The inability to stop the opposition defensively and significant difficulty in finding the end zone on offense crippled the Colorado football team in 2012.
Struggling to identify leaders didn't help, though.
Toward the end of 2012 camp, observers questioned where the leaders were. That became a theme throughout the season.
Whether the Buffaloes are better at blocking, tackling and putting points on the board this season remains to be seen, but the leadership aspect of the 2013 squad is already taking shape.
On Thursday, shortly after the Buffs completed another player-run practice, first-year CU head coach Mike MacIntyre announced his captains for the upcoming season. A school-record six players will serve as captains: tackle Jack Harris, receiver Paul Richardson, defensive Chidera Uzo-Diribe, linebackers Paul Vigo and Derrick Webb and quarterback Connor Wood.
It was an unusual time for the announcement, given that most teams announce captains deep into fall camp. Last year, former head coach Jon Embree didn't name Week 1 captains until the week of the opener, and he didn't name permanent captains until Week 3 of the season.
"We elected captains early this year so they could be leaders throughout the summer," MacIntyre said.
Leaders have already started to emerge, in part because of how the Buffs are conducting their summer workouts.
Coaches are not allowed to run practices during the summer, so all workouts have to be run by players. In the past, those sessions included 7-on-7 drills that felt a lot like a pick-up game. Players arrived late and then left at different times.
This summer, the Buffs asked the coaching staff for guidance in setting up a practice schedule.
"One aspect of these practices that is new is we have much more structure to it," Wood said. "It's like a mock practice, the way we do it in spring ball or in the fall. We start off with some individual drills and we work our way to routes on air, to 7-on-7 to team. It's a progression sort of like how practice is normally."
The practice sessions began in early June and will run almost all the way up to fall camp, which begins Aug. 8. The practices are two days a week, for 50 minutes each time. When they are done, the strength staff conducts a conditioning session.
"I'm just really impressed with how we are handling all these practices," Wood said. "When we're tired from running and weight lifting during the week, we still come out there and we're fresh and we hit it hard for 50 minutes and get some good work in."
Without coaches on the field, it would be easy for the players to slack off or do their own thing, as they did in the past. That has not been the case, several players said.
"Everybody is working on their technique, the little things to help us get better," cornerback Greg Henderson said.
Henderson, a junior, said all the seniors have stepped up to guide the rest of the roster.
"They've been emerging, talking, trying to lift us up, help us to get better," Henderson said. "They've been doing a good job."
Harris said he believes the team is doing a good job of running practices the way MacIntyre and his staff would want them run.
"It's kind of a general working understanding with everyone knowing what to do, but someone needs to step up and get everyone going," he said.
Good news for the Buffs and their fans is that leadership is emerging from all areas of the field. That has been a product of the Buffs' new, organized way of doing their summer work.
"You need leaders in every position to move from drill to drill, to help guys stay quiet and pay attention and not goof around," Wood said. "There are plenty of guys that are stepping up this summer. You don't just see that in player-run practices; you see that in the weight room, too, and with running and conditioning.
"It sets guys up to take a leadership role and to lead their position group, which sometimes they wouldn't normally do in the spring or fall."
Webb is just the sixth player in CU history to serve as a full-time captain in two different seasons. He was also a captain last year. Before Webb, the last to do it was Joel Klatt in 2004 and 2005. ... During the season, a maximum of four captains are allowed to go to midfield for the coin toss. Each of CU's six captains will get to do the toss eight times.
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