Maka and his LDS mission: Yesterday, I reported that new linebacker recruit Pookie Maka plans to play at CU this fall before heading out on a two-year Mormon mission next winter. There have been a lot of questions about that process. I'm LDS and while I didn't serve a mission, I have many friends who did and I am very familiar with stories of missionaries who served all over the world. So, here are a couple of answers:
1. Time spent on the mission does not count against an athlete's NCAA clock. Like any athlete, Maka has five years to play four. He'll use one of those years in 2016, and have four left when he returns from his mission. The NCAA rule states that the clock starts as soon as you enroll and you have five years from that point, but there is an exception for athletes who serve in the military or go on church missions. In those cases, the clock basically gets put on "pause" until they return.
2. I know some people are curious about what he can do to stay in shape during those two years. Where he goes will impact that in some regard, and he won't know his location for a while and he doesn't get to choose (after submitting his mission application, the church will assign him to a particular mission, which could be anywhere in the world).
3. I asked Maka whether a great season with CU this fall would change his mind about serving a mission, and he said, "No, I'm pretty set (on serving a mission)."
4. What will be interesting with Maka is to see - assuming he follows through with this plan and returns in 2019 - if he still wants to play at CU. Jim Leavitt is the main reason Maka signed with CU. If, for whatever reason, Leavitt is not still here in 2019, it'll be interesting to see what Maka does. If he left, however, he would have to follow the NCAA transfer rule at that point and lose a year of eligibility.
OK, sorry to get long-winded on Maka. Here are a few other notable items:
Gun shy: Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau, who averaged one interception for every 33.2 throws in 2014, cut that down to one in every 57.3 throws this past year. He said he believes his decision making got a lot better this past year, but admitted that his concentration on avoiding turnovers probably impacted other areas of his game. "I think it got to the point where I was little gun shy," he said. "You want to be perfect all the time and you just have to go out there and play and go with the flow. (In 2014), I was pick-happy. I didn't want to do that this last season, so gun-shy in that sense. Maybe subconsciously thinking, 'I don't want to throw another pick.'"
Paying athletes: I didn't even ask Liufau about the topic of athletes being paid, but when he was talking to me about how much he's enjoyed his time at Colorado, he offered up this opinion: "I've been asked if student athletes should be paid. I don't think so, after finally putting some thought into it. The amount of stuff that we get - education, books paid for, training table to eat, weight room. Some also say college football is like a D-league of the NFL, but if you really think about it, we get so many things, so many benefits. It sucks sometimes you have to get up at 5 (a.m.) and I don't want to get up at 5, but especially the memories you get from all of this, it's not for the weak hearted, but I'm definitely blessed with what I've gotten. I know a lot of teammates would disagree with not being paid, but just being lucky enough to come to school for free and leave without a student debt, it makes life after (college) a lot easier."
Strength and conditioning: While limited because of his foot injury, Liufau has been working out daily with new strength coach Drew Wilson, and with teammates. "I've seen a lot of great things already coming out of the strength program, and I expect a lot more things. I don't think we're there yet, but there's a little more self motivation individually in some people, which is good to see."
Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt on sophomore linebacker NJ Falo: "He didn't play with a lot of confidence last year because he was a high school kid and had just come here. We probably over-floated the expectations for NJ, which was unfair to him. We put him in a lot of positions that are hard for a true freshman to do. We have to give him more time. The spring will be important for him."
Fired up: Center Alex Kelley had this to say about running back Phillip Lindsay, whose passion is well known: "Walking down the halls of the Champions Center or seeing him on campus, all he can talk about is, 'You have to keep working, you have to keep grinding, because I know we have the talent to win.'"
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.