College football recruiting is always a race against the clock. But for the new CSU staff, this year was a sprint.
Steve Fairchild, hired in December after the firing of Sonny Lubick, had just weeks to put together his first recruiting class, as opposed to the months it typically takes most college coaches.
On Wednesday he officially announced that class, which features 25 total players.
“We took a process that usually takes a year or more and did it in three or four weeks,” Fairchild said. “I was very impressed with how everyone came together to help us. There are some very fine football players in this class.”
The group includes 21 high school seniors (11 from Colorado) and four junior college transfers. Four players will not enroll until 2009 or later.
Ranked 89th in the country and fourth in the Mountain West Conference by Rivals.com, CSU’s 2008 class is made up of at least 10 players Lubick received verbal commitments from before his firing.
Fairchild said he contacted all of those recruits, and said the “re-recruiting” process went smoothly.
“We didn’t lose anybody,” Fairchild said. “Everybody coach Lubick had on board we were able to keep.”
Fairchild credited that to his staff, including defensive coordinator Larry Kerr, who helped convince recruits to stick with the Rams.
“We just said, ‘Listen, we understand that you committed to CSU and we want to honor that,” Kerr said. “‘We want to come meet you and we want you to come comfortable with us.'”
One of those players, Andy Clements, a safety from Chatfield High School in Littleton, said the coaching change was initially a concern.
“It was coach Lubick that convinced me to come up there,” Clements said. “But they sent me a profile on Fairchild and then they came down to my house and I was convinced.”
Chatfield head football coach Bret McGatlin said losing Lubick was a big deal, but that the program had too much to offer for Clements to decline.
“I think that for all these recruits, that was in the back of their heads,” McGatlin said. “But Fort Collins is such a great place and CSU is a great school, I don’t think (Clements) thought about it too much.”
Fairchild said the group was evenly balanced between offense and defense as well as “skill guys and big guys” and that the team was able to address some specific needs, namely at wide receiver and long-snapper.
The Rams picked up four “three-star” recruits as assigned by Rivals.com. Those are Colorado products Joe Caprioglio (offensive line), Jonathan Gaye (running back), and junior college transfers Ryan Gardner (wide receiver) and Sam Stewart (defensive end).
Caprioglio, Rivals.com’s fifth-ranked recruit in Colorado, was originally committed to Kansas State, but changed his mind when he was asked to gray-shirt.
“K-State made the first offer and told (Caprioglio) he was their top recruit,” said Highlands Ranch head coach Darel Gorham. “But when he found out they wanted him to gray-shirt, he decided to look at other opportunities, and he went up to CSU and was impressed.”
Fairchild said the CSU staff “pounced” on Caprioglio as soon as they found out he was available.
Among one of the most anticipated recruits is Gaye, who Fairchild called a “home-run” player, saying that “there is no substitute for the speed he has.”
Gaye said he is excited to get to work in Fort Collins.
“I think I can help them,” said Gaye, who has been clocked at running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. “Coach said I have a shot to play as a freshman. I can’t wait to get going and get after CU.”
Fairchild said he is not opposed to playing freshmen.
“Anybody who can help us play will play immediately,” he said.
During the 2006 season, no true freshman saw playing time for the Rams.
Fairchild also said that, considering the time limitations, he is extremely happy with what his staff was able to get. He also said he remains optimistic about the program’s future.
“CSU is a great pace to live, a great place to go to school, and we’ll make it a great place to play football,” he said.