O'Neal Having His Best Camp

Heading into his fifth year at Colorado offensive tackle Clint O'Neal is still playing under the radar of pundits and prognosticators. Former college All-American and nine-year NFL veteran Blake Brockermeyer thinks O'Neal has the opportunity to change that over the next eight months.

Blake Brockermeyer was at Colorado's afternoon football practice Friday. It was the first chance he'd had to watch CU's starting tight tackle Clint O'Neal practice since working with the Colorado senior for four weeks in May in Fort Worth, Texas, while O'Neal was home between school and CU's summer workout session.

"He knows all the tricks of the trade," O'Neal said of Brockermeyer.

Brockermeyer was a three-time All-American at the University of Texas and played for Carolina, Chicago and the Denver Broncos before retiring following the 2003 season. A first-round pick by the Panthers in 1995, he played as heavy as 320 pounds during his NFL career, well above the 245 pounds he carries these days. He started 103 games as a pro. Brockermeyer thinks O'Neal has the goods to play on Sundays, as well.

So far this August, O'Neal, who's started 17 games for the Buffs over the past two years, has been impressive.

"I think Clint's had a good camp," CU offensive line coach Dave Borbely said Friday. "He's on top of things mentally. It is probably his best camp so far."

O'Neal attributes that to experience.

"Your fourth or fifth year here, you put it all together," he said. "You feel real comfortable. You know where the pressures come from, you can read the defenses."

O'Neal worked six days a week for four weeks with Brockermeyer in May. He figures he put in roughly 60 hours under Brockemeyer's tutelage. One day would be spent lifting and conditioning, the next working on technique.

While Brockermeyer excelled at UT, he said he really learned to hone his technique under Carolina Panthers offensive line coach Jim McNally, whom Brockermeyer calls "the best technician coach in the NFL for an offensive lineman."

Brockermeyer lives in Fort Worth, and hopes to open a sports performance clinic in that area. He has worked individually with several high school linemen since he retired from the NFL, but O'Neal is the first college player.

"Clint's a great guy to work with because he wants to succeed and he works hard," said Brockermeyer who plans to take in some of CU's games in person, and work with O'Neal after the season in preparation for the NFL combine.

Brockermeyer explained some of his philosophies on offensive line play: "A good offensive lineman is like a pitcher. He can throw a change up, a fast ball and a curve. …You are the aggressor. An offensive lineman dictates where (the defender) goes."

He said one thing he's seen working individually with players, and during his career, is the tendency to have a "wide punch" – a habit of grabbing the defender on the outside of the shoulders, rather than at the top of the numbers.

"Most linemen have a wide punch," he said. "They feel good because they think, ‘At least I won't miss him.' They have this fear that they're going to whiff. Everyone does."

Blake Brockermeyer, 2000. (Getty)

That fear of whiffing — getting beat to the outside by a fast defensive end — also leads many tackles to want to play the defender straight up. Though it may be counter intuitive, Brockermeyer explained that a tackle should typically want the defender across from him lined up on his outside shoulder. That way the defender has just one option — to rush the outside. Otherwise, the defender can rush inside, outside, or bull rush the tackle.

He also said finishing blocks consistently is key in playing at the next level.

"If you finish your block and play with that nasty attitude, you'll play forever," he said. "It's all about that extra hit, that extra punch, that extra effort."

Brockermeyer also had advice for any aspiring NFL player — Bikram's Yoga. He discovered the style of yoga, which is performed in a room heated between 100-105 degrees, during his final two NFL seasons in Denver.

"I had a stale, body-builder type workout for my first five or six years in the NFL," he said. "It really hurt me, looking back on it."

As for O'Neal, the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder received very little attention from the preseason magazines. But Brockermeyer said this fall, O'Neal has an opportunity to make a name for himself before the 2006 NFL Draft.

"I'd love to see him go in the second or third round," Brockermeyer said.

What's it going to take for that to happen?

"He's got to be dominant for 11 games," Brockermeyer said.

For now, NFL dreams are on the back-burner for O'Neal. As a senior, he's trying to lead his unit through August camp as they prepare for a grueling season, beginning with Colorado State, Sept. 3.

"Right now, everybody's banged up and dinged up," O'Neal said Friday. "We've just got to fight through that. That's what camp's meant to be – to make you a man, make you a better player."

CAMP NOTES
Scrimmage on tap
Saturday's scrimmage will take place at Folsom Field from 4-6 p.m. Head coach Gary Barnett said he expects it to last from 80-90 plays, including 30-35 by the first team.

One major focus of the scrimmage will be finding a No. 3 tailback. Some backs other than Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis will get some reps with the first team so coaches can evaluate them. A third tailback is expected to emerge from a group that includes Mell Holliday, Kevin Moyd, Reggie Foster and Maurice Little.

It also appears that the No. 2 quarterback spot is James Cox's to lose. Barnett said Joel Klatt and Cox will probably be off limits for tacklers Saturday, while Brian White and Bernard Jackson will be live.

Barnett said he was also anxious to see how the receivers fare.

"We'll see where we are catching the ball, and where we are in the run game," he said. "Then we'll just play some ball."

Harrison to see action Saturday
Offensive lineman Edwin Harrison will see his most extensive action of fall camp in Saturday's scrimmage, according to line coach Dave Borbely. The sophomore missed the spring after shoulder surgery from an injury suffered in March. Coaches have brought him along slowly this month as a precautionary measure.

Harrison has been participating in drills for more than a week, but has slowly been allowed to hit more each day. Friday, Harrison went full go for the first time in camp.

"We're cutting him loose a little bit," Borbely said. "He's a little behind but he's starting to get back in the groove. I think he's feeling more confident with the shoulder."

He has been working at split guard, a position where he was expected to battle for a starting spot in the spring before the shoulder issue. Junior Jack Tipton played the position in the spring, and has had a solid couple of weeks of practice this month. He will be hard to unseat as the No. 1 split guard at this point.

"Jack's had a great camp," Borbely said. "I'm very excited about where he is. I've always felt like he would be a player for us, and he's becoming one."

As for the entire unit, Borbely is looking for more consistency, better second effort as well as execution and communication.

Vance Washington pulls groin
Coaches had hoped to get a good look at Vance Washington as a receiver in game-like situations Saturday, but the corner-turned-wide out pulled a groin in Friday's morning practice. He sat out the afternoon go and Barnett said he wasn't sure if Washington would play Saturday …Ryan Walters will seek further medical evaluation for a knee that keeps bothering him. An MRI on the knee was negative last week. …Lorenzo Sims practiced some in the morning, but sat out Friday afternoon.

One More Schollie to give
Barnett said he has one more scholarship to award a walk on after Greg Newman and David Veikune left the team Thursday. One of the two was awarded to fullback Brendan Schaub Thursday. Barnett said he intends to give the other to someone, but said he hadn't decided yet who he will give it to.

Final Open Practice
Saturday's scrimmage is the final open practice of August for fans and media.