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC teams. We'll take a backseat to no one. I think that was evident with the All-American punter we signed. He had offers from Georgia and Florida, among other places. We're not going to get everyone we want, and we don't expect to get everyone, but we're surely going to be a competitor with the top talent in the nation."
Mountain West success assists in recruiting
The Mountain West's consistently strong showing in the national polls and BCS certainly allows the Rams to have confidence in recruiting.
"The Mountain West and Colorado State have a national appeal," Fairchild said. "Recruits are well aware of who we are and what we've done. As coaches, we've reinforced to recruits that the brand of football we play in this conference is of the highest quality. Believe me, it's tough to game plan our opponents, from top to bottom in this league. Utah proved that to the nation in the Sugar Bowl."
After the staff wraps up its 2009 class Wednesday, like anything else they do, the coaches are going to devote some time to taking a step back and evaluating their recruiting process. They're also not going to rest.
"Now that we've got these kids here," Fairchild said, "we'll shift back to being coaches. It's our obligation now to develop these kids, including off the field, to give them confidence not just as football players but as men. If we can't bring out the best they have to offer on the field, we're not going to win many games. That's our challenge now."
Top players from biggest classes
Not only did CSU secure top coast-to-coast talent from Florida to California, the Rams also signed players from some of the largest -- and most competitive -- high school football conferences and classes in the nation.
Safety Ezra Thompson, from suburban Chicago, is among the most honored members of CSU's 2009 class. The runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year in the Class 8A Southwest Suburban Blue League, he competed in Illinois' largest classification.
Defensive lineman Curtis Wilson, out of Orlando, Fla., was a first-team all-conference, first-team all-Orange County (Orlando Sentinel), second-team all-Central Florida and third-team all-state in Class 6A, the state's largest division.
CSU also added promising prospects from the Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston metro areas.
The holy cross
The most highly deocrated member of the 2009 class is Pete Kontodiakos (cunn-DOH-DEE-aack-iss), a rare consensus first-team All-American who was offered by both Florida and Georgia among several others.
But the one accomplishment of which he's most proud has nothing to do with football.
Last month, on Jan. 6, Kontodiakos dove for and retrieved the holy cross as part of the largest Epiphany celebration in country, the Spring Bayou in Tarpon Springs, Fla.
The traditional dive, which carries great significance to his family and culture, is a physical test. Afterward, he was carried off on the shoulders of the other competitors. This year, 62 boys ages 16-18 took part.
By retrieving the cross, he followed in the footsteps of his father, who had achieved the prestigious honor 30 years before. He also became the fifth member of his family to retrieve the cross.
Several members of the class announced by the Rams Wednesday have already enrolled at Colorado State and will compete for playing time in March when the team opens spring practice.
Jon Eastman and Leonard Mason, who theoretically could start in the Rams' backfield when they open the regular season at Colorado, are also in the group, having signed their letters of intent weeks ago.
The other member of that club is C.J. James, who graduated from Orlando's Colonial High School early and will be in uniform this spring.
CSU's other junior college signee, defensive back Travis Ford, encountered an unfortunate situation after signing with the Rams following his 2008 season.
Ford got seriously sick, which affected his academics and prevented him from enrolling at Colorado State this semester.
The Rams are continuing to recruit him and hope to still add him to their roster at some point before fall camp. Unfortunately, because of his situation and NCAA rules, the university can't comment any further.
Connections with football history
Three members of the class have interesting connections to the history of the game. uOffensive lineman Jared Biard (BEARD) from Clear Creek High School in Texas is a descendent of gold medalist and football pioneer Jim Thorpe, a Pro Hall of Famer.
In addition, Dru Taylor's school, Lincoln High School in Dallas, also produced Abner Haynes, the legendary American Football League player who made significant contributions toward establishing the league and paving the way for the eventual AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Also, linebacker Mike Orakpo has a household name, thanks to his older brother, Brian. In December, Brian became one of the most honored defensive players in college football history, sweeping the Lombardi and Hendricks awards, as well as taking the Nagurski Trophy to complement unanimous first-team All-America honors.
Impressive on the hardwood
The new class has several multi-talented athletes, especially with respect to the sport of basketball.
Joe Brown, a point guard on the Bishop Carroll High School team, is a 2008-09 McDonald's Preseason All-American. He led BCHS, in Wichita, Kan., to the state finals as a junior, when he was a first-team all-state selection.
Cameron Moss averages better than 11.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game at Steele Canyon High School in the San Diego area. He was named East County Athlete of the Week (Jan. 12-17) after scoring 20 points and recording 14 rebounds in an upset of Helix.
Jared Biard's basketball team won the 2004 TAAF regional tournament and finished third at the UIL Final Four High School Basketball Championship.
The Signing Day forecast in Fort Collins calls for mostly sunny skies and highs in the 60s. By the end of the week, the area might crack the 70-degree plateau for the second time in a month. But the area does get its share of winter weather.
