Welcome back to another edition of "The Ralphie Report Live" where we sit down with a few prominent people that have an impact on Colorado athletics. Today, we had the privilege to talk with Chad Koepke, the head coach of the Littleton Lions and Buffs' 2010 verbal commit, running back Mister Jones. Jones committed last week to the University of Colorado, becoming the second member of this cycle's class. Like most fans, we get excited when the Buffs bring in a new runningback so we thought we would get on the horn and learn a little more about Mister. We spent about 10 minutes with Coach Koepke discussing a range of topics including Jones' talents, areas for improvement and his personal growth over his high school career. Thanks again to Chad for the interview:
The Ralphie Report (TRR): Being a Colorado kid, we are that much more excited about Mister Jones playing for the Buffs. What makes Mister a special player and what kind of player should we expect to see on Saturdays for years to come?
Coach Koepke (CK): Well, he is a very exciting player and I guess the biggest thing at the next level is he has to continue to run the football hard which he has done throughout his high school career. He has really learned to run the ball inside (the tackles). Before, as a sophomore, he was great on the edge using his speed but now he has gained a little size, weighing 205 pounds. So now when he runs downhill, it is exciting because there aren't too many guys at the high school level that want to step in there and take that on.
He is just a very dynamic kid who is fun to watch run the ball
TRR: We often hear the phrase "a track star playing football" does that best describe Jones?
CK: Honestly, I think he is a better football player than he is a track athlete. Pure speed-wise he is pretty good but he has been an all league and second team all state player in football. At the track level he has done some things on the relay team but I think he is kind of getting a bad rap about a track kid playing football. He is 205 pounds and runs "football" well with very few teams that are able to stop him.
TRR: In your discussions with Jones, how was the recruiting process for him and was ever thinking about going anywhere else than CU?
CK: He had a few schools that were interested in him. Wyoming had offered him, KU had offered him. I think the attraction with CU was they were the first to offer him and the first ones to show interest so I think he has a little bit of loyalty there. All that being said, it isn't a surprise in my mind. It helps that (CU) is a regional school and he has always talked about staying within this region. I am excited that I get to see him play.
TRR: Whenever you read about Mister, there is that mention of an ankle injury or hamstring injury. Is he back to 100% and how important is it for his psyche to get through this year unscathed? Do you think his injuries have affected his recruitment of schools nationwide?
CK: I think that the injuries probably had something to do with it (not being recruited on a bigger level). He only started five games a year ago and still rushed for 900 yards. As far as his ankle injuries go, his first one happened as a freshman in Arizona and it never really got taken care of. I don't even know how it happened but it always bothered him early on until he got that fixed. This last one was just a fluke deal as he was trying to get out of a tackle and someone rolled up on him so has had a little bit of bad luck.
If he doesn't sit for five games last year, (also injured in one of the games with a hamstring injury) he is a 2,000 yard rusher and in the five games he played in against a few of those teams, he had less than 10 carries. A couple of them may not have been the greatest of opponents but we are definitely a different team when Mister is in the game.
click after the jump to read the rest of the interview...
TRR: Obviously Mister is a talent and we expect big things from him but there is always a learning curve and room for improvement. Name a few things that he still needs to work on to be an elite back?
CK: Like I said in the beginning about running in between the tackles and continuing to develop there, he needs to get his pad level down which goes hand in hand with running inside. If you are going to run between the tackles, you better drop your pad level especially since he is a tall kid at 6'2" so he does have the tendency to run a little high. We were up there last week (at the University of Colorado) for camp and one of our main points of emphasis was his pass protection. Coming up blocking the edge, blocking a defensive end or a blitzing linebacker. We have to continue to improve on that aspect of the game especially for the next level. Those are probably the two things that we need to work on the most to get him ready for the next level, which could essentially make or break (his success) in college.
TRR: Much has been made about Jones' decision to sign with Colorado because of his mother's health, how has Jones handled that adversity? What can you tell us about the person off the field?
CK: He is a pretty mature kid. He certainly has not had the typical home life. He has had to deal with a few family issues where he had to grow up pretty fast. All in all, I think he has handled it pretty well. You gotta remember he may look like he is 24 or 25 years old but he is still an 18 year old kid and sometimes we expect those kids to act like they are 25 when they are still a teenager. He has definitely matured over this past year, year and a half dealing with adversity whether it is in his home life or the way he handles on the field coaching.
TRR: One of the big challenges that faces Colorado football every year is getting kids to qualify academically year in and year out because, unlike most of the schools in the Big 12, student-athletes are judged on the same playing field as regular students. How is he in the classroom?
CK: At this point he is on track to qualify. He is doing some stuff this summer to get ahead so his senior year he can concentrate on some of his other classes. He has really taken the initiative (academically) this last year or so to put himself in the position to have the opportunity to play somewhere. We anticipate nothing but him qualifying.
TRR: Last question and thanks again for your time. Your Littleton high school team had a strong season last year, starting off the season very well. How does the team look right now and can you expect another 8+ win season?
CK: As far as returners go, we lost a running back who replaced Mister last year in Jessen Kirchner, we lost a tight end and a guard and a couple of defensive guys so all in all, we have about 16 players returning starters coming back. So we feel pretty good about where we are at. We have a couple holes that every high school team has to fill. We expect to battle Ralston Valley, Standley Lake and Monarch High Schools for our league championship this year and hopefully get out of the first round of the playoffs.
We have gotten to the first round of the playoffs three of the last four years and we just haven't quite gotten over that hump. We are doing some things differently scheme wise both offensively and defensively with our personnel that will put us in a little bit better of a position to be successful.
TRR: That conference with Ralston Valley and Monarch in it is one of the classes of Colorado football
CK: Those two schools are the ones you have to beat to win the conference year in and year out.
TRR: Well, coach, that is all I have for you. I appreciate your time and we will be rooting for you guys and Mister this upcoming season.