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Intensity Takes A Leap As Buffs Pull On Full Pads

Mar 14, 2011

BOULDER - Full pads were strapped on for Monday's spring football practice, and an intensity level that already had been high for the Colorado Buffaloes took another leap.  

"It always does," senior guard Ryan Miller said of the first day of work in full pads. "It doesn't matter if it's little league, high school, college . . . and I would assume in the NFL. There's just another level you hit when you're in full pads. This is no nonsense, straight up. The best will play. It's as simple as that."

However, senior tight end Ryan Deehan offered a different perspective on whether Monday's intensity rose: "I don't necessarily think the intensity level went up because it's been intense the whole time.

"Everybody's wanted to show these new coaches what we can do. We understand that they know how to win, and they can teach us to win. We're really excited to have these guys."

Coach Jon Embree had termed Day 1 in pads "Separation Day," and when it had concluded, he said, "Some guys got exposed and that's good, because their teammates will know about them. It's habits right now . . . they want to feel sorry for themselves a little bit, but more importantly, we don't know how to work yet. We'll get it."

After only four days of drills, inconsistency is to be expected - but that doesn't mean it must be tolerated. And the tolerance level of Embree and his staff appears low.

"We're still up and down, we can't get to a certain level and just sustain it," Embree said. "The offense beats the defense in nine-on-seven, then we go to team run and the offense does well again and then the defense dominates the rest of practice. We can't do that."

MAYBE IT'S NOT A SNAP: No records are kept on fumbled center/quarterback exchanges in practice, but snaps were botched Monday at what surely would have been a record pace. And the center/QB combination didn't seem to matter.

"I don't know what that is," Embree said. "We had that problem in Washington, too, early. That's something we'll get worked out. It makes practice go bad when you're fumbling the center/quarterback exchange. But when they got it (right), we're doing well. The last part of practice we were running the ball. We just have to become a complete, consistent team."

Embree agreed that one factor might be the higher number of direct snaps CU's QBs are taking now, as opposed to receiving snaps out of the shotgun formation.

"Yeah," he said, "but bottom line is the cadence is different, the plays are different and they're thinking. But that's not an excuse. There's a standard and you adhere to it."

DOING A FEW THINGS WELL: Among Embree's pre-spring offensive goals was to install a handful of running plays then practice, practice, practice until the offense is certain all of them are highly dependable calls.

Embree said that was launched in the previous day's practice and carried into Monday's work.

"We started it Sunday and I felt we were really progressing," he said. "There's got to be some plays we can hang our hat on. Short yardage scrimmage, the defense got us. We put in new plays and new personnel groups for that, but when we run the plays we've been running we were very good at it. I'm encouraged by that.

"But at the same time we've got to be able to take new stuff on the field and get going. We can't keep taking a day to figure it out. We've got to be better, have some football IQ and take some of that to the field."

Deehan said the run game is being stressed and re-stressed at his position: "We (tight ends) haven't even done any individual route work yet. We've done blocking, blocking, blocking . . . it's good for us because the better we get at blocking, the easier it is for us to pass because (defense) is respecting the run, then we drop it right over their heads."

EARLY STANDOUTS, NO WASHOUTS: Asked if there had been any washouts yet, Embree answered, "Not that I know of yet . . . I think there might be some guys on the fence. So we'll see."

As for early standouts, he mentioned senior quarterback Tyler Hansen, sophomore receiver Paul Richardson, redshirt freshman running back Tony Jones and junior defensive end Forrest West.

Of West, Embree said on the first day of practice, "I ripped his butt and demoted him. All he's done since then is make plays. He can still get better, but he responded."

Also responding has been Jones, the 5-foot-7, 180-pounder from Paterson, N.J. "He's stepping up his game," Embree said.

By position, Embree noted that the "tight ends are coming, the offensive line has had its moments . . . a lot of guys have responded to the hard coaching they've been getting and not moping or putting their heads down. They're responding. That's always a good sign."

THE BIG DIFFERENCE MAKER: Deehan was effusive about the change in off-season strategies under new speed, strength and conditioning director Malcolm Blacken.

Said Deehan:  "I've got to say the biggest difference is Malcolm in the weight room. Think about it: he's the guy you spend every day other than spring ball and fall camp with. We're with him every day in the summer, the off-season. He sets that mind-set. He's got our bodies right . . . we're a lot stronger where we need to be. We're no longer just big, fat power-lifters."

GET A JOB: Overseeing a practice and an entire team is new for Embree - and he admitted he's struggling with it at times. "A lot," he said. "You see something you want to change, but I don't want to step on toes. I just find the right time to do it."

He joked that he's working with the punt returners "just to give me something to do," but added, "I only coach them when they're good . . . I don't have anything to do anymore. I'm trying to stay out of everyone's way."

 Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU