September 30th

Injury/Depth Chart updates

Last season, much of the Buffs’ woes were blamed on injuries. You remember the numbers – 121 player games were lost to injury or illness. Well, the 2009 Buffs do not have the luxury of that excuse. Colorado continues to remain in good health, with the injury update for the West Virginia game as short as it has been in recent memory. Defensive lineman Nick Kasa and offensive lineman Max Tuioti-Mariner remain on the list, but their conditions continue to improve. Both are now practicing with the team, and both have been upgraded to “day-to-day”. The issue for both now is the issue of what is better for the player – and the team. Would Kasa and MTM be better served by being  a hobbled freshman for half a season in 2009, or by being a solid senior for a full season in 2013?

The near term cries out to get as much talent on the field as possible, as the lines are proven weak spots at CU. The long term benefit to the program would be to have these talented players for a full season four years from now.

The decision for each player will be made in the near future. For what it’s worth, I’d rather see both players mature into All Big-12 players in 2013, and forego playing in 2009. If the Buffs lay an egg in Morgantown, we may as well just bite the bullet for 2009, and build depth for the future.

The only other player listed on the Colorado injury chart is running back Darrell Scott, listed as “probable” with a bruised knee. Interviewed this week, Scott indicated that he is more than ready to play. Scott stated that he stopped going to his Facebook page because he is so tired of dealing with questions about his health.

As far as the Mountaineer injury list, West Virginia may be without defensive tackle Scooter Berry, who is recovering from a lingering shoulder injury. Berry was second-team All-Big East last season, and was injured during the East Carolina game. Berry did not play against Auburn, but has returned to limited practice work this week.

Two other injured Mountaineers are more likely to play Thursday. Linebacker Reed Williams, who also missed the game against Auburn with a sprained foot, is expected to play. Also expected in the starting lineup is quarterback Jarrett Brown, who bruised his non-throwing shoulder against the Tigers, but did not miss any playing time.

On the CU depth chart for the West Virginia game, there are a few items of note.

Ryan Miller is back at right guard, where he started the first two games, as Bryce Givens resumes his place at right tackle. The other three starters remain the same – Nate Solder at left tackle, Ethan Adkins at left guard, and Mike Iltis at center. Benjamin Burney makes his second start at strong safety (Ray Polk started against Colorado State; Patrick Mahnke against Toledo).

More on the “Yankee Bowl”

The details of the as yet unnamed bowl game involving the Big 12 were announced today. It’s a four year deal, starting in 2010, involving New York’s Yankee Stadium, the Big East, and the Big 12. The first game will be played on December 29, 2010, and will pit the third or fourth best team from the Big East and the seventh best team from the Big 12. The payout for each team will be about $2 million, significantly higher than what teams were receiving from the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, which currently takes the Big 12’s seventh pick.

What’s wrong with this picture? Let me count the ways …

Weather – Think it will be tough to get players and fans excited about traveling to a cold weather site in December? Check out attendance in Boise for the Humanitarian Bowl when Boise isn’t playing? …

Geography – Most of the Big East teams are within a train ride of New York, making the (Master Card/Sony/Gatorade) Bowl a virtual home game for the Big East. Nothing like having to face a hostile crowd at a “neutral site” game …

Match up – The third or fourth team from the Big East gets to take on the Big 12’s #7 team. Last season, that would have meant a game between West Virginia (9-4, 5-2) and Kansas (8-5, 4-4). Want to pick a favorite? Why is it that the Big 12 always has to play a higher rated team in bowl games (e.g., #2 Pac-10 v. #3 Big 12 in the Holiday Bowl)? …

Recruiting – In theory, teams from the Big 12 will have additional exposure to players in the east. The Buffs do have a few players from such locales as New Jersey and Ohio, but c’mon, anyone really think this would help the Buffs add to their recruiting base, as opposed to games in say, Dallas, San Diego, San Antonio, Houston, or Phoenix? Sorry …

Lodging – New York is expensive any time of year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s? Yikes. Officials indicate that they will work on “special bowl package deals”, but you might have to dip into the Christmas fund if you want to have enough cash to attend this game …

Is the Big 12 commissioner, Dan Beebe, concerned about the weather, or any of the above? “I’ve played games in ice and snow, and it’s fun,” said Beebe. “We’ll play in whatever conditions. We’ll put on ice skates instead of cleats.”

Yippee.

Still waiting for someone to post a comment as to how this is a good idea …

September 29th

Hawk Tawk

Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins has had some interesting quotes this week, including:

On West Virginia’s explosive offense, including running back Noel Devine:  “He is going to find (a crease) and hit it so you have to make sure you are gap sound and try to keep it in front of him if you can because if you don’t the band will be playing and it won’t be yours”.

On the defensive tackles: “Clearly for those guys it has been a little trial by fire but I think they are coming around.”