Defensive lineman Te'Jay Brown, from St. Petersburg, Fla., had not seen snow until his recruiting visit to Fort Collins.
New junior-college quarterback Jon Eastman shouldn't have any trouble elbowing his way around the Rams' training table line.
Eastman is one of 11 children. He has five older brothers, one younger brother, three older sisters and one younger sister.
All of his brothers played quarterback in high school, and he is the fifth in the family to play quarterback in college. His brother Eric played at a junior college, Caleb at Idaho State, Seth at Air Force, and Adam is currently at Utah State.
Eastman is a native of Fort Morgan, Colo. ...Meanwhile, tight end Cameron Moss' uncle, Mike Williams, played at Northern Colorado.
Tight end Joe Brown, nicknamed The Judge after the TV show, went to the same high school -- Bishop Carroll in Wichita, Kan. -- that produced CSU and NFL player Mark Bell and his brother, CSU All-American Mike Bell, the second overall selection in the 1979 NFL Draft.
The gloves are off
Safety Ezra Thompson says he loves to deliver the highlight-reel hits on opposing players. He honed his physical prowess by playing hockey growing up.
He didn't get too comfortable
Curtis Wilson, with a father who is a pharmacist, has grown up having lived in six cities, Great Falls, Mont.; Tucson, Ariz.; Phoenix, Ariz.; El Paso, Texas; Dallas, Texas; and Orlando, Fla.
Luginbill high on Fairchild
Last month, the national recruiting director for ESPN's Scouts Inc., Tom Luginbill, told ESPN.com's Graham Watson that he expected Colorado State might surprise several people across the nation in the next few seasons.
"The team that you need to watch out for, whether it's in 2010 or 2011, is going to be Colorado State," Luginbill said. "Steve Fairchild is one of the fiercest recruiters and one of the best talent evaluators out there. He is really, really good. I think Colorado State will be back on the map sooner rather than later. I think they're going to start making a push. You may not see it right this second, but you're going to start seeing it."
The first letter
Offensive lineman Weston Richburg was the first member of the new recruiting class to officially join the Rams, submitting his National Letter of Intent to the football office very early this morning. Richburg's letter was followed by that of Jared Biard, also from Texas.
CSU had all but one of its expected letters in hand shortly after 10 a.m., awaiting only QB Nico Ranieri, who'd planned to sign his official letter at a ceremony at his school and submitted his paperwork soon after.
The NCAA allows Division I-eligible players to formally declare their future plans beginning at 7 a.m. in the player's time zone, on the first Wednesday each February. Track and field, hockey, soccer and men's water polo also receive letters today.
The process actually gives value to technology that is quickly becoming obsolete -- the FAX machine. The FAX is critical on signing day because it allows a school's compliance department to proof the paperwork before giving the sports information office permission to announce the signing. Without the FAX, the process would be delayed by at least 24 hours. Colorado State still asks its signees to send the letter via overnight mail, because the school needs to submit the materials to the Mountain West Conference.
To quarterback Jon Eastman, who turns a year older on Wednesday (Feb. 4). High school signee Pete Kontodiakos had a birthday Tuesday (Feb. 3), and one of his presents was the announcement of his name on the EA Sports/ESPN.com high school All-America team.
What a difference a year makes
The football recruiting process begins in the fall of a player's junior year, giving schools nearly a year and-a-half to schedule on-campus and in-home visitations, complete scouting evaluations, strategize and prioritize future needs, and interview a prospect's coaches.
After CSU's coaching change late in 2007, the Rams last year had to condense that process from 17 months to less than four weeks.
But this year, the Rams' staff had its full allotment of time, and competed against the top teams in the country in recruiting hotbeds such as Florida and Texas.
The Rams feel like they got a tremendous addition for years to to come in running back Chris Nwoke (WOH-kay) out of ThunderRidge High School in suburban Denver, but the talented back represents the only Colorado player signed by the Rams in 2009.
While a new coaching staff has shifted the Rams' connections and changed the team's recruiting pipelines across the country, one aspect remains consistent: The team believes it cannot win without consistently securing talent from its own backyard.
"We were hopeful to get more than one player from Colorado," Fairchild said, "but we got an absolute steal in Chris Nwoke. We always have and always will recruit every top prospect in our state. We won't be as productive as we'd like to be every year in our home state, but no question, it remains our top priority. We'll still recruit our home state first, and recruit it hard.
"We're prepared to supplement our recruiting in Colorado with strong efforts in other places, like Florida and Texas, but Colorado is still our backyard. We can't be successful without strong contributions from Colorado players."
CSU considers its situation similar to that of Nebraska. The Rams' home state usually produces great talent, but if the program also wants to be a nationally prominent team, it has to be willing to go anywhere, any place to battle for a recruit that can help CSU win.
