“Not where we want to be”

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“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 …

 

14 Responses to ““Not where we want to be””

  1. Rob

    I really liked what I saw this spring, However, I agree with Stu. After talking with several players I kept getting the same response, a head looking at the ground while promising an improvement over last year. I wanted to hug the whole lot of them. It really bothered me to see a team so confident on the sidelines yet so ashamed of themselves. What I did see was a huge improvement in speed as a team. Embree really did upgrade the overall team speed. I see three or four wins this year, not one or two. The whole key is going to be in the secondary, not just the offensive skill positions. I really enjoyed the spring, I cannot wait for the season to begin.

  2. JayRo

    Stuart,

    I just have a couple of observations after attending the spring game on Saturday. I really liked how coach Mac was on the field standing behind each offense with his headset on and he showed a lot of energy and engagement running up and down the field with the team. I don’t think we saw much of the running game on Saturday as I think the plan was to emphasize passing more to evaluate the quarterbacks. On offense, I think we actually have a decent group of receivers and running backs and our success will hinge on whether a quarterback can step up and how well the offensive line can play.

    Although I’m confident we will have a better defensive scheme due to the coaching change, it’s clear that we have some serious holes in our defensive personnel especially at linebacker. I have to think that if our offense can show some improvement and at least maintain possession of the ball (limit three and outs) the defense will benefit greatly. Last year’s offense could not have done much more to put the defense in vulnerable situations.

    I’m always an optimist although it has gotten really hard to continue in a positive mindset with what has happened the last seven years. With that thought in mind, I’m where most fans are looking at our schedule and thinking we win three games this season. Mostly I’m just hopeful that we will start to see some tangible improvement over the course of the season.

  3. braddabuff

    Anyone notice that Mac-2 refered to the rams as “that team up north”, thought that was great

  4. braddabuff

    I agree that we have better talent that San Jose st. SJS had classes ranked around the 100′s while the buffs ranked around the 50′s, and SJS SMASHED Csu. They may not have had coaching the past few years though. I believe that there is a lot we have not seen. Think QB’s will be allowed to run more in a zone read attack. Think Powell will be used a lot (they always give him a few then let him sit the rest of time).
    Also think the D, once all the 1′s are together will be a lot better, and all the individual work will really pay off. Watching replays of last years games, many of the players seemed lost and sloppy.

  5. Stuart: “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.”

    HH,how can you fault Stuart for being realistic? He is expressing an objective opinion based on the facts at his disposal. Considering the overall team talent and where it originated/developed (combined with what little time the coaching staff had to recruit) I for one think Stuart is on point. If the coaching staff can maximize the talent we have and combine that with UNIFIED team/family effort, and combine that with plays & schemes within the players’ potential, I see no reason why they might not win 2-3 games… and I think that would be a tremendous improvement over the last regime. Hopefully, when we do lose, I am optimistic that we will be more competitive in those games. (This is where we as fans need to stay in our seats at Folsom -no matter what the score is- to let the team know we are backing their effort and that we BELIEVE in them).

    CUAviator, I agree to a point on your lack of confidence on the ability to see maximized improvement in the running plays between the tackles, however I don’t think this coaching staff is that dumb to keep pounding the ball up the center like the past regime… I agree, we saw way too much of that the past 2 years. I think this staff (especially coach Lindgren) will design better running plays with misdirection and will take advantage of the “Pistol” to get rid of the ball before the defensive rush can negate completions in the 5 – 10 yards range. (If one thinks back to Joe M. and the S.F. 49ers, I was amazed at the number of passes he completed in that range… then the receivers made additional yards after the catch). 5 yard plays = first downs and keeps the ball away from the opponents.

    I for one was glad to see a good number of passes in the 5-10 yd. range in the spring game… also glad to see better use of the TE’s…. something foreign in the Embree era. And, Andrew, I agree, I do think we have enough talent to develop to get us on the “Long Road Back.” What do you think Stuart?

  6. NavyBuff

    I am not going to try to hide the fact that I feel some optimism about the team. I am being cautious but from what I have read, it sounds like we may have made a steal with Coach Mac and his guys.

    I am a very detail oriented person, so I love the fact that the coaches are paying attention to details. I am sure the last staff did as well but I am not sure they were looking close enough (lack of experience?) or looking at all the right details (lack of experience?).

