The practices consist of the skill position players on offense vs. the linebackers and secondary on defense.
"It's a good learning experience for the defense and the offense," said junior linebacker Jordon Dizon earlier this week. "You call your own plays; you learn to make decisions on your own because there's no coach there. You pretty much learn from your own mistakes when you do a 7 on 7.
"It's really good to keep the mind fresh and keep it on football so you don't lose it."
Just days into the 7-ons, senior quarterback James Cox called the unofficial practices "a lot more organized" than they had been in recent years.
"I think people have gone up and met with their coaches more and found out what they want us to do and want us to accomplish on the field," Cox said. "Basically, what it is is a mini-practice with no coaches. That's how we're trying to run it."
It makes sense for a team — especially on offense — that is still learning a new system brought by a new coaching staff.
The quarterbacks run the offense, while on defense, the linebackers typically take charge. This summer, Dizon and senior inside linebacker Thaddaeus Washington have taken the reins.
"It's been going really well; better than I thought it would," Dizon said. Dizon has been calling plays, while Washington has been the team enforcer.
"The way people respond to Thaddaeus' leadership – everything's going fine. He doesn't call the plays, but he emphasizes, ‘You do the right thing or you're out.'
"It's been fun out there."
Both Cox and Dizon are very positive about what's going on inside the Dal Ward Center weightroom, as well.
"I think (Coach Pittman) is going to be a great guy for this program," Cox said of his first impressions of the new strength and conditioning coach. "He's a good teacher. He went through everything; we have a lot of new things we're going to do in the weightroom. So he took his time and showed us the correct way to do things.
"He said, ‘There's nothing that's insurmountable, it's just all in your head. You've got to push yourself and you can do anything.'"
One of the team's clear goals this summer and beyond — mandated from head coach Dan Hawkins — is to get stronger. Coach Hawkins met with the team recently with some statistics in hand — strength numbers from players in some other programs and the same numbers from the CU players. It wasn't a pretty sight.
"It was crazy. Some categories, we weren't even close," Dizon said. "Like power clean, we had barely one or two guys who were on the list with (numbers from) other schools."
Dizon called his own strength numbers "embarrassing." Coming from a small school in Hawaii (there were just 25 players on his team his senior season), it's understandable that weight-lifting wasn't emphasized. While his lifting numbers are 50 percent better than when he got here two summers ago, Dizon said he looks forward to getting stronger under Pittman's regimen.
"I love it," Dizon said midway through the first week of summer weight-lifting and conditioning. "It's hard. It's not easy at all. It's something that emphasizes what we need — get bigger, get stronger. With Coach Pit here, that's his main objective, to get you big and get you strong. We need someone like that."
As for the conditioning, Dizon said the team will work on straight-ahead running Mondays, stadium work on Tuesdays, and Thursdays is a "bust-your-butt kind of day. You buckle your chin strap; Thursday's a hard day."
More on Cox
Cox participated in just two of 15 spring practices after fracturing a bone between his thumb and wrist, and stressing the shell over his tendon in the same spot. He began throwing in late May with his brothers when he went home to California for summer break. Cox said he threw to CU receivers for the first time on Monday, and though his hand is still a bit sore, it went well.
"It's getting better. It's ready to go," he said. "It still has little aches and pains sometimes, but it's something you just have push through and get it done."
Cox is the most experienced of the four quarterbacks on the roster, including freshman Cody Hawkins and juniors Bernard Jackson and Brian White. But being out during most of the spring — practices crucial for quarterbacks trying to learn a new system — set him back in the competition to be named No. 1.
He's staying positive, however.
"It'll take a lot of hard work, but it's not insurmountable," he said about getting back in the mix. "So I'm just going to work hard as I can in the weightroom, in 7-ons, and getting in the coaches' offices and watching film."
More on Dizon
Dizon, from the western Hawaiian island of Kauai, always has a story to tell when he returns to Colorado from a trip home. This time it was fish tales.
Dizon spent some time every day he was home spear fishing with his spear gun.
"You free dive with goggles," he explained. "You go down and hide behind a rock. You hold your breath for a minute or so and hopefully the fish swim by."
They did, and he surfaced with quite a few fish, he said.