Camp Fired Up

What are those opening lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”?

Born down in a dead man town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Colorado fans have every reason to feel “like a dog that’s been beat too much”.

Never before the 2012 season had Colorado lost 11 games in one year.

Never before the stretch between the 2006 and the 2012 seasons had Colorado, in the 123-year history of the program, endured seven straight losing seasons.

And it wasn’t just the 1-11 record from last year – which is quite bad enough in and of itself, thank you – it was the way CU lost the 11 games. The Buffs gave up 46.0 points per contest in 2012. CU had never before been sliced and diced so badly, with the old record from the debacle season of 1980 a full five points fewer per game.

The Colorado defense gave up a record-shattering 488.5 yards per game, surrendering a ridiculous average of 7.11 yards each and every time an opponent snapped the football.

The Buffs gave up 35 points to Fresno State … in the first quarter. The 55 first half points surrendered to the Bulldogs wasn’t even the worst half of the season, as Oregon posted 56 points on the Buffs by the break. The Ducks went on to settle for 70 points on a day in which triple digits were a real possibility.

In November, Colorado lost to Washington, 38-3, with the 38 points the lowest point total by an opponent in any game the last two months of the season.

I can go on and on, but you get the picture.

Of course you get it, you lived through it.

In the ensuing eight months, you have endured the firing and hiring of a new coaching staff, the hoping and praying for a few three-star recruits to commit in February to push CU’s recruiting Class into the top 70 nationally, the defection of over ten percent of the roster, the firing and hiring of a new athletic director, the universal condemnation to a last place finish in the 2013 preseason magazines, and the never-ending wait for a shovel to be turned on facilities improvements.

Hell, CU fans have even had to endure taunting from CSU – a team which has gone 3-9, 3-9, 3-9 and 4-8 the last four seasons, and is mired in a conference which will, going forward, net them roughly 10% of the television revenue CU will enjoy.

Truly, right now … It’s tough to be a Buff.

And yet … there is hope.

New CU head coach Mike MacIntyre has brought in a fresh set of coaches, the first complete turnover in a coaching staff since 1979. Every new head coach brings with them a fresh slate and an infusion of enthusiasm – it’s a given with any regime change.

But MacIntyre has one notation on his resume which has the Buff Nation excited about CU’s future.

Mac has been there, done that.

Four years ago, San Jose State was not just miserable, the program was on death’s door. The Spartan athletic department was in such disarray that dropping down a division, or even giving up football altogether, was contemplated. Instead, Mike MacIntyre came in, and, even with scholarship limitations due to NCAA sanctions, was able to turn the program around … and do it quickly.

You know the numbers. After enduring (there’s that word again) a 1-12 season in 2010, the Spartans went 5-7 in 2011 and 10-2 last year.

No one realistically believes CU will become a ten-win team in 2015, but there is real reason for hope for a relatively quick turnaround.

And it starts with coach MacIntyre and his staff.

Players are loyal to their coaches, and there was certainly some negative words and hurt feelings which came with the firing of Jon Embree after only two seasons in Boulder.

The language from the players since the firing, however, has become more and more open, and the picture which is being painted is one of a coaching staff which didn’t have the full package. It was widely noted at the time when Embree, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and defensive coordinator Greg Brown were hired, that there was only one season of coordinating experience between them. The lack of coordinator experience, though, was supposed to be more than offset by the NFL experience the trio was bringing to Boulder.

Embree, Bieniemy and Brown were supposed to be the perfect mix of professional experience and a strong CU background.

Instead, it was the perfect storm.

I’m not in the collegiate coaching profession, so I can’t say what does work and what does not; what can work and what won’t, in making a program successful.

But some of the quotes from the players are telling.

“With the PRP’s (the Player-Run-Practices this summer), we’ve had much more organized practices and I think that’s helped a lot,” junior tight end Kyle Slavin told cubuffs.com. “Last year it was players get there, do some one-on-ones, kind of do whatever you feel like. There was no organization to it, really. Practice was set up to just kind of do as you please. I told the coaches I think the organization has helped us a lot this year.”

Slavin went to say, “MacIntyre has brought more of a business-like attitude to this. That’s not to say he hasn’t had personal moments where he talks to players one-on-one, but I think he’s got a much better grasp on college football being a business and you’ve got to handle it like that.”

Junior receiver D.D. Goodson called the Buffs’ summer work “excited work, more competitive work rather than just ‘I’ve got to do this or that.’ And that’s what I’m excited about – to see how things are.”

And it’s been the small, incremental steps which might just help speed up the turnaround:

– The Buffs took the unprecedented step of naming six captains for the season. It’s perhaps no coincidence that there is a captain – offensive tackle Jack Harris, defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, defensive back/linebacker Paul Vigo, linebacker Derrick Webb, wide receiver Paul Richardson and quarterback Connor Wood – representing each of the six main units on the team.