    This coaching staff is not blowing off the importance of things like player psyche. With a program in the state that our beloved Buffs are in, you absolutely cannot forget about that. It sounds like the kids are getting back to having fun, while practicing hard. If you get the team enjoying themselves, backing each other up, applauding each other and supporting each other, we may see better results than could be expected. How many times have we heard over the last few years about players standing on the sidelines during a blood bath just down on themselves? They have to realize that big successes (weekly wins) cannot happen without a whole bunch of little successes. Celebrate every success like it matters, because it does. Once you get to a place where tackling or being in the right position or making that catch are not so much a success as a matter of routine you can worry about stringing those successes into victories. Let the players celebrate what they do right. It will give them the morale they need to learn from what they do wrong.

    A couple of people have made comments about the talent pool and using what we have. You will never convince me that our talent pool is worse off than San Jose State’s was a couple of years ago.

    Just my thoughts. I am looking forward to finally seeing some games live again after almost a decade.

    Time to Buffalo Up! Is it September 1st yet?

    Go Buffs

  7. jw blue

    I thought Jeff Thomas played very well. Not that he is anywhere near but he reminds me of Paul Warfield the way he looks and runs his routes. Goodson seem to catch most everything thrown his way even though they were “set” patterns and he was hit almost immediately after the catch. This threesome, PRich included who burned everyone who tried to cover him, is a huge improvement for the WR corps.
    The key will be if the O line will allow enough time to pass. They did in this game but there was very little blitzing, if any, and we will be seeing some superior defensive lines. Both front running QB’s were accurate for the most part but I didn’t see a lot of attention to progressions.

  8. Henery Harvard

    Stuart Stuart Stuart. I am disappointed in your analysis. If I wanted to hear that kind of stuff, I would go to some other goofy site, or read Buffzone the corncob troll capital of the world. You are better than that.

    I need positive stuff from you. No, I need real positive stuff from you.

    Okay thanks.

    Go Buffs

  9. culater1

    Good analysis. I am seeing this staff take care of the details a lot better, shows their experience vs. the last regime. I also like that they are trying players in different positions, to get the best players on the field (e.g. D.D. Goodson, Josh Ford on kickoffs, even a few plays at cornerback). With the talent pool what it is, we need to get the best players on the field as much as possible.

    That said, I think we have the talent to be competitive in most games, and win 3-4 at least. I’ll settle for that this year.

    One other point, I am not seeing the rash of injuries we’ve seen the past few years, maybe the new strength coaching is working!

  10. Robin Soper

    Thanks Stuart for the very good assessment of where the program is and where we are hopefully heading, which gives reason for optimism. It has always seemed to me that winning football games is as much a matter of “teamwork”, the magic of synergy, as it is of individual talent. Teaching the fundamentals goes hand in hand with creating and building on the team spirit that can overcome deficiencies in talent. Mac and his coaching staff introduced a new concept (to me anyway) of “leveraging the football”. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it means utilizing techniques that involve awareness of the proximity of your teammates and how to maximize team play, and not simply “play making” by individual “playmakers”. There seems to be is a real concerted effort on the part of the coaches to build up a stronger sense of teamwork and camaraderie, so as to maximize strengths but minimize weaknesses. Do you believe this is a significant difference in the coaching style that Mac2 and his staff are bringing this year?

    • Stuart

      Yes, everyone who has been around the program the past few months has commented about the attention to detail this staff is giving the program.
      While not trying to show disrespect to the prior regime, there definitely seems to be consensus that this staff recognizes what it takes to compete against superior talent across the line of scrimmage.
      A year from now, we might be talking about “cautious optimism” for the future. We just have to get through this season, showing progress with a few wins – and fewer blowout losses.

  11. CUAviator

    I appreciate the fact that we’re not announcing to the world “Hey, we’re not going to pass much, but if we do…it’ll be to the tight end. What we ARE going to do is – take our undersized back and our under talented O Line and smash it between the tackles. Play after play after ground losing play.” Thank The Lord for that.

  12. Andrew

    No doubt you are correct, Stuart, but at least this staff seems to have a clue on how to address the talent deficit. Obviously, it will not come to total fruition this year or even next, but I do think these guys will get us started on the long road back. Just the fact that they are not settling on easy answers by playing safe established guys in their traditional positions, but are looking at guys who have speed (even if raw) is a sign that they get it. I think at long last the future is looking up. This year maybe not so much, but as you said, 3-4 wins and improvement is all I need to see this year.

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