After losing 28 seniors at the end of last season and suffering further attrition to the roster from injuries, Colorado football coaches aren't doing nearly the amount of full-team work this spring they were able to do last year.
Coach Jon Embree has characterized this as a teaching spring, with the focus on helping individual players enhance their understanding of schemes and techniques.
Embree said CU generally used seven periods during spring practices in 2011 for 11-on-11 work.
He said so far this spring, the Buffs are averaging only three full-team periods in practices.
"Everybody goes through this around the country," Embree said. "This is a great time to teach and just get individuals better, and whatever
The Buffs have limited numbers at defensive line and linebacker, as well as running back, tight end and wide receiver.
Embree said the limited numbers makes it difficult to truly evaluate the strength and depth of each position group.
Embree said he has talked with other coaches who have gone through springs in which their overall roster numbers were depleted to get advice for how to best handle it and get the most out of it.
He said he recently talked with Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who was short on wide receivers at this time last year.
"Part of it depends on your team," Embree said when asked what kind of spring he prefers. "If you have a young team, like we're going to have, it's probably more ideal this way. When you get more of a veteran team, you'd like to play more football so to speak, with more of those team periods and mix it up when they're live and when they're not live."
Embree said that because the program is breaking in inexperienced quarterbacks, he considers himself fortunate that the overall numbers at other positions happened to be down this year and coaches could afford to make spring ball more about teaching techniques and fundamentals this year.
Nick Hirschman couldn't be blamed for pouting if that is what he chose to do this spring.
The Buffs' sophomore quarterback has traveled a bumpy road since injuring his left foot in August.
He underwent surgery to repair a broken bone in the foot twice and just when he thought he was 100 percent recovered and ready for spring practices, he felt a familiar feeling in his right foot.
Shortly before spring ball began, doctors discovered Hirschman had a stress fracture in the same bone in his right foot that he had previously suffered in his left.
He underwent surgery again and has been watching his teammates practice from the sidelines, leaning on a pair of crutches.
He's doing his best to stay positive and was even able to joke about it after a recent practice.
"I figured I'm getting all my bad luck out of the way now," Hirschman said. "So I'm going to go to Vegas and get real lucky."
Hirschman was the only quarterback on the roster with any playing experience this spring, albeit in just parts of five games last fall.
He was expected to be the primary competition for fellow sophomore Connor Wood for the starting job.
Even though Wood will now have a huge head start, Hirschman still intends to push hard for the job when he is fully healed in August.
Hirschman said the recovery time is much shorter this time around because the injury was not as bad in his right foot. He is scheduled to be off the crutches and walking next week. Coaches have ruled him out of spring ball.
"I was upset, but everything happens for a reason and it's going to give me some more time to get both feet 100 percent," Hirschman said. "Unfortunately I'm going to miss spring ball, but I'm going to take good mental reps and make it through."
Prior to spring practices, Embree said coaches wanted to look at moving left tackle David Bakhtiari to left guard and giving Alex Lewis some opportunities to play alongside him at tackle.
Six practices into the spring, Embree said coaches are now leaning more toward keeping Bakhtiari at tackle and using Lewis at left guard.
Pac-12 football coaches named Bakhtiari second-team all-conference in 2011, when he played 630 snaps from scrimmage. He missed most of the first three games of the year with an injury but became, perhaps, the team's best lineman late in the year.
He allowed only two sacks and committed just one penalty in those 630 snaps.