Finishing Focus of Summer Workouts

In 2006, the Colorado Buffaloes went into the fourth quarter of six games within seven points of their opponent. Each time they lost the game. One of the goals in this summer's strength and conditioning program was to learn how to finish. The ultimate proof will come a few months from now, but by all accounts, the team's summer was productive.

"A lot of times last year, we faded in the fourth quarter," said defensive tackle George Hypolite. "Especially as a defense, we didn't fill our deal a lot of times, and we had opportunities to win but we lost them in the fourth quarter."

With that in mind, the Buffs' summer workouts — directed by strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman — were tougher than a year ago. The team lifted four days and ran three days a week.

"We kind of ratcheted it up a notch," Hypolite said. "We were doing a lot more. We switched from running stadiums to running hills and added another 300-yard shuttle. It was a little more intense this summer."

The 290-pound player says he sees a difference in his own physicality.

"If you look at me from a year ago, physically, I look different," he said. "And I feel different. I feel so much stronger."

Another difference between the 2006 and 2007 summer workouts, which concluded Friday, was that everyone was on the same page.

Pitman officially joined the team from Boise State last June. The summer of 2006 served as a breaking in period. Pitman had to make his expectations clear, and that takes time. And the players, some of whom were introduced to their third strength coach at CU when Pitman arrived, had to learn to trust his program.

Pitman's approach was and remains different than his predecessor Greg Finnegan's. Pitman's workouts are based in power lifting with the goal to improve player explosion on the field.

Pitman was pleased with the player's work this summer, a different tune than he sang last August as the team convened for camp.

"It went pretty well — a lot better than last summer," Pitman said last week. "The group as a whole did a great job. Just as an example, this time last year we had 28 guys power clean 300 pounds, and this time around we've got over 60. We're definitely happy about that."

Other numbers the team produced during last week's testing include: 58 players bench pressed 300-pounds or greater; 27 benched 350 or greater and seven put up 400 or more on the bench press. Nearly 50 players had at least a 30-inch vertical jump, up from 43 during the spring tests. The team doesn't run 40-yard dashes in July in order to avoid hamstring injuries going into August camp.

Using Pitman's power-lifting approach the past 13 months should pay off this season, said senior offensive lineman Edwin Harrison.

"I had always told my teammates how I wished we had emphasized a little bit more on power lifting," he said. "I feel the power lifting has made us tremendously more explosive. We'll see the benefits on the field. It's going to pay off."

And the payoff from the summer's effort will be more than physical, said Harrison, who improved his power clean from 333 to 350 pounds the past two months.

"I think guys have the confidence going into camp that we are really prepared," he said. "Training camp is truly a grind and you have to be at the top of your game, not only physically, but mentally as well. It's an everyday, hitting affair. You're body has to be in tip-top shape."

Among the many standouts in the weightroom this summer was true freshman running back Brian Lockridge. At 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, the rookie power cleaned over 300 pounds, according to Harrison.

"That's a guy that's a running back who came right out of high school. It's pretty impressive," Harrison said.

Members of the freshman class earned Hypolite's respect, as well.

"Our coaches are doing a great job of evaluating talent," Hypolite said. "All the guys have come right in and are all working hard. A lot of them are a little farther advanced on the curve, and are kind of ready to go. We've got a lot of (young) guys now who are ready to go as opposed to maybe my freshman year when we weren't all ready to go when I first got here. Most of these guys, they came right in and they're getting right to work just like they've been here three or four years."

Some of the true freshmen may very well end up playing this fall. Whoever sees the field will be aiming to play in the fourth quarter as well as they did in the first.

"(Coach Pitman's) workout this summer, it's really preparing us for the fourth quarter, preparing us to finish," Hypolite said. "Personally, I feel like I've been through a lot, through (workouts) where the last couple of years I don't know if I would have mentally been able to get through them."

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