On Brian Lockridge (see below): “We keep moving hm around. He is playing wide out and running back at the same time – he can really run … He is smart enough that he can handle those things, so we keep trying to move him around and get him into those spots where he can use those skills.”

On the negativity surrounding the team’s slow start: “I don’t get on the internet, and I don’t really have an email address. But you know there is some of that stuff on the periphery. And that’s part of it. But you aren’t living in it, that’s for sure.”

On the Buffs competing in the Big 12: “Yes, totally. Totally. Teams get hot. Teams get cold. You have some injuries. There are a lot of things that can go on.”

On being the Colorado head coach in 2010: “Yep. I try and keep my feet on the ground and keep plugging.”

Stat shots

Some good, some bad, some ugly …

Since 2002, West Virginia is 30-3 when rushing for over 300 yards – but one of those three losses was to Colorado. Last season, the Mountaineers rushed for 311 yards, but still fell to the Buffs, 17-14, in overtime …

West Virginia is 6-0 in games played at home on Thursday night on ESPN. In the last four games, the Mountaineers have averaged 40 points per game …

Colorado is tied for the nation’s lead in a positive category! The Buffs are 12-for-12 in red zone offense, one of 16 teams with such a record (Texas leads the nation with a mark of 23-for-23 – we’ll try not to notice that the Longhorns have had almost twice as many opportunities as the Buffs) …

West Virginia has a 1-0 record against teams from Colorado in games played in the Mountain State. In 1981, West Virginia defeated Colorado State, 49-3 …

West Virginia and third down conversions – The Mountaineers are converting 75% of their third down opportunities of three yards or less; and 47% of their third down opportunities of seven yards or more. West Virginia is ranked in the top 15 in the nation in both categories … the Buffs, meanwhile, are giving up third-down conversions at the rate of 29.8% – good enough for a #23 national ranking …

Bowling in New York?

The “Yankee Bowl” will be the newest bowl game alliance for the Big 12, it will be announced Wednesday. The Big 12 will send its seventh place team against the Big East’s fourth place team, starting with the 2010 season. The game will be played in Yankee Stadium, with the first edition to be played on December 29, 2010.

Who here likes this idea?  …

Still waiting …

Let’s see …  the Big 12 is sending its seventh best team to face the fourth best team from another BCS conference, in the middle of winter, to the other conference’s base of operations? Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. A no win situation. See Big 12 fans getting excited about a cold weather bowl game? See any new recruits heading west as a result of the game? Me, neither …

Okay, so I could probably convince my wife to spend New Year’s in New York City, so I would probably make the trip, but still, it looks like a lose/lose situation for the Big 12.

Someone, convince me otherwise …

September 28th

Givens back in the starting lineup

The shuffling of the Colorado offensive line continues, as Bryce Givens will return to the starting lineup against West Virginia. The freshman right tackle, who missed the Wyoming game and several practices for still undisclosed “personal reasons”, will be back in the position he started the first two games of 2009. “He’s fine, doing good,” said offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau about Givens. The return of Givens leaves the Buffs set at center (Mike Iltis returns to full-time duties, his ankle injury suffered against Colorado State apparently fully healed), and at the tackle positions – with Givens at right tackle and Nate Solder at left tackle.

What about the guards? “We’re going to move some guys around,” Kiesau told the Longmont TimesCall. “Not necessarily because someone did bad, but just to get some guys in and get some fresh faces in there and create some competition, especially inside. It’s the same nucleus inside, we’re just moving them around.” Ryan Miller will certainly play, with Ethan Adkins, Matt Bahr, and Blake Behrens also in the mix.

Is it just me, or is this troubling? I thought that experimentation and “creating competition” was for spring practice and fall camp. When the season starts, you want a cohesive, solid starting five which will work together and understand each other’s moves, weaknesses and strengths, not a unit still looking for answers.

Hopefully, the Buffs will have 250 yards rushing Thursday, and I’ll be able to rest easy about the revolving door which is the Buffs’ starting lineup along the offensive line …

Buffs and Longhorns set for national television

It was announced today that the Colorado game against Texas will be shown on either ESPN or ESPN2 next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. MT. (Hey, at least it won’t be as hot!).

A plus or a minus? Plus – despite three straight losing seasons, and a poor start to the 2009 season, the Buffs are still a draw. Colorado gets much more television time than other teams in the Big 12 North (save Nebraska), even when other schools have a better record. On October 10th, the networks have four Big 12 games to choose from (Missouri and Nebraska play on October 8th) – Baylor at Oklahoma; Oklahoma State at Texas A&M; Iowa State at Kansas; and Kansas State at Texas Tech. Okay, so Baylor and Oklahoma both have hurting quarterbacks, Kansas State and Texas Tech have two losses each, Iowa State will likely be routed by Kansas, and Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are not national draws. Still, to nationally televise what may be a rout is a gutsy call by the folks at ESPN.

