CU Hitting Home Stretch of Offseason Program

The Colorado football team began its offseason strength and conditioning program Jan. 17 and will officially end it March 10, three days before the beginning of spring practices. According to strength and conditioning coach Greg Finnegan, it's been a productive couple of months.

"Overall, the kids have trained hard, the intensity's been high," Finnegan said earlier this week. "The energy's been very good."

Finnegan's overseen the strength and conditioning program at Colorado since May 2003. While head coach Dan Hawkins and his staff of assistant coaches are limited by NCAA rules in the amount of contact they can have with the players during the offseason, Finnegan and his staff are with the players on a daily basis.

Oftentimes, when there's a coaching change between the last football game and spring practice — as there was at Colorado — it's the strength coach that brings stability to the team, as long as he's retained by the new coach.

Hawkins said the weightroom is where a team's "toughness, discipline, work ethic, blue-collar mentality" is formed.

Finnegan said Hawkins is the kind of head coach that lets the strength coach run the strength program. However, Hawkins gave some directives prior to the start of offseason conditioning. He changed the workout times from previous years that were heavy on the early morning hours. Hawkins also wanted some tangible outcomes from the offseason work.

"The big thing is I want to see us get stronger," Hawkins said. "I want to see our clean numbers go up and the bench numbers, particularly in those big guys up front."

Finnegan will oversee strength testing next Friday, the last day of offseason workouts. However, the players won't perform their speed testing — the shuttle, L-drill and 40-yard dash — until May 3. That's for a couple of reasons. One, it's an easier date for the pro scouts who typically come to put an eyeball on the rising juniors (pro scouts call it a Junior Day). And saving the run tests for after spring ball avoids injuries.

"You always worry about running kids right before spring ball starts," Finnegan said. "You get somebody pulling a hamstring and they miss the first two weeks of spring ball."

Under Gary Barnett, many of the offseason workouts began at 6 a.m. This time around, the number of early morning sessions have been reduced.

"(Hawkins) doesn't want to grind them this early in the year," Finnegan said. "Instead of getting the kids up four days a week, we've got them up at the most two. We're doing a lot more of our running in the afternoon this year."

The time change has helped the players' energy, Finnegan said.

"I don't care if you know you've got a 6 a.m. run the next morning, most college kids are not going to be disciplined enough to get themselves in bed at 9 o'clock," he said.

The team has lifted four days a week throughout the program. In January, they were running two days a week — speed work — then began running three days a week later in the offseason program, working in some agility drills along the way.

One day of the week that's been an early morning workout is Friday. The entire team lifts in the Dal Ward Center in two shifts on that day, one at 6 a.m. and the other at 7:15 p.m.

"It develops camaraderie and teamwork. We do a lot of competitions," Finnegan said of the Friday sessions. "On the positive note for the players, they've got the weekend to recover. So much of what we do is that: We tear the body down then it's got to have time to recover. I think we're doing a better job of that this spring."

Another positive is that the new staff have been able, per the NCAA rules, to work with the players for one hour a week in basic position drills. No footballs are allowed in the sessions.

"They're just working on getting in stances and things like that. Real basic stuff," Finnegan said.

(The NCAA is strict on the offseason contact issue. San Diego State was penalized in recent years for going over the line in summer and winter workouts from 1998-2002 — when some assistant coaches diagramed and worked on plays and simulated game situations, which is against the rules).

Perhaps the most beneficial thing for the hour-per-week contact between players and coaches this offseason has been simply getting used to each other.

"It's good because they're starting to get a feel for their coaches," Finnegan said. "Coach Hawkins told the team, one of the factors that we need to progress on is the bond between the players and the new staff. How rapidly that develops is going to determine our success next fall."

Finnegan also said there's a good energy among the players that's come from Hawkins and the new staff. And the staff has made it clear that starting jobs are open.

"Guys who've been here and started for three years, it's a brand new staff, and they know that (coach) has never seen them practice. All they've seen is game tape. They've never seen them work," Finnegan said. "There is a new sense of going out and proving yourself to the new staff. And that just adds to the energy.

"It's exciting times. The kids, they're excited to get out there (in spring ball) and learn the new scheme, see how things are going to be different. Let's face it, we had a bad taste in our mouths at the end of last season."

Colorado lost its last four games of the 2005 season, and was outscored a combined 100-6 in two of them.

Hawkins was noncommittal when asked how he thought offseason training had gone, preferring to wait until he saw the fruits of the players' labor in the coming weeks.

"I think it's been OK," Hawkins said. "I think we'll know when we get to spring ball."

Asked to name some players who he thought were having a particularly good offseason, Finnegan named four. Running back Hugh Charles ("He'll stand out again. He's going to put numbers up [during testing] that'll blow your mind.") offensive lineman Brian Daniels, linebacker Thaddaeus Washington and cornerback Lorenzo Sims ("He's coming off having knee surgery and he's done a real nice job.")

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