Intensity has been the key word this week as the Colorado football team started spring practices.
On Friday, the Buffaloes added physicality, as they put the pads on for the first time since last season.
"Feels great being in pads," cornerback Delrick Abrams said. "It's been a long time."
CU's third of 15 spring practices featured intense competition in the trenches, a solid day from senior quarterback Steven Montez and some big-play potential flashed by the talented, but inexperienced running backs.
Players weren't allowed to complete tackles, but they were aggressive and got after each other as much as possible
"The guys, they were very excited this morning," first-year head coach Mel Tucker said. "I could tell in the team meeting that they were ready to go, they were ready to put the pads on and hit someone."
One of the most intriguing position battles this offseason will take place at running back. There's very little experience at the position, and only one upperclassman: senior Beau Bisharat. Throughout Friday's practice, Bisharat ran well, while sophomore Alex Fontenot and freshmen Jarek Broussard, Deion Smith, Joe Davis and Jaren Mangham all displayed some explosiveness.
"It's very competitive in our backfield right now," Tucker sad. "We have more than one guy that can get the job done, in my eyes, and we want to play multiple backs. We've got some young guys that are going to push some of the older guys. It's a solid group and I look forward to them getting better together."
Montez, who has started the past two seasons, continues to practice well and showed good poise as he led the team to a field goal during a two-minute drill.
Following practice, Tucker walked by Montez and said to the senior, "I was proud of you today."
"I told him today, the quarterback has to be your No. 1 competitor, first and foremost, and I believe that he is that," Tucker said. "He's highly competitive; he has command of the huddle, command of the offense. He has the 'it' factor — some things you just really can't put a number on, but his presence and his confidence, he has tremendous playing experience. Those are the things you look for in a quarterback and he has all of the tools."
Others who stood out included junior cornerback Ronnie Blackmon, who had an interception of a tipped pass from junior quarterback Sam Noyer; linebacker Nate Landman, who continues to step up as a leader; and freshman nose tackle Jalen Sami, who is aiming for a starting job.
The Buffs will be off until April 1 because of spring break, but Tucker was pleased with his first week on the field with the team.
"I thought we were able to establish our tempo (this week): how we want to work, how we want to practice," he said. "I thought the guys did a fantastic job, just coming out of the blocks and our coaches are just outstanding with practice organization — the efficiency, the level of intensity in which we work. I'm just relay proud of that. That's got to be our brand, that's got to be our standard, and we laid the foundation for that this week."
Cabral addresses team
Former CU linebacker and long-time assistant coach Brian Cabral visited Friday and gave a spirited message to the team after practice.
"As players we love it when we can see old Buffs that come back and tell battle stories about the old days and about the glory days," Montez said. "I love that, especially because he played in the NFL, as well. Just had a lot of good things to say about keep moving forward, keep pushing and not giving up."
Tucker said he hopes to make it a common practice for former Buffs to talk to the team.
"I think it's important that our players understand the history of this program," Tucker said. "I know that it's important to have former players come back and be a part of the program. All of our former players are extremely important to our program and our door is always open to them. If it weren't for them we wouldn't be where we are right now. Every opportunity that we have, we're going to bring guys back to visit and share with our players."
Throughout the week, the Buffs have often used the group of William Sherman (left tackle), Kary Kutsch (left guard), Colby Pursell (center), Tim Lynott (right guard) and Jack Shutack (right tackle) as the first-team offensive line. ... Graduate transfer Jalen Harris and sophomore Brady Russell are both getting a lot of reps with the first-team at tight end. ... Kicker James Stefanou, who missed several games with an injury last year, hit a field goal during a two-minute drill. It was his first "live" field goal attempt since the fifth game of the 2018 season, against Arizona State. ... Tucker said receiver Laviska Shenault "seems to be on track" to return to action this summer. He's limited to running this spring as he recovers from a shoulder injury.