Reality is starting to hit Phillip Lindsay.
The standout running back who has given his heart and soul to the Colorado football team sat at a table at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles this week and reflected on the fact that he’s only got a few months left of playing for the Buffaloes.
“It’s coming to an end,” the fifth-year senior said while attending Pac-12 media days. “It’s been a long journey, it’s been a great journey, it’s been a fun college experience. If you’re ready or not, (the end) is going to come. You come and go.”
Lindsay and the Buffaloes have another chapter to write before he leaves, however, and the final stretch of his journey will begin on Saturday when CU begins preseason camp.
The Sept. 1 season opener against Colorado State is five weeks away, and the defending Pac-12 South champion Buffs (10-4, 8-1 Pac-12 last year) have a lot to do in those five weeks.
The Buffs need to get quarterback Steven Montez ready for his first season as a full-time starter; settle on a starting five on the offense line; fill the holes vacated by eight graduated starters on defense; and find somebody who can kick a darn field goal when needed.
Going into camp, however, the Buffs believe they can accomplish those tasks and put together another strong season.
“I think that guys realize that we can be better than people think we are,” senior outside linebacker Derek McCartney said. “That’s the key. When you know you can be better than other people think, that’s when you can really do some good things.”
The Buffs certainly exceeded expectations last year, ending a string of 10 consecutive losing seasons with the biggest single-season improvement in Pac-12 history.
Most outside of the program are curious if the Buffs can be that good again. The players don’t have the same curiosity.
“Nah,” Lindsay said. “We know we can. If you think you’re not the best, you shouldn’t play. We think we’re the best.”
The belief is there, and that’s a start, but as the Buffs begin their fifth fall camp under head coach Mike MacIntyre, there are plenty of unknowns.
“I always get excited this time of the year,” said MacIntyre, who has a 20-31 record in his four seasons in Boulder. “I’m really anticipating to see what I think these guys are going to do.”
MacIntyre is pleased with the hard work put in by the players and coaches this offseason and believes the winning edge has stuck with his team.
“Hopefully I’ll see all of that when we start camp,” he said. “I have a vision of what the team is going to look like, but it might be a little more emphasis in one area or the other after we get out there and see what certain guys can do.”
MacIntyre has not been shy in saying CU’s offense should be one of the best in the country. He also believes the defense will be solid once again.
Among the top priorities in camp, MacIntyre said the Buffs must find a second cornerback to complement junior Isaiah Oliver, and they have to find a couple of inside linebackers to play behind likely starters Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis.
Finding the right combination on the defensive line is a priority, as well. MacIntyre anticipates more rotation on the defensive line this year. While there’s not much experience in that group, “they’re talented enough to do it,” he said.
Near the top of the list is solidifying the kicking game. Field goals were an adventure last year and MacIntyre said someone has to shore that up this year.
“I think our special teams will be definitely improved if our kickers come through like I think they will,” MacIntyre said. “That didn’t really hurt us last year, but it could have. You can’t go two years in a row thinking that won’t (hurt you).”
Over the next several weeks, the Buffs will work on fixing the things that can hurt them, as they look to make another run at a Pac-12 championship.
“I want to finish off my career in a Colorado Buffalo uniform doing the right thing and setting the right example for people coming after,” Lindsay said.