In 2008, the Rams had 11 signees from Colorado, more than any other state, three more than California (8). CSU's 11 players from Colorado last year were its most from the state in 11 years. On the heels of 10 home-state additions in 2007, the Rams signed 21 such players over a 366-day period.
The Rams' 2009 high school signees by state:
Since Sonny Lubick arrived in 1993, the Rams now have signed 109 players from Colorado:
Making CSU visible
In addition to Colorado, Fairchild is committed to building recruiting relationships in the nation's areas that have consistently proven to produce some of college football's best players. Those areas are Southern California and the Bay Area, Florida and Texas.
The Rams are committed to recruiting more players from Texas, for several reasons. First, a general rule in recruiting is to target the largest population base nearest your home -- and that's Texas. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is only an hour and 40-minute flight from Denver, and teams practice year-round, thanks to the weather. The Mountain West also has some exposure in the state, with TCU.
This year the Rams signed five from Texas after inking in 2008 three, their most in recent memory. From 2004-07, the Rams signed only five from the state, including a quarterback who wound up starting as a true freshman, Caleb Hanie from Forney, Texas, and CSU's first Freshman All-American, Mychal Sisson.
Sperry, Johnson invited to combine
The last time a CSU player was invited to the combine was Erik Pears in February 2005, although a shoulder injury prevented Pears from testing.
The last time the Rams sent two individuals to the combine was in February 2004 (Bradlee Van Pelt and Dexter Wynn).
The Colorado State football program has a new coach, a new level of excitement and, now, a new Web site.
CoachFair.com is live on the Internet. The site houses a multitude of exclusive behind-the-scenes content, including countless video clips assembled by the university's award-winning creative services staff.
Each coach is featured in the videos, providing a personal look into his philosophies and assessment of football at CSU under new Head Coach Steve Fairchild. Starting linebacker Ricky Brewer takes visitors on a tour of the university's facilities, including the Joey Porter Locker Room. And, recent graduate Joey Rucks shares his thoughts on CSU's academic support for student-athletes.
Additionally, Fairchild offers a personal blog, providing insight throughout the year.
The site was produced by the Department of Web Communications and the Department of Communications and Creative Services in the Colorado State public affairs division, in conjunction with the coaching staff and athletic media relations office.
Those same designers earlier this year launched an exclusive volleyball Web site, called Ram Volleyball Backstage Pass, to showcase the university's nationally prominent volleyball program. The site is available at ramvolleyball.colostate.edu.
Peterson live on CSURams.com
On Thursday, CSU football fans will have the opportunity to chat online with the Rams' recruiting coordinator, Greg Peterson, at 2 p.m. MST on CSURAMS.com.
Peterson enters his second season at Colorado State, his 26th year in the profession. He joined the Rams on Jan. 14, 2008. At Colorado State, Peterson has several responsibilities. He not only serves as the Rams' offensive coordinator, but also coaches the wide receivers and heads up the school's year-round football recruiting efforts. His primary recruiting areas are Colorado Springs and the cities of Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas.
Fans are invited to ask questions about signing day, the 2009 recruits, the team's upcoming season and the CSU football program in general. Fans don't have to wait until Thursday to submit their questions. They can log onto http://csurams.cstv.com/chat/020209aaa.html now.
The ESPN Radio affiliate in Northern Colorado, ESPN 870 AM, will broadcast live from the lobby of the McGraw Athletic Center from 12-3 p.m. on Wednesday, national signing day.
The broadcast will feature live interviews with coaches and staff, and carry Head Coach Steve Fairchild's 2 p.m. press conference in its entirety.
The host is Tony Davis, a former standout running back at Nebraska who played in the NFL for Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.
ESPN 870 generates a signal that, at peak, reaches over 400,000 people and ranges from Wheatland, Wyo., to Boulder, Colo. Since its inception, the station has been broadcasting national ESPN programming. Last month, ESPN 870 began a local advertising campaign and plans to open new production studios in Fort Collins. An FM signal also is in the works.
The station this year hopes to launch new, local programming, focusing on the teams and athletes in Northern Colorado.
Space available for Cherry Hills Ram Roundup
Fans are invited to join Colorado State Head Coach Steve Fairchild and his staff next week as they discuss the 2009 recruiting class and the upcoming season at the 2009 Ram Roundup recruiting reception in Denver.
There is still space available for the reception, Feb. 10 at the Cherry Hills Country Club. Please RSVP by Thursday at 5 p.m., by calling 970/491-4666, by downloading the registration form at www.csuramclub.com, or by registering online at http://www.blacktie-colorado.com/rsvp and entering event code "csucc."
Signing Day Central
Colorado State has created a one-stop Web site for official information on all of CSU's signees. The site also is expected to feature highlight clips of each recruit, after he signs. The site launched over the past weekend. For more information and a complete look at the 2009 recruiting class, visit http://csurams.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/csu-09-signing-day-central.html.