Optimism, expectations higher for Jay Norvell in second season at CSU – The Denver Post

In less than two years’ time, Colorado State head football coach Jay Norvell has not only become a pillar of the CSU community, but also of Fort Collins.

He would like nothing more than to reward those who have supported him with a breakout second season with the Rams.

With a full season and, possibly more importantly, a full recruiting cycle behind him, Norvell is optimistic about his second season at CSU and getting the program back to where it was before the team began its current streak of five losing seasons.

After coming to CSU from Nevada, Norvell led the Rams to a 3-9 record in 2022. The past year hasn’t been without challenges for the veteran head coach as injuries and transfers plagued his first season.

He and his staff addressed those issues with what he calls the largest recruiting class he has ever had, getting backups for his experienced players and filling holes in the roster, especially on the offensive line.

Thursday at Mountain West Conference media days in Las Vegas, he shared his excitement and optimism, not only about what the Rams have done in the offseason, but what the 2023 season could hold for CSU and Fort Collins, a town that has embraced him as much as he has embraced it.

His growing love for the community and what it is about parallels what he looks for in the players he recruits to come experience it with him.

“I think it’s a blue-collar place,” Norvell said. “It’s a place where people roll up their sleeves and go to work and that’s all we’ve ever been about. We want to add quality, talented kids that have that mentality and I think we’re doing that. We’ve worked really hard to bring in competitive depth at every position and now we’ve got to go to work with a very challenging schedule.

“I think we are going to have an opportunity to play a lot of close games and it’s going come down to who executes the best and can make the plays down the stretch or win those games, very much like our second season at Nevada. We had a lot of tight, close games that second year. Special teams, turnovers, minus-yardage plays ended up making the difference.”

In Norvell’s first season at Nevada in 2017, the Wolf Pack went 3-9, just as the Rams did in their first season under Norvell. In Norvell’s second season there, Nevada went 8-5 and played in the Arizona Bowl.

The Rams will begin fall camp in the shadow of Canvas Stadium in two weeks and the players are just as optimistic as their coach about their second season under him.

“I think the next step is just year two, another year under our belts,” CSU defensive end Mohamed Kamara said. “A lot of those younger guys are now mid-tier guys and those older guys are just continuing to pass the torch down. I think it’s just experience that we really needed and time to gel. We had a new coaching staff and that comes with its ups and downs.”

Even the Rams who came from Nevada with Norvell — quarterback Clay Millen, receiver Tory Horton and punter Paddy Turner, to name just a few — know the impact Norvell can have on a team.

Going into year two at CSU, Norvell has earned the trust and respect of his players. The ones who stayed through last season and into this one have nothing but praise for Norvell and want to succeed under him.

“Coach is great,” Turner said. “Obviously he is the only football coach I’ve ever had, so I can’t really compare him too much, but you can see how genuine he is as a person and as a family man. He brings that family environment to the facility every day. He walks in with a smile. He’s very caring. He’s very respectful and he would never ask you to do something that he wouldn’t do for us. It’s definitely a culture that goes through the locker room and through the whole building and it’s something we are building that’s very special in Fort Collins.”

Norvell’s effect isn’t just felt on the football field or the locker room. It is felt all over the school, other athletic programs and even the community of Fort Collins itself.

He is not only the face of the football team but is becoming one on campus and in the community, through contributing his time and his knowledge of football while also imparting life lessons as well. He gets the players involved, too.

“He does a great job of just talking to the community,” Kamara said. “We have a lot of community events. This year, we’ve probably had the most community events, things like camps, things of that nature. It speaks volumes. He’s always moving around. That’s a lot of behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t see. I appreciate it and sometimes I get to tag along.”

For Kamara, Turner and the rest of the Rams, the wait to begin Norvell’s second season is almost over. With a large recruiting class, the support of the school and community behind him and a returning roster eager to put last season behind it, the probability to be better couldn’t be higher.

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