March is now upon us and it is time to get back in that mode of football. It feels good just to say that. Although preparation for one of the most important seasons in the past decade began right after the 2008 season ended, March 31st will be the first time we personally get to see things like RB Darrell Scott at 200 pounds, a new offensive scheme (sort of), Denver Johnson coaching the offensive line and hopefully, we see a young & injured team last year begin to mature and show signs of a 8+ win team.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will breakdown the top 10 - 20 questions going into spring ball as well as a position by position breakdown as we see it this springtime. Of course, no one has ever won a starting spot in spring practice. With only a few days of pads and actual hitting, we won't get a great look at important position battles like defensive line. But there are a few things I am definitely looking for that aren't necessarily measured by yards gained or completion percentages. I will be keeping an eye on a couple of intangibles that are always important, especially in the transformation of an inexperienced and often hurt 2008 squad to a successful 2009 contender. Intangibles are key in the game of football, just ask the Denver Broncos right now. A new coach and GM who has already rocked the boat to a point possibly beyond repair, a wide receiver who can't stay out of a trouble (most recent charges have been dropped), a very insecure & immature quarterback that forgets he gets paid to play this game, etc. there is no doubt in my mind that this won't show in their play next year. Here are some intangibles I will be watching for when I attend spring practice:
1) Team Morale and Energy Level - basically, how is this team going to respond after a disappointing 2008 season. Is this team going to be flying around out there, running to their drills, being vocal, cheering each other on or is their still some indecisiveness out there about the quarterbacks, the coaches, the defensive line that will come through in the players' play? Basically does this team believe they can win a ton of games next year and does that show in their play? Half of the battle with a still young team is getting them to believe and buy into what the goal is.
2) Team Leadership - Over 60% of the defense is still considered an underclassmen and over 65% of the offense are made up of sophomores or freshmen. The Buffs lost two vocal leaders in S Ryan Walters and DL George Hypolite to graduation on the defensive side of the ball. They also lost a leader by example in C Daniel Sanders. QB Cody Hawkins is definitely a leader but he is only one guy and is in a battle right now for the starting job. I would prefer for a leader to be on the field all the time and that we have at least 2 guys on each side of the ball who everyone can look to in tough situations. Is OT Ryan Miller ready to accept that post? How about a guy like RB Darrell Scott...a kid who has shown nothing but maturity and class in what was a tough first year, can he be the tough guy when he needs to? Let's face it, the Buffs and Dan Hawkins needs a few of these sophomores to take the reins and lead. They are the foundation of this team. Other candidates would probably include TE Riar Geer, LB Shaun Mohler, CB Cha'pelle Brown, LB Jeff Smart and QB Tyler Hansen. They don't need to be the most vocal people but can be like Daniel Sanders who consistently works hard and does their job. Leadership is huge and it's one thing that the players need to take on themselves, not the coaches.
3) A Sense of Urgency - Dan Hawkins made note of the sense of urgency this team needs to have this year when he didn't predict, but said he expects 10 wins this year. That is a sense of urgency. Two things you hear a lot when you are on a sideline playing in a game is "sudden change" and "a sense of urgency" both of which center around a player's ability to respond in the toughest of situations. It embodies a teams character and will to get the job done. When the Buffs take the field on March 31st, do they practice with a sense of urgency and a will to perform? I look for the coaches to instill this from day one.
4) Are We Having Fun Yet? - Again, some of you might be like "what is this guy talking about?" Trust me, I know about football player psychology and it is extremely important. One of my big pet peeves from last year was a lack of excitement. It just didn't seem like the Buffs were all that amped to get out there and roll. Seemed more like a job and less like a game. Call it a lack of fire or whatever. Hopefully it was a result of being young and just trying to keep up their head above water but this team seemed really tense last year. in 2009, watch to see if there is excitement when a guy makes a big stick or a ton of emotion when the game starts. Having fun means the ability to relax and have confidence in yourself to get the job done. A tense team doubts themselves, finds flaws in their game, etc.
Simply said, this team needs confidence. Whether it has been built in the offseason or will be built up in spring and fall practice, come that first Saturday against Colorado State, it is a must.
Fun Facts for the Spring Game
In preparation to make sure you know all the information to get you ready for spring ball, we will try to post some facts leading up to March 31st.
Our first one is a no brainer... the 2009 Spring Practice Schedule from Dave Plati and the SID:
Spring practice will begin Tuesday, March 31, and end with the spring game on Saturday, April 25. The tentative dates are as follows: March 31; April 2-3-
6-9-11-13-14-16-17-20-21-23-25; a high school coaches clinic is set for April 2-3. The team is allowed 15 practices over 29 days; this is the first time in
four years CU is not starting prior to spring break (March 23-27) and will complete spring ball from start to finish when the players return. How the practice sessions will break down, per NCAA rules: three in shorts (no contact), four in pads (no tackling), four in pads (tackling allowed 50 percent or less of the time), four in pads (tackling allowed throughout).
Questions and Topics You Want to See Covered
In an attempt to make sure you use the Ralphie Report as your home for all questions leading into spring ball, we welcome you to post in the comment section or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org any topics you would like discussed in the next 30 or so days leading up to spring practice.
Anyone else pumped?