August 6, 2007
BOULDER, Colo. - The Buffaloes officially began preparation for the 2007 season on the practice fields Monday morning.
No one was more excited to begin preseason camp than head coach Dan Hawkins.
"I'm always like the first year elementary school kid that goes and takes his first bus ride to school and is fired up," Hawkins expressed. "I will know when it is time to quit coaching because I get amped up in July and every time I come out here on the grass I get fired up."
Although the schedule calls for the newcomers to practice in the morning and the veterans to practice in the afternoon for the first four days of camp, it was very much a mixed group on Monday morning. Edwin Harrison, Joe Sanders, Marcus Burton, Taj Kaynor, Wes Palazzi and Jason Brace were among the veterans that practiced in the early session.
"Part of that is class [complications with summer school] and sometimes we try to shuffle it around a little bit so we have workable numbers," Hawkins explained. "It's nice to have a few veterans in there so they can kind of show the rookies how it's done."
Despite the team being split up, the Buffs had more offensive linemen on the practice fields this morning than they did during spring ball. 11 true freshmen (eight on scholarship, three walk-ons) have joined the mix on the offensive line.
The most physically imposing true freshman on the practice fields this morning was Sione Tau. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive tackle was one of three players that Hawkins pointed out after the workout. He also praised the potential of wide receivers Markques Simas and Josh Smith.
The top ranked wide receiver prospect in California from the Class of 2007, Simas was attracted to the possibility for early playing time at CU. The other two incoming freshmen wide receivers (Smith and Kendrick Celestine) are highly regarded, but Simas is thought to be the most polished.
"I thought it went real well," Simas said of his first college practice. "I was a little nervous coming out here. I didn't know how I was going to do because I know the game is a lot faster at this level. But once I started to calm down and focus a little more, it became easier.
"You have to be a lot more mentally sharp out here [than you do in high school]. When I first got the playbook it was a little overwhelming but once you learn the concepts and get the bigger picture, then everything becomes a lot easier. I am rooming with Kendrick and Josh and we quiz each other every night on the playbook, so that has helped a lot."
All but two 2007 signees qualified
Anthony Wright and Lamont Smith were both cleared through admissions and practiced on Monday morning, meaning all but two 2007 signees qualified.
Saddleback College running back P.T. Gates has two more classes to take in the fall before he can join the team next spring. Pittsburgh (Pa.) H-back Devan Johnson will greyshirt this fall and attempt to earn a qualifying score on the SAT.
For Anthony Wright, his first practice at the college level was an eye opening experience.
"I am happy to be out here, be with the team," Wright expressed. "They said the speed is a big difference and I definitely noticed that. You have to be on point out here. We were talking like a different language and it was moving fast but I'm not slow so it is something I can get used to and pick up. My goal is just to learn the playbook, get the same page with all the guys that have been here for a while and contribute in any way I can."
According to Hawkins, the length of Michael Sipili's suspension is still in question. The sophomore inside linebacker was one of three players suspended last week for their involvement in fights. Sophomore defensive lineman Chris Perri was suspended three games and sophomore defensive tackle Taj Kaynor will be forced to sit out one game.
With Sipili out, junior R.J. Brown is expected to work with the first team defense at Mike linebacker. "He is so smart, so consistent, so tough and he does everything right," Hawkins said of Brown, who is also a team captain. "He makes up for what he doesn't have maybe in weight, speed or strength."
A Will linebacker like Marcus Burton could also move over to the Mike spot. "We'll see how it all shakes out," Hawkins said.
Additional Notes from Monday morning's practice
*** True freshman Mike Iltis practiced at center, Shawn Daniels worked at guard.
*** The Buffaloes most heralded incoming freshman, offensive tackle Ryan Miller will practice this afternoon. He is listed on the official roster at 6-foot-8, 320-pounds.
*** Is the overall strength of the team now comparable to the teams that Hawkins and strength coach Jeff Pittman fielded at Boise State? "Yes," Hawkins stated. "In fact, Pitt said based off of what we did in the summer this is the strongest team he's had. That is saying something."
*** After fumbling some snaps and handoffs early on during Monday morning's practice, true freshman quarterback Matt Ballenger settled down and looked good during 7-on-7s. At 6-foot-5, he is four inches taller than any other quarterback on the roster.
*** The Buffaloes will practice again this afternoon from 4-6:30 pm. The team will practice together and in pads for the first time on Friday and then run through their first scrimmage on Sunday.
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