XF 1.5 Working on custom homepage


I'm a very new XenForo user (literally two days) and I have been working with the board to try to make the design look as close to my current site as possible.

I wanted to get some input from seasoned/veteran users of Xenforo. I'm looking for recommendations how to accomplish a few things.

This is what I have so far:


This is a custom page that I've created with Xenforo. The featured image at the top is part of my current site, and at the moment on my test Xenforo site, it is static. On my live site, the images are dynamic and are pulled automatically from my articles. I basically got it into my theme by creating my custom HTML and CSS and adding it just below the </header> tag with a conditional statment that I got from @Jake Bunce (Thanks Jake!):
<xen:if is="{$requestPaths.requestUri} == '/members/admin.1/'">
Custom HTML Here
I needed this template to show up only on a specific page. I couldn't get the $page.node_id to work , so the next best option was to use the Uri , which basically tells my page to only call that HTML on my /home page.

Next, the area below where you see the grey area with 1 of 4 span. I borrowed a CSS Framework (http://www.responsivegridsystem.com/). I plan on including dynamic articles with image thumbnails above the excerpt in these 4 blocks.

Now, for my questions:

How would you recommend me to get the images in the featured area to become dynamic? I currently use RSS import on my site which then grabs the first image it finds in the text and uses it as the featured image. The beautiful part about my current site, is it is fully automatic. I set up a cron job to run 1 time ever 24 hours and it fetches the latest news, pulls it into my site, and everything works like it's suppose to. I would rather not use a slider as it adds javascript/jquery on the page which I would like to avoid.

The other question is almost the same as the first. I would like to know how I can use the css grid to place dynamic content with a thumbnail and small excerpt from the rss import.

As far as the rss import goes, I don't mind if it goes into a thread or an article system. As long as it goes someplace where it can be displayed and that display can be customized I'm fine.

Thanks for your input, looking forward to hearing the creative ideas.
@ncbetz , I stopped working on the custom page due to time restrictions. It's very possible for you to do this with Xenforo it will just take some time and effort. I decided for simplicity/time sake to go with Xenword integration which works extremely well. Take a look at my site for the integration.