Offensive line coach Dave Borbely said the difference between Wilder the offensive lineman then and now is "night and day."
"Every situation, every snap in practice, every snap in a game was a new learning experience for him," Borbely said. "And you can tell he's much more comfortable at the position. He's playing like a veteran player. I think he's got a chance to be a really good football player for us."
He'll need to be if the Buffs hope to improve on offense, particularly in their run game which averaged just 93.5 yards per game last season. And Wilder gave up a team-high 27 pass pressures last season as well.
But the player who came to Colorado in 2000 with a lanky frame busted it in the weightroom over the offseason and now weighs in the neighborhood of 295 pounds. After playing last year at 275, the added weight — most of which is in the form of muscle, according to Wilder — should help him do more of the pushing around, rather than allow him to be on the receiving end.
Borbely sees a big difference that the added weight has brought.
"He's in the low 290s right now," Borbely said. "He's really playing good football right now. He's a good effort player."
And he's not done with the weight. Wilder said he hopes to put on 10 more pounds over the summer and play at around 305 in the fall. He thinks he can carry that much weight comfortably on his 6-foot-5 frame.
"(Strength coach Greg) Finnegan's done a great job with the whole team," Wilder said about his added pounds. "Everyone's so much stronger than they've been in the past. He's got a great program. He works us hard."
For now, Wilder is working on the technique he wished he'd had a chance to develop prior to being thrown into the fire last season.
"I'm focusing on the little things that hurt me last year," he said. "Just keeping my weight inside on the pass rush, working my hands better and coming off the ball a little bit lower."
And Wilder may be coming into his own as a team leader as well. He was one of six Buffs who volunteered recently to speak before the Independent Investigative Committee about his experience as a CU football player. He talked there about the accountability he's learned from his coaches and teammates.
Wilder is one of just 13 seniors on the current team, but Borbely sai he had be taking on a leadership role all through the offseason and into spring ball.
"Sam's a quiet guy, but he's a leader with his work eithic and how he approaches practice every day," Borbely said. "He's a guy that when he says something, the guys really sit up and listen."
Borbely continues to tinker with the offensive line, moving some players around and adjusting the depth chart. Overall, Borbely said the unit is playing a physical brand of football that he likes. However, "We're a little inconsistent, and I need to see more consistency out of the group on a day-to-day basis," he said.
This week, Wilder and Clint O'Neal are running No. 1 at the tackles, while Brian Daniels has moved to tight guard and John Guydon has moved over from center to split guard, making room for Mark Fenton at center.
Borbely also said guard Terrence Barreau "is doing an excellent job for us, and Gary Moore's doing an excellent job."
Edwin Harrison is backing up O'Neal at the tight tackle, and Borbely said "he's still learning the system. He's got a lot of ability. I like his work ethic."
Free safety J.J. Billingsley was back in pads Monday after missing the first several spring practices recovering from minor knee surgery. He said he felt good, and interim head coach Brian Cabral added, "He was out there flying around. It was fun to see him — he flies fast." Billingsley wore a non-contact blue jersey. Cabral said he wasn't sure when the safety would be allowed to tackle. Quarterback Joel Klatt had no problem throwing the ball after getting his throwing hand dinged in a recent practice. … Offensive lineman Jack Tipton returned to action after being sidelined with an injury. …Tailback Brian Calhoun is still day-to-day. …True freshman quarterback Ryan Walters was out of uniform Monday, and didn't appear to suit up Saturday either. Cabral said Walters had been suffering from an illness some this semester and hadn't been able to participate in all the practices.
Joseph a Buff
The cornerbacks, including Sammy Joseph, have not been talking to the media in the wake of Vance Joseph's departure for the Bowling Green job last week. On Monday, Cabral said he had spoken with the younger Joseph about if there was a chance he was planning to follow his brother to the Ohio school. Cabral said Joseph assured him he's not.
"I've talked to Sammy and he assured me that Colorado is his home," Cabral said.
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