Like just about everyone else on the Colorado football staff last season, Drew Wilson had moments of uncertainty about his future after head coach Mike MacIntyre was fired in November.
A vote of confidence from athletic director Rick George, however, was backed up by an instant connection with new head coach Mel Tucker, who was hired in December, and it has led to a new level of intensity this offseason in the weight room.
"I told the (players) I've prayed for a coach like Tucker and they kind of laughed," Wilson, going into his fourth season as CU's director of football strength and conditioning, said in a recent conversation with BuffZone.com. "Some of the things he says, you appreciate that as a strength coach.
"Two minds have collided and it's just refreshing that we speak the same language, even though we've never worked together before."
That language — which includes the words tough, strong, physical and the team's new mantra, relentless — has translated into an offseason that Wilson and Tucker hope has the Buffs in position for a great spring. CU opens spring practice on Monday after nine weeks of work in the weight room. It's the longest stretch of uninterrupted strength and conditioning for CU in years.
"I think the nine weeks is crucial," Wilson said. "Now we're going to start spring ball later and guys get more development."
While it's been a longer offseason than normal for CU, it's hardly been an easy road for the Buffs. Coming off back-to-back 5-7 seasons, Tucker and Wilson have pushed the players all winter.
"Coach Tuck is very demanding of the coaches, very demanding of the players," Wilson said. "He's building a strong, tough culture mentality. It's all about start, effort, finish. He wants these guys to strain — strain every day and finish and just coach them up, coach them hard.
"The intensity and the expectation level has risen drastically and he's not going to let it fall off. Every day you better come ready and you better come ready to compete, ready to win, ready to fight for your job."
The offseason has been more to Wilson's preferred style than it was his previous three seasons under MacIntyre, but he said that's not a knock on the previous staff. To Wilson, it's like the evolution of the iPhone. Every model of the iPhone is popular among consumers, Wilson said, but Apple continues to strive to improve the product.
"We've got to constantly be inventing and getting better as a team, as a program, as coaches, as a university," Wilson said the Buffs' football program. "How are we going to put out a new, better product that people are going to want to see?"
The answer to that question, at least through the offseason program, has been with a focus on strength, nutrition and attention to every detail — including shirts being tucked in during weight room sessions.
"Me and Tuck are similar, so it's easy to work together and you see something in him, and the kids see the demand in him — the constant demand," Wilson said. "I think that's what needs to be done with 18-21-year old minds. You can't let up."
CU's focus has been on the development of the players, and many of them have had glowing reviews of the new intensity in the workouts.
"The first thing is just the intensity (Tucker) demands every day from every coach," Wilson said. "He told me, 'Drew, we better be coaching just as hard as we're expecting these players to train."
There's also been more emphasis on nutrition, including shakes. The shakes have always available to players, but now they are not only customized to the individual players, but they are blended during warm-ups and brought to the players in the weight room. That gives them immediate nutrition and allows the staff to know for sure that the players are getting what they need.
Tucker and the assistant coaches are also present at workouts much more frequently than ever before, Wilson said.
"I love it," Wilson said. "It makes my job easier. Players always work harder when the coaches are around."
While Tucker is new to CU, he's been around some of the best college football programs in the country, including Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State, and he's been pleased with the strength program this offseason.
"That was the biggest thing I wanted was to make sure every drill had a defined start and every drill had a finish and I wanted to make sure the guys were straining to finish the drills," Tucker said. "They've done that each and every day. They've pushed each other to do that and they've gotten better every week. I've seen a transformation in their bodies because of what we've done in the weight room and what we've done in our running program.
"Drew Wilson and his staff in the weight room have done a fantastic job. They've taken it up a few notches."
With a strong offseason, Wilson believes the Buffs are better prepared for spring - and to hopefully bounce back from two consecutive disappointing seasons.
"All around, from a team standpoint, guys are understanding what the expectations are, because from top to bottom, it's the same message," said Wilson, who credits Tucker for the changes he's made thus far.
"This place is waiting to explode. It just needs the right captain and the right vision, and right everything, to come together."