On Wednesday, the Rams really improved at the receiver position.
Colorado State may be a power running offense, but that doesn’t mean head coach Jim McElwain won’t throw the ball around.
And by quickly glancing at team stats from last season, it’s easy to see two of the four most productive Rams wideouts stood under 5’10”.
Simply, they needed big, physical wide receivers to challenge opposing defensive backs on the outside; it’s exactly what they got.
“I think you can also see from a size standpoint what we were trying to accomplish at those spots,” Coach Mac said about the wideouts Wednesday at his Signing Day press conference. “These are some dynamic playmakers that have proven it in high school, now we’ll see how it translates when they get to the college level.”
Of the 24 signees announced Wednesday, four are wide receivers and all of them stand at at least 6’2” tall. All of them also played basketball, something both McElwain and offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin liked because it means they’ve got great athleticism. In fact, Rishard Higgins (6’2” 180 pounds), Elroy Masters (6’2” 208) and Sammie Long (6’3” 180) all lettered in football, basketball and track and field in high school, while Xavier Williams (6’4” 205) played football and basketball.
“Here’s what I was hoping: that just one of the guys was taller than I was,” Coach Mac joked. “And I think we got four of them. That was obviously a point of emphasis, sure. Plus, I’ve got a bunch of coaches that love high school basketball. Being able to go watch these guys on the basketball court, you’re talking about some guys who can really get up in the air and throw it down. And, you know, I don’t know if any of them can shoot a free throw or not – that’s a lost art – but at the same time they’re awful fun to watch on the court. They’re multi-sport guys, too, and that really helps because you can kind of see their hand-eye coordination and their body movement and that kind of thing. I kind of like those multi-sport guys.”
McElwain also said at his presser that he expects some of them to contribute immediately, explaining that receiver is a position players can learn more quickly than others.
“We targeted big receivers,” offensive coordinator Baldwin said after McElwain talked. “We have Joe Hansley and Chuck Lovett. Those are two kids that can play in the slot and do those things with quickness we miss from the outside. We have Thomas (Coffman) who can play on the inside. Those are all fast guys that can play on the inside. That’s what we needed on the outside.”
When I asked what his offense can do with bigger receivers, Baldwin explained, “I think, if you see in college football, you can throw the fade route. If you throw the fade route it’s either a catch or pass interference, and when you get 6’2” basketball players – Elroy (Masters) played basketball (Rashard) Higgins was averaging 17 points a game in basketball and Xavier Williams was actually offered a basketball scholarship – they’re very athletic. And Sammy Long – as talented as any of them – was a 400 Meter guy to go along with it.”
“With the size there, we can go deep,” he continued. “I think, the mismatches you get, the physicality. You know, we want to run the ball too. And if you’re big and get onto safeties, it’s going to help us in that kind of aspect too. We want to create mismatches and those kind of receivers I think do.”
The reality is, with those big, strong and fast receivers, it should open things up for Colorado State’s offense, who rarely attacked deep last season, and almost always up the seem of the field when they did.
The Rams didn’t have fade routes on the goal line either, something all high-scoring offenses possess.
Those two seemingly simple things – the ability to attack deep and with fade routes – should vastly improve the McElwain and Baldwin’s offense. It will mean defensive backs have to be more honest, and if they call plays that balance the ground and aerial attacks, the Rams could really run up the score this season.
The sky is the limit for Colorado State under Jim McElwain in this Bold New Era.
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Jim McElwain excited to sign playmakers on both sides of the ball
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. You can follow Rich on twitter or facebook for all you CSU Rams news and opinion.