Just a few more days

The last day of access to players for interviews was today. It's been a long six weeks since we first started talking about the 2008 season in earnest back in Kansas City on July 22 at Big 12 Conference media days. Lots of stories have been written and I've learned a few things along the way. Here they are in no particular order.

Josh Smith is primed for a big year.

And he's just one of a handful of offensive weapons in a no-huddle approach that should be fun to watch.

Just because a recruit has off-the-charts ability like Darrell Scott, it doesn't guarantee that guy will come in and instantly nudge his way to the top of the depth chart. Even the best talents need some time to master the mental part of the game.

Some guys do that faster than others. Take safety Patrick Mahnke for instance. No one was talking about this kid being an instant contributor back on signing day. Yet, here he is ready to see some playing time against the Rams.

Ryan Walters is the guy I want next to me in the foxhole.

I'd like George Hypolite there, too, just to keep things lively.

These coaches can't count on anything. They literally have to have a second and third option ready to go for almost every situation. Losing Lynn Katoa the way they did is one example. But there are plenty more. Losing Markques Simas to grades, Jon Major to injury and Sione Tau to academics all have already affected this season.

Michael Sipili could be the next great CU linebacker if he makes smart choices and dedicates himself to getting there. If he doesn't, there are plenty of guys itching for the chance right behind him. That wasn't the case a year ago.

A year ago at this time, the staff wasn't even recruiting Rodney Stewart. He's going to be in action against the Rams on Sunday.

Who might be the diamond in the rough next year?

An injury can really derail a guy. Linebacker B.J. Beatty was playing well at the end of spring and early in camp and then suffered a hairline fracture in his lower left leg.

Same goes for redshirt freshman guard Mike Iltis, who might have been starting against the Rams if not for the ACL he tore on the first day of camp.

And sometimes guys derail themselves. Brian Lockridge is out still recovering from hernia surgery because he came back to early in late spring.

Center Daniel Sanders quietly goes about his business while much attention is paid to Nate Solder and Ryan Miller, and Sanders is vital to the success of this team this season.

Matt Ballenger might be the real deal after all. I was beginning to doubt him a little after spring ball, but he regrouped and kept on keeping on. I'm looking forward to seeing him on the field this season. I hope it comes under good circumstances for all involved.

Scrimmages in Folsom Field are preferable to scrimmages on the practice fields. You can see and you can sit.

If your team didn't do well in the turnover categories last year, coaches will spend copious amounts of time talking about it the following year. Sometimes it makes a difference. Sometimes not. I've covered five CU training camps now with five very different teams and all their issues. One common denominator? The coaches emphasized the importance of turnovers.

Aric Goodman can look like an All-American caliber kicker in practices and scrimmages. Now I need to know if he can do it when it counts.

Brandon Nicolas has been a starter for three years and he's still an enigma to me. The guy just goes about his business, but doesn't seem to want to talk much about it. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I believe Patrick Williams is going to be rewarded for all that hard work.

Sometimes guys surprise you by raising their level of play to a point you either didn't think they were capable of or you didn't expect them to get to based on past performance. Guys like Jason Brace, Gardner McKay and Devin Head are good examples.

After two years of rebuilding the roster and doing his best with what he had to work with, I think we're finally going to see CU football the way Hawkins envisioned it when he left Boise State.

It's been a long wait.

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