**Note: This was a print-only story**
The Crimson White spoke to Collegian sports editor Quentin Sickafoose in Fort Collins, Colo., to get his take on second-year head coach Jim McElwain, Colorado State’s season thus far and the Rams’ strengths heading into their visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Crimson White: Alabama fans remember Rams head coach Jim McElwain as the Tide’s former offensive coordinator. In your opinion, how’s the program coming along now in Year 2 under him?
Quentin Sickafoose: It’s a process rebuilding a collegiate football program. Steve Fairchild, the Colorado State football head coach prior to McElwain, posted a 3-9 record in all three of his final seasons at CSU. McElwain was able to improve the Rams’ record to 4-8 in just his first year. Despite the minor improvement record-wise, the players agree that the program is running more fluidly with McElwain as head coach.
CW: The Rams made the move from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense this offseason. How has the transition looked so far through three games?
QS: The change of format on the defensive side of the ball definitely was a transition for CSU in its first two games. The Rams gave up a lot of big-yardage plays, especially in their season-opener against Colorado when the Buffaloes threw for 400 passing yards. The Rams did however look improved defensively last weekend in their homecoming match with Cal Poly. The biggest step in the right direction was CSU’s ability to create stops on third-down situations, something it struggled with all of last season and in its first two games of 2013.
CW: Defensively, Alabama showed some potential signs of weakness in the secondary against Texas A&M. Who should they look out for from the Rams’ receiving corps?
QS: CSU’s receiving corps has experienced much more variety recently. Instead of being forced to rely on one or two of their key wide receivers, the tight ends are beginning to become factors for the Rams. At tight end, Crockett Gillmore led the Rams in receiving yardage against Cal Poly, while tight end Kivon Cartwright also filled the void in week three. The CSU tight ends caught a significantly larger amount of passes in their game last weekend, giving quarterback Garrett Grayson more targets on the field.
CW: A total of 16 starters return from both sides of the ball from a year ago. Where does this team’s biggest strength lie?
QS: CSU’s biggest strength has to be the multiple options it has at each position. There are a few who are listed as questionable for the game at Alabama, but the Rams still have athletes who can step up at any time. Before the season got underway, the starting quarterback position remained a race between three different guys up until the commencement of the first game. CSU also had three different running backs get 10 or more touches last Saturday. Defensively, safety Trent Matthews, linebacker Shaquil Barrett and cornerback Shaq Bell have all been known to produce key plays when needed. Barrett earned Mountain West special teams player of the week honors after coming up with two blocked field goals against Cal Poly.
CW: What’s your final score and why?
QS: My prediction for a final score would be somewhere around 42-10 in favor of Alabama. The Crimson Tide are coming off of last week’s huge game at No. 6 Texas A&M, and there’s a reason why they’re the two-time defending national champions. CSU might be able to produce something in the later part of the game once the Alabama starters exit the game, and if the Ram’s offense can get kicker Jared Roberts within field goal range he should be able to convert.