I usually don't like to do this but the article written by Kyle Ringo today in the Boulder Daily Camera deserves its own post. It's good, really good and is full of meaty details that we have been waiting to hear about the week before spring ball. Of course, we always hear about the positives going into camp, their record is still 0 - 0 and optimism is in the air. This year feels a little bit different, though. Two prominent sports writers/bloggers have picked the Buffs to be a surprise team this year in Tim Griffin and Pete Fiutak. Now, we get this positive little piece from strength and condition coach, Jeff Pitman, who's tactics have been questioned over the past year because of all the injuries specifically to knees and shoulders. In the article, Pitman says that he had to re-analyze the way he did things because of those "20 players" that were hurt last year or were hurt due to surgery this offseason.
"We took a look at a lot of things," Pitman said. 'We changed up some running, not that I thought things we did in the past were bad or caused anything. We probably had more injuries last year than I've had in 16 years prior.
"We were healthy last spring and healthy through summer and the first day of camp hits, it's like a grenade went off. Of course you've got to adapt and change and take a look at stuff."
Right now, the jury is still out on this year's results. Many of the players didn't get hurt until fall ball or into the season in 2008. Only Max Tuioti-Mariner has suffered a significant injury this offseason, with another torn ACL, something that made Buff fans question the offseason training program because he was healing from his second ACL injury in the past two years. Many asked why MTM was even out their in the first place so early in the process. It will be interesting to see if MTM can recover from his third ACL tear, second in the right knee. First reports thought he could be back for fall practice. I am not a doctor but that doesn't seem right.
Back to the positives of the article. Every year, the strength and conditioning coach has three months to instill change and growth in the players, before the X's and O's kick in. Of course, players are holding their own throwing sessions, etc. but Pitman has his sole touch on the players from a coaching stand point for three months. Goals are set and it is really up to the players whether they buy in or not. And from Pitman's standpoint, they have:
Tired of losing...that sounds about right. Buffs fans could add in their tired of losing, tired of excuses, tired of expectations faltering midseason. But their is that point about average age increasing that should get us excited. The team is still young on paper but in terms of underclassmen playing time, the Buffs should be considered experienced. Most have been through a year of playing time on a big stage against great competition in the Big 12 and out of conference.
Now to the fun parts of the article. According to Kyle Ringo, Pittman singled out a few players that have really progressed and it sounds like he wasn't provoked in doing so:
While the entire team performed better than in the past, a few players stuck out to Pitman. He mentioned running back Darrell Scott and tackle Nate Solder by name and raved about the offensive line as a group.
Mr. Darrell Scott. I am ready for the era to begin. I get more and more impressed every time I read about him. The fact that he is sticking out, working hard, realizing he is back to square on and everything must be earned has to be music to all of our ears.
Pitman said Scott showed up big time in the weight room this winter. Scott is down to 205 pounds and is over the ankle injury that plagued him throughout the fall.
"We're extremely happy with Darrell's progress," Pitman said. "I think he's done a great job. That guy has got a lot of pressure on him and he responded. Like all the guys, I don't make things easy on him, and he did a great job responding."
205 pounds equals a new running back and new monster. It is going to be a show this year. As fans, all we secretly wanted Darrell Scott to do this offseason was respond. Show us last year was unacceptable by his standards and that is all we wanted. Right now, he has answered all of our questions with flying colors. The fact that Pitman singled him out speaks volumes. But as Darrell Scott does his thing, don't forget about Rodney Stewart. Stewart is saying, "what Mr. Scott, you are late to the party, I was doing this last year. I am still dominating too."
Pitman said he added a wrinkle to the program this year measuring players against one another on a pound-for-pound basis. Pitman said pound-for-pound the strongest player on the team is running back Rodney Stewart, who is 5-6, 175 pounds.
Is Stewart one of the greatest unheralded finds in Colorado football history? All he does is lead the team in rushing his freshman year and was on pace to break CU records all over the place. Then he gets hurt, recovers and is still the strongest player on the team. The runningback competition just got a little more exciting in my eyes.
Now onto the big guys. Pitman says the offensive line really kicked it into gear this offseason, especially Nate Solder, who he calls one of the greatest athletes he has ever coached in his sixteen years and even goes as far to say the word "freak":
Those who know Pitman might not believe it's possible for him to sound giddy about anything. He came awful close when talking about Solder, whom he says is 6-foot-9, 305 pounds and runs a 4.8-second 40-yard dash, has a 34-inch vertical jump with 10 percent body fat.
"He's a freak," Pitman said. "That guy, for his size and how tall he is, in 16 years he very well may be one of the best athletes I've ever worked with. "He took it to a whole different level. I mean he's head and shoulders above a lot of dudes over the years. You know, I've worked with a lot of guys in the NFL."
305 pounds, 4.8 forty. Wow. Solder, who was a tight end in high school, is still very much learning the tackle position as was evident at times last season but he is one of those guys who should still be considered young but very experienced now. He obviously has the skills to succeed and I think Denver Johnson is going to be an upgrade over Grimes for these players. I think we are going to look back on this Johnson/Grimes trade and feel we got a better coach and a killer recruiter.
Other noteworthy stats from the article:
Cornerback Jimmy Smith is the fastest player on the team with an average 40-yard speed of 4.4 seconds. Smith was one of nine players on the team consistently timed in the 4.4 and 4.5-second range in the 40.
Once again, Jimmy Smith should be a first team All Big 12 corner this year. I can't wait for the Dez Bryant v. Jimmy Smith matchup this year. That should be his coming out party.
This got me excited and hopefully, it gets you going. The Buffs will still have to do it on the field but I like what I am hearing out of camp.
Let's just stay healthy.