Some random thoughts and musings as CU spring practices come to a close …
— Gotta Like the Captains
You have to like the mix of captains selected by the players for the 2017 season: senior running back Phillip Lindsay, senior defensive end/tight end George Frazier, senior offensive lineman Jeromy Irwin, senior linebacker Derek McCartney, senior defensive back Afolabi Laguda and junior linebacker Rick Gamboa. There is a good mix of positions, with vocal leaders and quiet leaders. Most have served as captains before, which will help in continuity as the Buffs strive to maintain a Top 25 caliber team.
(And for those worried/concerned that quarterback Steven Montez wasn’t selected to be a captain, don’t be. Montez is a leader, but is also just a sophomore. He will have his time as a captain … just be glad CU has so many senior leaders again this year).
— Spring Game statistics …
… Mean nothing. If we had numbers from the spring scrimmages, or fans had more access during spring practices (see below), we could compare apples to apples. Unfortunately, there is not enough information here upon which any real conclusions can be drawn.
Are the quarterbacks looking good? Yes. Does CU have a wide variety of wide receiver talent? Yes. Is junior college transfer defensive tackle Javier Edwards an enormous human being? Yes.
But this is not really news.
Michael Adkins looked good, getting some time in while Phillip Lindsay sat out to avoid injury. “Michael’s done well this spring,” MacIntyre said. “It’s the first time he’s gone that many practices in a row and not gotten injured. He kept pushing. That’s the key — if Michael stays healthy, Michael’s really good. We just have to hope he stays healthy.”
The new defense, while giving up 41 points in 73 plays, had it moments, including a Nick Fisher interception of Steven Montez on the first play from scrimmage. “I saw some good things and some bad things,” new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “But I am confident that we’re headed in the right direction. I understand the team better and I know we’ve got some guys that can do some good things.”
All you need to know when it comes to relevance when perusing the Spring Game stats sheet … the leading tackler during the scrimmage was walk-on sophomore defensive back Lucas Cooper.
— Why was the Spring Game so early?
Before the calendar even hits the first day of spring, Colorado spring football, 2017, is done and in the books. Most schools are just getting started with spring practices, with only Oregon State joining Colorado with a March finale to spring ball.
The reasons given for the early spring dates are two-fold. First, the argument is made that, if there are injuries, those players will have six more weeks to heal up and get ready for the fall.
“It’s really key”, said Mike MacIntyre about the lack of injuries during the Spring game. “We had a good scrimmage. Last year Isaac Miller got hurt in this game and didn’t make it back. He would have played a lot for us and he was able to play today, so I am excited about that. We got a lot accomplished in the little bit of time that we had, so I thought it went well.”
Only two Buffs, both running backs, suffered significant injuries this spring. Kyle Evans suffered a dislocated hip, while Donovan Lee suffered a broken fibula. While there is no word yet on the timing for the return of either player, it is certainly a better timetable than if these players had been injured in April.
As we can’t check out a parallel universe in which CU practices later, to see if there would have been the same, more or fewer injuries, we have to defer to the coaches on this issue.
The other justification for having spring practices so early is that it will give the CU strength and conditioning staff six more uninterrupted weeks with the players after spring practices are concluded. Rather than have winter conditioning, spring practices, spring break, more spring practices, and then more conditioning, the Buff players, after spring break, will be focused entirely on conditioning.
Based upon the results Drew Wilson and his staff have produced in 15 months since he took the job as the strength and conditioning coach … another pass for the coaching staff on starting spring practices early.
— So, what can be done to improve Spring football at Colorado?
Well, at least the weather Gods cooperated.
March 18th could have been a snow-filled afternoon, but instead the Buffs played in 79-degree sunshine.
Still, the announced crowd of 6,250, while an improvement over the past two seasons, is still a far cry from what can happen in Boulder in the spring.
In Mike MacIntyre’s first two seasons as head coach, the average attendance for the Spring game was 8,300. As recently as 2011, when Bill McCartney called out the Buff fans, 15,655 showed up.
Buff fans are out there, and they will come to watch their team … if there is something to watch.
If Mike MacIntyre and his coaches insist on having a scrimmage instead of a game, they can at least make it more fan friendly …
– How about the return of the flag football game featuring alumni during the first hour? When the team is going through its first hour of drills, put the team on one side of the field, and have a flag football game with alumni on the other half. Any bets on which side of the field fans would gravitate toward?
– Have the spring game tied to other events. You don’t have to have the Grateful Dead concert immediately after the game, but you can have other forms of local entertainment as a draw (and P.S., students like free food and free stuff).
Open access = Interest
Keeping practices closed to the public is a sore spot with many Buff fans. The concerns over other teams spying on what you are doing in practice seems far-fetched and out-dated.
The net result of having closed practices is that no one is talking about your team, and Colorado can’t afford to be in the shadows when it is trying to rebuild its national brand.
One compromise … at least let the media in to watch some of the practices. Increased media = increased coverage = more fan interest.
Another option … open up the two scrimmages to the public. That would reduce your closed practices from 14-of-15 to 12-of-15, which shouldn’t place to big of a dent in the practice regime, would give players something to look forward to, and would give fans a chance to see – and read more about – their favorite team.
I’ll say it again, because it bears repeating … increased coverage = more fan interest.
Colorado is coming off of a 10-4 season. The Buffs are defending Pac-12 South champions.
And yet CU’s Spring game didn’t even make the cut for live coverage on the Pac-12 Networks.
The Spring game was shown live on the Pac-12 Mountain Network (which covers CU and Utah), but the main national Pac-12 Network didn’t show the game until several hours later.
What bumped the Buffs?
Coverage of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments? No.
National championship coverage of spring sport finales, like swimming or gymnastics (which actually did wrap up this weekend)? Nope.
The Colorado football Spring Game was bumped … for a women’s water polo match between Cal and UCLA.
Last season, UCLA and Oregon both finished with 4-8 records. Anyone want to take a bet that their Spring games will be pre-empted?
That’s what I thought.
Colorado fought its way back into the national spotlight last season. The Buffs were ranked for the first time since 2005, and went bowling for the first time since 2007. Recruiting is going well, and facilities are in place to lure bigger and better Classes in the future.
Still, nothing can be taken for granted. The Buffs averaged 46,608 in home attendance last season, but CU still has work to do before sellouts again become the norm.
CU has to take care of its fan base. Fans buy tickets and gear, which funds the athletic department, which creates better facilities, which brings in better recruits, who win more games.
Closed practices and a Spring “scrimmage” – while they objectively have merits when put up against open practices and a Spring Game – are not necessarily the path CU should remain on into the future.
Colorado had a good spring, but future springs could be even better.