The majority of his Colorado teammates and all of his coaches were long gone from the practice field, but Daniel Arias wasn’t done working.
For several minutes after Tuesday’s practice, the sophomore wide receiver hauled in catch after catch from the JUGS machine.
On Wednesday, he and walk-on quarterback Grant Ciccarone were the last to leave after putting in some extra time.
“Honestly I just have to keep working and keep getting better,” Arias said. “That’s just my mentality right now: just keep working; just keep working, just keep pushing. Just keep getting better. That’s my thing right now. Nothing else is in my mind but just keep getting better.”
Sure enough, in a post-practice interview that went less than five minutes, Arias used the phrase “keep working” 10 times and “getting better” eight times. Apparently, he’s taken first-year head coach Mel Tucker’s mantra of being “relentless” to heart.
“I’m not sure if I’ve heard him say more than four or five words since I’ve been here, but he’s one of the hardest workers that we have and you never hear him complain,” Tucker said. “He just goes out there and makes plays.”
In a position group that features one of the country’s most dynamic players in Laviska Shenault and the super-talented, super-outgoing KD Nixon, it can be tough to get noticed. Yet, the soft-spoken, humble and physically gifted Arias has managed to flash his potential on a daily basis during preseason camp.
“Big and fast is a good start,” Tucker said of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound speedster from Mill Creek, Wash. “He has excellent hands and he’s humble and hard working. He’s an excellent young man.”
Shenault and Nixon are expected to be the leaders of a remarkably deep group of receivers, while redshirt freshman Dimitri Stanley shows star potential in the slot and senior Tony Brown is a consistent, reliable target.
Arias, however, is putting himself in position to make a lot of plays this season.
“He’s come a long way since he first got here,” receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said. “He was a big, strong, fast kid but very raw. In the last year you’ve seen him really develop his intermediate run-route ability and he can stretch the field like nobody in the conference. Him and Viska, if you got them in a race, they’re probably neck and neck.
“I’ve seen him really mature in his route running ability. He’s just got to stay consistent catching the football. He’s doing a good job in this camp.”
Last season, Arias caught just one pass, but it was memorable. Playing against Washington at Seattle’s Husky Stadium, located 21 minutes from his high school, Arias hauled in a 37-yard pass from Steven Montez for a touchdown. Arias was also a standout on special teams last season, with the second-most special teams points (28) on the team.
Since the end of last season, Arias has kept improving. He was one of the stars of the CU spring game in April, with seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
“That was definitely fun, being able to have that chemistry with (quarterbacks Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle) and be on the same page,” he said. “It was really fun.”
Throughout preseason camp, Arias has continued to impress. He spent the offseason improving chemistry with the Buffs’ quarterbacks, perfecting his craft and learning the playbook. In fact, he said backup quarterback Blake Stenstrom, who came to CU with Arias a year ago, taught him some different ways to study the playbook.
“I just took that and I started doing it,” he said. “I’ve been way better at not making mistakes.”
Blessed with natural ability, Arias clearly isn’t relying on his talent. He asks a lot of questions to his coaches, his quarterbacks, his fellow receivers and even the defensive backs covering him.
“I’m always asking questions, always trying to learn,” he said. “I’m always trying to get better, put extra work so I can get better. I know I’m going to make mistakes, but like Chev said, ‘You’re going to make mistakes; you have to learn to keep that in the past and move on to the next play.’ That’s what I’ve been working on, not getting down myself if I drop the ball or if I miss an assignment. Just next play, keep working and keep getting better.”
Over time, Arias is reducing his mistakes and increasing his chances of being a play-maker for the Buffs.