After finishing his redshirt freshman year as an offensive lineman and receiving the Joe Romig award for most improved in that category, Colorado sophomore Alex Kelley is ready to tackle the new season.
Although he only played in 97 snaps during the 2013 season, he proved himself on the field after ending the season with a 59.8 play plus average score, even though he was still learning the ropes of the program.
Now that the season has been over for five months, it's time for the Buffaloes to return to spring practice to prepare for the new season. For Kelley, the offseason has been a success thus far.
"Spring's going good," Kelley said. "Our offseason workout's been really well. We're a lot stronger and I've cut down some weight, and I'm a little faster now too."
In his time off from the season, Kelley said that improving his mental game has been a major factor in helping him step up his game.
"I've really been thinking about every single detail, because before I was really just trying to learn our system, but now I know it," he said. "I can work on every little detail. We do a really good job of having player led practices, and we just work on a bunch of stuff there too."
Although he lettered in the lineman position last year, Kelley has been practicing at the center position after the team lost Gus Handler, who will be graduating in the spring. And while he isn't the only one practicing for the position, he hopes to start out the 2014 season with the starting role.
"(Getting the position at starting center) is the dream," Kelley said. "I mean, I feel like I will get it. There's competition in every area on the football team, but I just got to do my best. If I do that, I think I'll get the job."
With Handler out of the picture, Kelley will have some big shoes to fill.
"Gus (Handler) is a heck of a player, I just need to learn all my jobs, learn all the plays, and play one hundred percent every single play," Kelley said.
The team may be young in its players and its new coaching staff of one year, but Kelley believed that if the team works to form a cohesive nucleus, the Buffaloes will have a positive outlook for the new season.
"I think (the offensive line) is really good. We got some young guys in there including me, so we just got to work together better, but that will come together during spring ball...We just got to keep working together and growing together, and I think we're going to be really good."
While the team has been improving their ball-handling and tackling skills in the spring, Kelley believes their biggest improvement is not in their abilities on the field but in their mentality.
"We've seen the most improvement, I would say, in the attitude of our team, not just on the field but off the field too," he said. "People are starting to buy in a lot more, and we're getting better."
Colorado's 2014 season officially begins on August 30 against its in-state rival Colorado State, but it will feature a spring game on Saturday, April 12 at noon in Boulder to preview this year's team to the fans.