After a summer of offseason workouts, the Colorado Buffaloes reported to preseason football camp on Thursday bigger, stronger and ready to roll.
Perhaps the most impressive change with the Buffs, however, may not be physical.
Coming off a disappointing season in 2017 (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12), the Buffs seem to be in a better place mentally and there's an increased sense of camaraderie.
"It's something we've been working extremely hard on," head coach Mike MacIntyre said of bonding the team.
MacIntyre told BuffZone in June about the emphasis he put on improving his role in building team camaraderie. On Thursday, he talked about the family groups he built within the team, and how those groups had meals together, made music videos, etc.
"There were a lot of team building concepts," he said. "You can't really be close if you don't know the guy and if you don't know his hopes and dreams and his passions and what he's come from. I believe that there's a big connection there."
Throughout the years, MacIntyre has often emphasized with his players the importance of every player on the team. Going into camp this year, he said, "They're farther ahead than other teams I've been associated with as far as how important everybody is. Everybody."
On the field, that can show up and make a difference in close games.
"If things are unraveling in a game, which is going to happen ... they find that they're not bickering and fighting and this and that," MacIntyre said.
It also shows up in practice, and MacIntyre saw signs of it Thursday, as he watched players helping each other, providing tips, encouragement and constructive criticism.
"If a guy messes up, a guy wasn't getting on him," MacIntyre said. "They're communicating with each other instead of worrying about peer pressure and all of that, which is a big, big deal."
It's not just players listening to each other, though. Senior safety Nick Fisher, one of seven team captains, said, "Guys are taking coaching better."
The Buffs came into fall camp ready to go physically, too.
"(The strength and conditioning staff) did a great job with them this summer and they're in good shape," MacIntyre said. "I feel good about that where they are.
"You're always a little rusty the first day, but we got a lot of things accomplished and I was pleased with that."
The player-run practices over the summer helped reduce some of that rust.
"I thought the receivers and quarterbacks had a good feel for each other today," MacIntyre said. "There wasn't a lot of dropped balls or missed routes, which shows you they were doing that type of thing (this summer)."
He also said the team was fairly smooth for a first day in terms of the mechanics of practice, understanding where to line up and avoiding alignment-type penalties.
Landman bulked up
Linebacker Nate Landman was impressive in a limited role as a true freshman off the bench last year, racking up 17 tackles in only 79 plays - most of those in the final two games.
He did that with only about 210 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. Now, he's 233 and hasn't lost his speed.
"It feels good," he said. "I got stronger, so I'm able to move the weight a little better. During the summer, the strength staff definitely got me moving, got me in better shape to be able to move the weight."
Landman credits the strength staff and his teammates for pushing him in the weight room, and now he's hoping to make a bigger impact. He is currently listed second on the depth chart at Mike linebacker, behind senior Rick Gamboa.
"I see myself contributing anywhere, whether it's special teams, backing up Rick, starting," he said. "Obviously my main goal is to start, but if my role on the team is to come in and fill in for a couple plays, I'm good with that, too. I want to impact the team the best I can, make some plays on the field and help my teammates on and off the field, too."
CU practiced in shorts, and will not have its first full day in pads until Aug. 7. ... Junior guard/center Tim Lynott Jr. (Achilles) and redshirt freshman linebacker Jonathan Van Diest (knee), who both suffered season-ending injuries in November and missed spring drills, were back on the field Thursday. ... CU's practice on Saturday will be open to the public. It is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the lower practice fields near Boulder Creek.