“We’re not where we want to be”
(Note: There have been some great comments posted. Check out the comment section, below)
“We’re on the way, but not where we want to be”, said new CU head coach Mike MacIntyre at the conclusion of his first spring game in Boulder.
The Black team, given the opportunity for a late score, posted ten points in the last two minutes to defeat the Gold team, 17-16, in the 2013 Spring game. The point totals were largely irrelevant, of course, but the 26-yard “game-winning” field goal by Justin Castor as time expired gave coach MacIntyre a good excuse to reward both teams with a steak dinner.
Giving all of the players steak, instead of forcing the losing team to dine on hot dogs, was just the latest attempt by the new coaching staff to improve the fragile psyche of a beaten down roster of CU football players. “Every scrimmage and every practice from the first on, they’ve had more fun playing, congratulated each other, applauded each other, enjoyed coming out and doing the work,” said MacIntyre. “If you enjoy your work, you get better. If you don’t enjoy it, you don’t . . . as you enjoy the process you get better.”
The players, for their part, are buying into the new staff’s philosophies. Junior quarterback Connor Wood said in the team’s first meeting with MacIntyre and his staff, “They said they would encourage us and they believed in us. Over time, through spring ball, we’ve started to believe that. They don’t get down on us. Obviously it’s football and they’ll yell at us – but they do it in a positive way.”
But how will this translate come the fall, when the University of Colorado football team will likely be the underdog in at least ten of its twelve games? Will the encouragement lead to confidence? Will confidence lead to victories?
Sorry to be a wet blanket, but the answer is probably “no”.
There are just too many holes in the lineup, and there is just too wide a gap in talent, for the Buffs to be expected to make any noise on the national scene this fall.
Granted, the bar is set very low. A year ago, “A bowl is the goal” was the mantra. Now, it’s “Give me three or four wins and hope for the future”.
The modest goals of achieving a few victories and fewer (negative) school records may be within reach, but there are still many issues facing this team.
It all starts and ends with the quarterback position.
It could be seen that slimming down the quarterback race from six to two contestants over the course of the spring is a positive. John Schrock and Stevie Joe Dorman missed the first cut, Jordan Webb was injured, and Shane Dillon has yet to live up to the hope many Buff fans had for him heading into the spring.
Which leaves us with Nick Hirschman and Connor Wood as the front-runners to be under center on September 1st.
Wood has posted some gaudy statistics this spring, and has impressed the coaches. Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said he was “really pleased with the development of Connor Wood. The last three weeks of spring he did a lot of things we asked of him. He started to make decisions and was able to throw the ball with some accuracy. I don’t think he’s anywhere where he needs to be for the first game yet, but I was pleased with him.”
As for Nick Hirschman, who seems to be a favorite amongst his teammates, Lindgren stated he was impressed with Hirschman’s “competitiveness and the way he handles himself on the field . . . guys respond to it. And it was nice to see him in that two-minute drive at the end, take them down, manage the clock and get us in field goal range.”
All well and good, but there were several overthrown passes during the spring game which would have been – should have been – touchdowns, errors a team with a sieve for a defense can’t afford to make. Yes, Connor Wood hit Paul Richardson for an 85-yard touchdown, but the pass went about 30 yards, and Richardson had so badly beaten Brandon Brisco that even I could have ballooned out a completion on the play. When the coverage was adequate, however, the balls were either overthrown or the receivers failed to make the catch.
Lindgren said Hirschman and Wood “had their times (Saturday), but we’re still not where we want to be. I think those guys are making improvements and learning the system. I think they’ll tell you the same thing – we still have work to do. We missed some opportunities in the passing game, either (being) off in the throw, a dropped pass – and we have to make those plays.”
(Note … For those Buff fans believing that Sefo Liufau, the incoming freshman quarterback, is the answer, I will remind you of two facts. One, no true freshman has ever started the first game of a season at quarterback in the history of the school. Two, recall that a month ago we were all excited about what Shane Dillon would do this spring. A year ago, we were all excited about what Connor Wood would show during spring practices. The spring before that, we were all excited about … you get the idea. There is no more popular player on the team than the next hot young quarterback. Liufau may prove to be the long term solution, but for now, he just happens to be the next man up).
Even if the new coaching staff can mold an existing quarterback into their system, there remains a decided lack of talent at the skill positions. Yes, Paul Richardson is a talent, and yes, he is likely the Buffs’ best chance at an All-Pac-12 first-team selection, but remember these numbers – 11-284; 36-33. Against Cal in 2011, Richardson not only broke the school record for receiving yards (222), he shattered it. Yet, the Buffs still lost the gave in overtime to the Bears at home.
Richardson can’t do it alone.
Is help on the way in the names of D.D. Goodson and Jeff Thomas? Buff fans can certainly hope so. If the Buffs can’t produce a threat on the opposite side of the line to take some of the heat off of Richardson, however, this fall teams will gladly commit two players to Richardson on every play, and dare the Buffs to beat them another way.
The CU coaching staff seems to recognize this, and is committed to finding a solution (I take it as no small coincidence that last season’s top receivers, Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch, had two catches for 12 yards between the two of them in the Spring game), but whether or not a solution can be found in 2013 remains an open question.
The Colorado running game? Non-existent. The combined totals for the two teams in the Spring game: 29 rushes; 80 yards. Take away the 30-yard touchdown run by Tony Jones, and you have an anemic 28 rushes for 50 yards – less than two yards per carry. True, the offensive line was playing with only ten healthy players (nine after Jeromy Irwin went down with a sprained ankle), but it’s not as if the CU defensive line is loaded with talent and depth.
Last season, Coach MacIntyre’s San Jose State Spartans were 6th in the nation in passing, but 109th in rushing. There is just simply not enough talent at quarterback and wide receiver at Colorado to be that one-dimensional.
In year three at San Jose State, MacIntyre went 11-2. In year one, however, the Spartans went 1-12. Many of the losses were lopsided – 48-3 to Alabama; 56-3 to Utah; 48-0 to Boise State; 41-7 to Hawai’i.
“We’re on the way, but not where we want to be”, said Mike MacIntyre after his first Spring game at Colorado.
Buff fans need to be prepared for it to take some time to get there …