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With Stars To Replace, Rams’ McElwain Pins Hopes To Recruiting

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DENVER (CBS4) - After winning one of the most thrilling and wackiest bowl games in recent memory, the Colorado State Rams football team isn’t watching its highlight reels.

Sure, the Rams pulled off an improbable comeback in the New Mexico Bowl to end their season — they trailed by 22 points in the second quarter and 15 with three minutes left — and they landed some nice rings to mark their win. But their focus is solely on the 2014 season.

“As I told (the players), this little piece of jewelry doesn’t mean anything. Don’t be satisfied. Put it in your closet, bring it out and show your grandkids,” head coach Jim McElwain told CBS4’s Tom Helmer on Xfinity Monday Live. “But it’s really a start of something special.”

Building on that success means effective recruiting.

“We had a big boost in recruiting — not necessarily in this class that’s coming in, but the class of the future that we’re getting ready to recruit for next year and the year after,” McElwain said. “Those are the things that are really important when you’re building a program. I came from a program (where) that’s how you do it.”

He’s talking, of course, about Alabama, where he was the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator for the 2008-11 seasons and won two national championships.

McElwain hinted that some of the recruiting smarts he gained at Alabama will translate to CSU. His strategy begins at home.

“It all starts in Colorado. We go to every single high school in the state during the spring, whether they play 6-man, 8-man or 11-man.”

But to earn the most bang for his recruiting buck, McElwain says the coaches spend a lot of time along California’s Route 99 corridor, a recruiting hot bed. He also concentrates on “pockets in Texas.”

His old turf is also an option: “I may sneak back into the South and grab a guy or two when needed.”

Social media and YouTube have altered tremendously how schools nab players. Every star high school athlete boasts a highlight reel on YouTube, making it easier for coaches — but also their competition — to discover talent.

“You’ve got to be on point every single second of the day,” McElwain said. “There’s a lot of kids being discovered. Before, it was hard maybe for a kid in McCook, Neb., to get his film out. Now everybody is going to know about that guy.”

The Rams need to replace two key players: Running back Kapri Bibbs played only one season at CSU, amassing 1,741 yards, before leaving school early for the NFL draft. He’s on the Denver Broncos roster as an undrafted free agent. Defensive star Shaquil Barrett, who forced a late-game fumble against Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl, also signed a free-agent contact with the Broncos.

On Monday’s show, McElwain flattered both players.

On Bibbs: “He had a three- or four-game stretch that you could arguably have said he was one of those guys on a video game. It was unbelievable what he did. I’m just proud of him. He made the decision to take a step at the next level. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to produce and do a great job.”

Kapri Bibbs (credit: CBS)

Kapri Bibbs runs the ball against Colorado. (credit: CBS)

On Barrett: “He’ll go down in CSU lore for that play he made at the end of the bowl game where he stripped the ball back-to-back times to give us an opportunity to win the game. He’s also a great special teams player.”

Shaquil Barrett recovers a fumble he forced in the bowl game against Washington State. (credit: CBS)

Shaquil Barrett recovers a fumble he forced in the bowl game against Washington State. (credit: CBS)

- Written by Tim Skillern for CBSDenver.com

Watch more of the video with Jim McElwain in the Xfinity Monday Live! section.

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