BOULDER – The University of Colorado football team on Monday concluded its second spring under its second-year coaching staff. But as they did last April, Mike MacIntyre and his assistants finished the final spring practice as observers, watching their players take charge in drills designed to carry them through May, June and July.
MacIntyre introduced the forward-thinking plan to the Buffaloes last spring, and the summer results “went real well,” he said. “When they came back (for August camp) we weren’t way behind. I think it was a big, big difference for us last year starting off early in the fall.”
Monday’s dress rehearsal for the summer’s player-led practices allowed MacIntyre and his position coaches “to show us exactly how they want it done so we can replicate it over and over again throughout the summer,” said senior linebacker Woodson Greer III.
“When you finish spring ball and go into the summer, you’ll forget stuff you learned in the spring. I mean, it’s a three-month span until the next time you put on pads. These (player-led) practices keep it all fresher in our minds.”
Off-season rules adjustments will allow MacIntyre and his staff to be more involved this summer on a limited basis, as well as make student-athlete participation mandatory. “In the past we would have a kid go here or there,” he said.
Coaches will be able to spend a couple of hours a week during the spring and summer months. “Some weeks more than others,” MacIntyre added. “But you don’t want to cut into too much of the running and too much of the weight lifting because you only have so many hours. So it will vary week-to-week.”
Also, coaches will be off-campus recruiting. But all in all, MacIntyre said more summer involvement by the coaches in the weight room and in on-field work – as long there’s not a football involved – should be beneficial: “I think it’s good.”
A new team wrinkle this year is the appointment of position-by-position leaders who, in addition to the six team captains, will oversee the summer work when the coaching staff can’t be present.
Senior guard Daniel Munyer is a team captain as well as an appointed position leader. “The leaders have to be accountable for the team,” he said, noting that the final half of Monday’s player-run practice “is what we have to have if we want to get better.”
Munyer said having the coaches present on at least a limited summer basis should mean a better prepared and more well-conditioned squad come August.
“It means more eyes on us,” Munyer said. “You don’t want guys slacking off if the coaches aren’t there . . . and it helps the strength staff, too, with more eyes out there. After this spring I felt like we went up a notch and I’m expecting the same thing with this off-season, too.”
The Buffs are scheduled to report for preseason camp on Aug. 1, with practice beginning the next morning. CU opens the 2014 season on Friday, Aug. 29 against Colorado State in Denver.
POST SPRING GAME REFLECTIONS: After reviewing tape of Saturday’s spring game, won the Black squad 21-17 over the Gold, MacIntyre said the Buffs’ effort “was good for the most part (but) I would have liked it to be better in some areas at times.”
He said the tape review revealed a few alignment errors, some players taking initial missteps and a few containment issues on defense. But, he added, the Buffs’ big plays “were legitimate big plays” – a sign that play-making potential is present even if it came in intra-squad competition.
“The spirit and attitude this spring and last was good,” he added. “There was a lot of competition and players were having lot of fun; you want to see that.”
Asked if his second CU team appears better prepared and more capable of winning games in the Pac-12 Conference, where the Buffs were 1-8 last season, MacIntyre said, “I sure hope so. I see areas where we’ve improved, but we’ve got to go do it on those Saturdays . . . when we add four or five starters who aren’t out here all spring into the mix and with a few more freshmen coming in and a couple of junior college guys, I think we’ll be improved.
“Now, we’ve got to go do it. But I feel like their mindset and their attitude is different playing Pac-12 teams. I always tell them, ‘You’ve got to believe it before you achieve it.’ So they have to believe it in their own minds. But I do see it and sense that.”
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Alex Kelley, a 6-2, 315-pound sophomore, comes out of spring drills as the No. 1 center, but MacIntyre said the development of other players could allow for flexibility at the position.
In-coming junior college transfer Sully Wiefels (6-3, 300) could be given a look at all three O-line spots, and if sophomore Jeromy Irwin (6-5, 285) finally is healthy, his return could prompt more experimentation. Also, seniors Kaiwa Crabb (6-3, 300) and Munyer (6-2, 290) have played guard/center.
Still, said MacIntyre, Kelley has “done a good job . . . he improved from the first practice on. His snaps really improved. We didn’t have a single bad snap in spring game, which was great. The first scrimmage they were all over the place. That’s steady improvement.”
A big plus for Crabb remaining at guard, said MacIntyre, is his ability to “run a little better in space” in an offense that depends on its guards’ ability to pull. Plus, Kelley “can dent the line of scrimmage a little better. You put them where their strengths are,” MacIntyre said.
NOTEWORTHY: Senior walk-on receiver Wes Christiansen won the team’s overall uncommon spring award, one named for late Buffs QB Sal Aunese. MacIntyre said after hearing former CU QB and current staffer Darian Hagan speak highly of Aunese on several occasions, he decided an award bearing Aunese’s name was needed. When it was time to bestow the award, “Every single coach said Wes Christiansen,” MacIntyre said. Christiansen won it as a result of his “effort and intensity . . . every day he comes to practice and works extremely hard. There’s never an attitude issue with anything he does. He’s an inspiration to the program.” Christiansen also was awarded a gold “uncommon” jersey for his play in Saturday’s spring game . . . . MacIntyre expects big things at linebacker from sophomore Ryan Severson, the Buffs’ primary return man last season (36 returns, 795 yards). Severson made five tackles (four solo) in the spring game. “As many spread teams as we play, when you can run a 10.8 (second) 100 meters and you’re 225 pounds, it helps. He’s a good player,” MacIntyre said.