The minus – see above. Yes, it’s a selling point to recruits to tell them that the Buffs are often on national television. It would be even better if Colorado were to win a few of those games. 2009 – CU on national television – 0-2; off the air – 1-0. I watched part of the Texas/UTEP game, a 64-7 rout (UTEP scored on an interception returned for a touchdown). While I hope for the best (especially since I am going to the game!!), it would be nice if the game was competitive.

As Dan Hawkins is fond of saying, “We’ll see” …

September 27th

Offensive Line remains a work in progress

Colorado had 151 rushing yards against Wyoming, a season-high. Still, the Buffs remain mired at the bottom of the rankings nationally after three games, averaging 91.67 yds/game (111th out of 120 teams). Even if the 151 yards were the Buffs’ average, Colorado would still only be a mediocre team when it comes to gaining yards on the ground.

Wasn’t the Colorado rushing game supposed to be a strength?

It starts up front, where the Buffs have stock-piled young, if inexperienced, talent. Offensive line coach Denver Johnson has had to shuffle his lineup, but he, at least, does not see that as a problem. “We’re a long ways from being where we intend to be,” said Johnson. “But we are incrementally making some progress. Hopefully we’ll continue to progress.”

The return of two players this past week may help.

Bryce Givens started the first two games at right tackle, but without any further explanation other than “personal issues”, left the team the week before the Wyoming game. Ryan Miller, who had moved from tackle to guard, moved back to tackle for the Wyoming game. Givens has returned to practice, but his status as a starter remains in question. “We want to give that some time and see how this works,” said Johnson.

Also back at practice was Max Tuioti-Mariner, who started at guard as a true freshman last September before tearing his ACL. MTM is back practicing with the team, but, based upon his history (three ACLs in three seasons), he is a likely red-shirt candidate for 2009. “(MTM) has a massive upper body,” said Ryan Miller, a large individual himself. “I don’t think he’s lost any punch or strength. He just needs to get back to being mobile again.”

If MTM does play, he will join a guard rotation which includes Blake Behrens, who started against Wyoming when Ryan Miller moved to tackle, Ethan Adkins (who has started all three games at left guard), and Matt Bahr, who has been slowed byan ankle injury suffered in August.

The center position, thought settled, also remains in flux. Mike Iltis won the job last spring, but Iltis injured his ankle early in the Colorado State game, and has been nursing the injury ever since. Junior Keenan Stevens has been sharing time with Iltis, with Stevens seeing most of the playing time against Colorado State, Iltis taking every snap against Toledo, and the players splitting time against Wyoming. “Keenan has proven himself to be a reliable player,” said Johnson. “I’ve been extremely pleased with him.”

Despite the injuries, Denver Johnson remains optimistic that the Buffs can continue to make progress in the running game. “There’s nothing like time on the job, and there’s only one way to get it,” said Johnson. “You go through the season, you keep chopping wood and stacking logs.”

A month ago, we were talking about the possibility of the Buffs having two 1,000-yard rushers this season. It will take a great deal of chopped wood and stacked logs for the Buffs to produce one this season …

Paging Brian Lockridge …

Sophomore Brian Lockridge was supposed to be a secret weapon for the Buffs this fall. Part runing back, part wide receiver, Lockridge was going to use his speed to create space and open up the Colorado offense.

So far in 2009, the only part about the “secret weapon” that has come to pass is the “secret” part …

In three games, Lockridge has carried the ball three times for a total of 21 yards, catching two passes for 22 yards.

Hardly the stuff of legend.

“I’m still learning a lot,” said Lockridge. “That’s one of my flaws, basically. I’m inexperienced at a lot of positions besides running back.” For Lockridge, who didn’t play football until his junior year in high school, it’s been frustrating. “Different plays, I mean, it’s the same play being called,” said Lockridge, “but depending on the position I’m playing, you hear it totally different. You just don’t know what you’re doing.”

Here’s hoping the Colorado coaching staff utilized the bye week to create, install, practice and/or otherwise ingrain plays for Lockridge into the Buffs’ offensive game plan …

3 Replies to “The Colorado Daily”

  1. Um, re: Yankee Bowl = good idea? I live in NYC. Lucky me. Have an extra bedroom – it’s actually decent-sized by city standards – so if several thousand folks don’t mind bunking together you can all stay at my place… FOR FREE! Seriously. Buffs in a bowl? In what remains of my lifetime? I’ll even cook.

  2. J –
    Kasa is practicing on a limited basis, but is not fully cleared. The quotes have been along the lines of “If he’s not ready by the Texas game, it may be better for him to red-shirt”. Sounds like he wants to play, but the reality is that he would be more help to the 2013 Buffs as a senior than to the 2009 Buffs as a hobbled true freshman …

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