If the Colorado State Rams want to get back to their winning ways, Jay Norvell is going to have to build from the ground up.

Following five straight losing seasons, which bridged the gap between Mike Bobo, Steve Addazio and now into the Norvell Era, the current head coach has a lot of work to do.

Luckily for Rams fans, Jay Norvell just put together the highest-graded class for Colorado State Football since 2017.

According to 247sports.com, CSU enjoyed the 76th overall recruiting class in 2023 and the 2nd-best (Boise State, 74) in the Mountain West Conference. On3.com has Colorado State a bit higher at 74th overall and rivals.com gave the Rams the 79th-best class grade.

OK, we all know not to get too hyped about rankings, especially before any of the players hit the field in Fort Collins. Still, it shows the effort Norvell and his staff put in during this, his first full recruiting cycle at Colorado State.

“Once we get our kids in place our goal is to win a championship every year,” Norvell told Altitude Radio on Feb. 1.

Norvell coached from 2017-2021 as the leader of the Nevada Wolfpack, taking the Rams job on Dec. 6, 2021. That meant bringing many of his Nevada players along with him to Fort Fun.

This year, Norvell beefed up the Rams, notably signing 10 offensive linemen and six defensive linemen of the 39 total players. CSU also signed eight defensive backs and six wide receivers, looking to add speed and athleticism, as well.

After going 3-9 last year, Norvell seems to realize he can’t just focus on one aspect; the entire team needs attention.

But the Rams head coach has a plan and a model to follow.

“Tulane, they won two games a year ago,” Norvell said on Altitude Radio. “This past fall, they won 12, they beat USC and played in the Cotton Bowl. That’s a team [Tulane] we beat a couple years ago at Nevada. And so, that shows me that we can do that. We can recruit to that level of player…We can do that.”

It’s not just that he’s looking at the biggest turnaround from 2022 in Tulane, but Norvell has experience with turnarounds himself.

In his first year, the Wolfpack went 3-9. Just like the Rams did in his first year at Colorado State. He then enjoyed four straight winning seasons with Nevada, including two bowl wins.

That 2021 season saw Nevada’s best scoring season of his four years there; they scored 35.7 points per game, good for 17th-best of 132 FBS teams. Using Norvell’s Air Raid offense, Carson Strong enjoyed a career year with 4,175 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

Meanwhile, the Rams’ 2022 offense was awful, scoring a paltry 13.2 points per game, which was third-worst in the FBS. Norvell brought with him backup Nevada quarterback Clay Millen who threw for 1,910 yards, 10 touchdowns and 6 INTs.

Meanwhile, the Rams running offense was downright offensive. They were sixth-worst in the FBS at 89 rushing yards per game. Now, in Norvell’s offense, the passing game will outweigh the running game when he has all the proper pieces of the puzzle.

But the remarkably bad running game — and giving up 59 sacks — forced Norvell’s hand and made him upgrade that offensive line. And on Monday, the Rams welcomed three junior college transfers in Cameron Jackson, Ethen Erickson and the towering Jakob Belton (6’7″ and 290 pounds).

Damian Henderson a running back with blazing speed

Not only did Norvell and Co. bring in immediate impact players on the line, his top recruit was Damian Henderson, a running back out of Los Angeles.

According to ESPN, Henderson is a 4-star recruit, the only for the Rams this year. Really, Colorado State rarely sees any 4-star players sign to the team, so it’s a huge win for CSU.

Henderson’s Hudl lists him at 6’3″ and 185 pounds, while ESPN has him listed at 6’2″ and 200 pounds. Either way, he’s quite tall for a running back and that “standup” style is evident in his highlight tape. Also clear is both Henderson’s toughness — running through tackles — and his breakaway speed. He also ran track in high school with an 11.0 second 100M dash per 247sports. Colorado State beat out Pac-12 schools like Arizona and Washington to land him.


Defensively, Kennedy McDowell is a 6’4″, 210-pound edge rusher who is expected to make some noise for Colorado State. Norvell explained in 2021 after being hired by Colorado State he wants to put pressure on opposing QBs; McDowell will look to do just that with all that length.

Safety Dante Scott is a 6’2″ 185-pound safety while Drew Rodriguez is a strong linebacker out of Salem, OR who looks to bring the pain in 2023.

Spring ball

The Rams kick off spring football practices on Tuesday, Mar. 21 and they culminate with the Apr. 22 Spring Game, which will be the Green vs. Gold Game. All 15 practices are open to fans and media.

So, if you want to see some of the new players up close and personal, head down to campus in Fort Collins in March and April.

Colorado State will use those practices to begin preparations for the 2023 season which kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 2 against Washington State at Canvas Stadium.