– Colorado held its 15th spring practice after the spring game, just to give the players a blueprint for how to run summer practices. “To outside eyes it’s a small thing, but from the inside it’s very big,” MacIntyre said in April, right before the Buffs embarked on practice No. 15. “The way we practiced and the way we scrimmaged as the spring went on, it seemed like the young men enjoyed playing more. They were excited for each other, with each other, they were happy when other people made plays. They competed like crazy. The team was enjoying the work process (and) if they’re enjoying their work process, they can get better. If they’re not enjoying it, I don’t think they can get better. I think it’s a mental state and I think that’s true in any business.”

It may be grasping at straws to say that the team will be better prepared for battle come September than they have been the past two seasons, but, at least until the product is put on to the field of play, straws are all the Buff Nation has to cling to.

Because it has not an easy eight months.

For every article stating that Mike MacIntyre was one of the best hires of this past off-season, there is the reminder that Dan Hawkins was universally hailed as a great hire in 2006.

For all of the excitement about how much better the defense will play this fall, there is the sobering reality that the Buffs lost three of their best players on defense – lineman Will Pericak; linebacker Jon Major; and safety Ray Polk – from an objectively horrible team, so this fall will be nine players from the 2012 squad and three players who are not as experienced as the three starters who were lost, all trying to keep the opposition under 40 points per game.

For all of the hope for the future of the pistol offense, the fact is that Connor Wood is the only quarterback with any Division 1 game experience, and that experience – 42 career pass attempts and a 91.8 passer rating – does not amount to much time behind center in live action.

For all of the expectations about the bright future of Colorado football, it has to be acknowledged that even miracle-maker Mike MacIntyre opened with a 48-3 loss to Alabama in 2010, and finished 1-12 his first season.

It’s going to be a long road back to the top for the Colorado football program, but it says here that I believe CU has the right man for the job.

We’ve endured seven straight losing seasons. We’ve endured the last eight months with the yoke of the 2012 season weighing down any positive momentum.

But, with the opening of Fall Camp, 2013, the nightmare which was the 2012 season is finally – officially – behind us. The 2013 season is finally here.

It’s time to write the next chapter in CU history … with hopefully a few more positive memories.

Go Buffs!

 

8 Replies to “Camp Fired Up”

  1. And yet…there is hope. WHAT A WONDERFUL LINE.

    God bless you and I hope you are right. I think hope is all we will have this year and it starts with “I hope we beat CSU”

    Go Buffs!!!

  2. Stuart,
    I believe that CU finally has the right man for the job as well. It is all about the leadership. Check out my latest blogpost comparing the 2012 Buffs with the 1958 Green Bay Packers.

    Both teams won only one game. Everyone assumed that the players were horrible and that it would take years to become competitive again. Vince Lombardi showed up and no less than five players from that 1958 team went on to become enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.

    Add a turnaround from the top by General George Patton and you get the idea. A change in leadership can do marvelous things in very short order.

    I expect that the 2013 Buffs will shock the nation. No, they are not going to run the table and play Alabama or Ohio State for the national title, but they will go into every game knowing that they have one of the hardest and smartest working coaching staffs in the country.

    It’s been 7 long years of CU suffering through incompetence from the top down. Embree will never be a head coach again. Brown and Bieniemy will never be coordinators or head coaches, and Hawkins just got fired after 5 GAMES in Canada.

    Mac and staff will do everything possible to put and keep the Buffs in each and every game. There will be no more out of shape players under lousy leadership looking to duck and cover. The Biggest and BADDEST live mascot in all of college sports will once again lead a team to be reckoned with onto the hallowed grounds of Folsom Field.

    I can see the dust rising and feel the earth starting to shake. The Buffalo Stampede is coming…

  3. Camp is finally here. I can’t wait to see how all the starting battles play out. Especially interested
    In how Sefo will perform in camp. Maybe he’ll be our true savior. Coach Mac and staff
    Definitely the best people to help with this turn around. I definitely think the Buffs have some players. Hopefully a few of the freshman will assert themselves too. The bad times are definitely
    Behind us. Things can only improve. I look for a lot more competitive team this year with
    5-6 wins.

  4. Defense is the question mark. even so, out of the three graduates mentioned above I feel Pericak may the only one we really miss the most. Major had the size and talent but I didn’t see the effort a lot of times. Too bad he isn’t here another year to get motivation from the new staff. Polk was injured a lot and many times extended opponents drives with dumb penalties.
    Here is hoping the new staff will have everyone on board and playing like their hair is on fire. I’ll take a 3 star giving 110% over a 5 star ego case any day.

    1. “Polk…many times extended opponents drives with dumb penalties.”

      Any time someone mentions Polk, this is the ONLY thing that comes to mind

  5. I am very excited for the future of the CU program. For the first time in forever, there is “hope” in BuffNation. Patience, Perseverance and Progress are the key words for this season. GoBuffs!

  6. Damn right Stuart. Last year we were told by the coaching staff that all the hard work would pay off. Problem was the coaching staff was incompetent. And I say that after supporting the hell out of that staff being put together. New staff, new deal, and a new beginning. I am in big time. Let the games begin. Go Buffs

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