Getting In Shape a Priority for Perez

First there was the return to L.A. for one last summer school class. Then there was the wait for a transcript. Then a wait for a diploma. Then a wait for a signature. Then the five mandatory practices without full pads. The waiting ends officially Tuesday for CU running back Thomas Perez.

Thomas Perez will be in full pads Tuesday when the Buffs hit the practice field. Perez practiced in shells Monday, and took a couple of carries in a full contact situation. But the real test begins this week. Priority No. 1 is for Perez to get into football shape.

Running backs coach Darian Hagan isn't necessarily anxious to see what he's got to work with in Perez. That's because he already knows. Hagan watched Perez play when he was a senior at Lynwood High School in Los Angeles County. Perez, who stands 6-foot-1 and is listed at 220 pounds, averaged 9.0 yards a carry for Lynwood in 2003.

Hagan then watched Perez run at Compton Community College as he put up nearly 2,000 yards the past two seasons. With the team's second scrimmage of fall camp slated for Friday night, Perez needs to use this week to begin getting used to taking and, hopefully, delivering punishment on the field.

"He's going to be alright," Hagan said. "He's just got to get his legs under him. I told him the altitude is no joke. But he'll be fine."

Perez joins a backfield that has several players fighting for carries. Hugh Charles looks to be the starter, and Mell Holliday was impressive in Sunday's scrimmage, running against the second-team defense. Byron Ellis is a returning veteran. Redshirt-freshman Kevin Moyd and freshmen Demetrius Sumler and Cory Nabors are also working hard to get noticed.

Does Hagan think Perez can battle for playing time with the home opener vs. Montana State less than three weeks away? Stupid question.

"That's why he's here," Hagan said. "We expect him to come in and compete for a job. Everybody's competing for a job. But I think he can scoot up the (depth chart). It's up to him. It's a matter of how fast he can get in shape."

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