"The guys that have been in the mix and know how to play the game are getting after it," head coach Gary Barnett said afterwards. "The guys that are just trying to learn are slobberknockered. But the vets are going after it pretty good. I really like they way their going after it and talking to each other."
Open Sidelines The 50 or so fans that showed up for Sunday's late afternoon practice got a treat. Gary Barnett opened up the sidelines on the north side of the center field, allowing fans and media to watch close up. Typically, spectators are allowed to watch from the west part of the fields, and the only up-close look is usually at the offensive linemen who work on that side of the field.
|Alonzo Barrett listens to Bill Inge during special teams drills. (BSN)|
So Sunday was revealing. One drill in particular was riveting. The Board Drill includes a series of foam blocks on the ground that create lanes. The offense and defense square off against each other individually. Barnett led the drill. When he blew the whistle, the two opponents hit each other and tried to push the other through the lane.
Everyone except skill position and kickers participated. It was a real mano y mano thing, and the players got hyped about it. Some of the biggest moments came from Joe Klopfenstein, Maurice Cantrell, Tyler Polumbus and Taj Kaynor, who dominated their opponent in the drill. James Garee and Brian Daniels dueled to a tie.
"That shows a lot right there," Barnett said of the drill, in general.
Another drill was for the wide receivers. They stand in a large circle and one receiver goes in the middle. The others take three balls total among them and yell "catch" and throw the ball to the guy in the middle one at a time, in quick succession. It's designed to work on looking quickly at an oncoming ball and making the catch.
The tight ends went through a drill using a figure eight pattern and golf balls. Two players stand about 10 feet apart and a third weaves around them in a figure eight. Coach Wristen tosses a golf ball to them as they come around into the center each time.
It's not a new drill, as Paul Creighton explained.
"We did that my freshman year," Creighton said. "I used to be just awful at it. I couldn't catch a golf ball to save my life. But I've gotten better at it, thank God. Wristo even made me go to an eye doctor to get my eyes checked because I was that bad."
He was catching the golf balls Sunday. Creighton spent the entire day with the tight ends. Same thing Saturday. He practiced the first two days with the fullbacks. Creighton said he will continue to back up both positions, and practice both places too.
Creighton is a junior, and this is his fourth fall camp. I asked him if, through four days, it felt any different from previous camps.
"It feels good," Creighton said. "We've got a lot of possible playmakers out here. We've come together. It's a close team. I haven't seen the closeness and camaraderie since I've been here. It's a lot more fun."
He also mentioned the overall physical condition of the team.
"Finny, I guess you could say he did a good job," Creighton laughed about conditioning coach Greg Finnegan and his summer program. "But if you ask us, he ran the crap out of us this summer. When it comes to here now it makes it easier to get through practice. Everyone's physically stronger. People are handling hits better and staying healthier."
Depth Chart Shuffle
Sunday, coaches were playing with some different combinations on defense. Toward the end of practice the offense and defense squared off in an extended 11-on-11 scrimmage. J.J. Billingsley and Ryan Walters were running alongside Gerett Burl and Lorenzo Sims with the No. 1 defense. The No. 2 secondary included Terry Washington and Stephone Robinson at corners and Tyrone Henderson and Tom Hubbard at safety.
Perhaps more eye-opening was that true freshman George Hypolite was running with the second team defense at defensive tackle, beside John Guydon. Walk-on senior Nick Clement was also getting some reps at DT with the twos, but junior Marcus Jones was clearly running with the third team. Hypolite is playing at a level below Guydon, and certainly starters James Garee and Vaka Manupuna. But his size and athleticism have been a pleasant surprise so far in camp, and have earned him early reps with the twos.
|George Hypolite was getting reps with the second defense Sunday.. (BSN)|
There are signs that he's getting it mentally, too. He drew praise from line coach Bill Inge when he sniffed out a screen pass on one play.
Asked about Hypolite, defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz included the entire class of d-linemen in his response: "We've got some good young defensive linemen and we're trying to see what they can do," Hankwitz said. "We feel great about that group. You're going to hear good things about that group. It may not be all of them this year, but you take Maurice Lucas and Taj Kaynor and Sam Zimmerer and Zach Jones and George — we think we've got an excellent young group.
One of the hardest positions to play in college football as a true freshman is in the lines. …But we feel great about that group."
Barnett praises RBs
Heading into camp, Barnett pointed to the running back position as the biggest question mark. Four days in, he was feeling good about sophomores Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis, who are both having good camps.
"I like the two running backs. I think they're darn good players," Barnett said.
Your Team Update
The athletic department's Your Team campaign, where a group of roughly 50 fans have worked selling season tickets the past month, will end Tuesday. One booster who has come up with an innovative way to get tickets to youngsters in Denver is Jerry Johnson.
Johnson developed the YMCA Junior Buffaloes program with a Denver YMCA flag football league. He got people to donate money so that a significant number of youths from the football league will get to see one Colorado home game this fall. He's also worked it out so that the league will wear reversible jerseys this fall with the CU colors and CU logo on it.
Anyone who has a child in area YMCA basketball leagues knows this is something the Denver Nuggets already do, as Y leagues use reversible blue and white jerseys with Nuggets logos on them.
Johnson said he hopes to expand the Junior Buffaloes program to Boulder County kids in the future.
Center Bryce MacMartin was in a boot with a high ankle sprain. Barnett said he would be out of action until Thursday. Lawrence Vickers was wearing a blue, non-contact jersey after having his bell rung Saturday by linebacker Thaddaeus Washington. "Vickers was on a different planet today, so we just didn't let him get hit. But he's alright." Jarrell Yates developed tendonitis in a knee late in summer, and he's been in an orange jersey since the first half of Day 1. They are resting him to see how things go. Blake Mackey suffered what looked like a knee or ankle injury during a 11-on scrimmage situation. Barnett said he didn't think it was serious, but didn't yet know for sure. Mackey will undergo some tests this evening, and they should know more Monday.
The HYPE (believe it or not)
Getting a closer look Sunday was great. Perhaps because it was the fourth straight practice, and it was the hottest weather yet, the play wasn't as crisp as the first three. There were several dropped balls in receiving/defensive back drills. But the competition was still heated.
There was some work on punt teams, both punt block technique (Inge) and return (Brian Cabral).
Kevin Moyd is getting more and more comfortable. He had a nice run in one situation and drew a high-five from Barnett. During place kicking drills, Barnett could be heard hollering, "I like our kickers! I like our kickers!"
Craig Bray is working a lot with Terry Washington. He's getting a lot of attention, presumably because they want him ready to play in September. On one play, Bray was chewing on Washington for being out of position, and as the play continued, Washington broke on the ball and stripped the receiver.
When he gets Bray's techniques, and how to read pass plays down, Washington will be a player.
Believe this: The most spectacular catches of the day belonged to Charlie Sherman. He was working with the rookie quarterbacks against a DB one on one in a drill. He reached back and hauled in a one-hander with a DB on him on one play. A few minutes later, Sherman went Randy Moss on Terry Wilson, climbing a ladder and coming down with an under-thrown pass. Hardly anyone was watching, or it would have drawn oohs and ahhs.