Coach Bobo now en­joys South­ern com­fort zone

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle Fredrick­son

FORT COLLINS» While Mike Bobo took the podium Tues­day in­side Colorado State’s on-cam­pus sta­dium for its an­nual football me­dia day, the coach’s fam­ily en­joyed the great out­doors. Among Bobo’s f ive chil­dren, two of his daugh­ters at­tended Camp Tim­ber­line in Estes Park and his pair of sons f ished at Carter Lake in Love­land.

Bobo en­ters his third year lead­ing the pro­gram this fall. It’s a far cry from the 14 pre­vi­ous he spent com­bined as an as­sis­tant and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Ge­or­gia. Enough time, though, for Bobo and his fam­ily to set­tle in along the Front Range — de- spite some things never chang­ing.

“I’m from the South,” Bobo said with his clas­sic coun­try twang, “if you couldn’t tell.”

The barom­e­ter for suc­cess in Bobo’s ten­ure can be mea­sured in dif­fer­ent ways. He’s the first coach in pro­gram his­tory to reach a bowl game in each of his first two sea­sons, but the Rams fell in both, al­low­ing Ne­vada and Idaho a com­bined 89 points in the process. CSU av­er­aged nearly 48 points and 534 yards over its last six games in 2016 de­spite a three-quar­ter­back carousel the be­gin the year. And now, Bobo is bask­ing in the glow of new football fa­cil­i­ties ap­proved for con­struc­tion prior to his 2014 ar­rival.

Bobo, the high­est-paid coach in the Moun­tain West this sea­son ($1.55 mil­lion), is well aware of height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions this fall. He em­braces them. But much of his com­fort re­lies in the con­ti­nu­ity of a third sea­son in Fort Collins.

“I’m proud to be the head coach of this univer­sity where there is a com­mit­ment to the pro­gram,” Bobo said. “We talk about it

with our team, the pride they need to have for who they are rep­re­sent­ing.”

CSU quar­ter­back Nick Stevens had just com­pleted his red­shirt fresh­man sea­son when then-coach Jim McEl­wain bolted for Florida. En­ter Bobo, who in­stantly worked to con­nect with re­turn­ing play­ers.

“It was a lit­tle bit weird at first, and it al­ways is with a coach­ing change,” Stevens said. “But I think he’s treated me as one of his own guys. I think that I treat him like he’s the coach that sat down in my par­ents’ liv­ing room and re­cruited me.”

Same goes for re­cently re­cruited play­ers, too, like re­ceiver Michael Gallup. The for­mer Butler (Kan.) Com­mu­nity Col­lege stand­out grew up in Mon­roe, Ga., about 230 miles north from Bobo’s home­town of Thomasville. Gallup signed with CSU in 2016, and South­ern roots built ca­ma­raderie with his coach.

“We have a pretty good con­nec­tion,” Gallup said. “A lot of the things he likes to re­fer to are from down South, his home. I think our re­la­tion­ship is good, and I think it’s build­ing.”

The same can be said for of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor/of­fen­sive line coach Will Friend, whose ex­pe­ri­ence as an as­sis­tant un­der Bobo dates to 2011 at Ge­or­gia. When asked if the grand vi­sion Bobo laid three years ago has come to full fruition, Friend said, “We’ll see.”

“It’s been laid out to (play­ers) what (coaches) want,” Friend added. “They know how we want them to prac­tice, they know how we want them to com­pete, and that stan­dard isn’t get­ting changed. If you’re con­sis­tent and you do it ev­ery day, you’ll get there. And we are go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

That growth in­cludes Bobo’s con­nec­tion to the com­mu­nity. He’ll get an­other chance to en­gage the Rams faith­ful Satur­day for CSU’s open-house event, where thou­sands are ex­pected to be in at­ten­dance for tours, a brick ded­i­ca­tion, open prac­tice and more.

But of course, Bobo is just an adopted son of the state. If only his ac­cent didn’t give it away.

“Peo­ple in the South think they’re the most po­lite and have the best man­ners in the world and treat every­body the right way,” Bobo said. “But I think my wife tells every­body all the time, she just can­not get over how gen­uinely nice every­body is in Colorado, how wel­com­ing they are. We love it out here.”

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

Colorado State football coach Mike Bobo di­rects traf­fic at prac­tice Tues­day across from the team’s new on-cam­pus sta­dium.

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