Conditioning, mental toughness key for CSU offense adjusting to no-huddle system

Keegan Pope

CSUFootballSpringGame-49Every player, coach, equipment manager, video coordinator and basically anyone else involved in a college football program will tell you that preseason fall camp is a grind. Shoot, CSU even started a video series about it called, “The Grind,” that was so popular it stretched the entire season.

Thursday morning was Colorado State’s ninth practice of fall camp, signaling the quasi-halfway point of the team’s 19 practices before school starts Aug. 24. Like most of the practices up to this point, Thursday’s was yet another scorcher, with temperatures reaching the upper 80’s at the conclusion of the two-hour session. The Rams’ first scrimmage kicks off tomorrow morning at Hughes Stadium, and head coach Mike Bobo has been satisfied with not only the team’s ability to play at the tempo and pace coaches expect, but also to fight through the bumps and bruises that come with practicing nine times in seven days.

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“These last couple days are a grind, and what I kept preaching today was that it’s like we’re in the fourth quarter of a game,” Bobo said. “We’re mentally drained, we’re physically drained, but we have to realize that we’ve got to go one more play. If we wait until Saturday afternoons to say we’re going to flip the switch, it’s not going to happen. We have to put ourselves in those situations today.”

Since Bobo arrived in early January, he has demanded that the team play with more tempo and pace, especially on the offensive side of the ball. CSU has in turn adopted a no-huddle system to run more plays and give themselves more opportunities to put points on the board. Last season, CSU ran 70.2 plays per game, according to teamrankings.com. Bobo and his staff hope to increase that number to somewhere around 90, which would put them near the top-five nationally. To do that, though, players must be in peak physical condition, something they say head strength and conditioning coach Ryan Davis made sure of this offseason.

“In my opinion, the offseason is where you learn a lot about the team,” wide receiver Elroy Masters Jr. said. “And we had a great offseason, but it was one of the toughest ones I’ve ever had. The strength and conditioning coaches got after us and we ran hard and lifted hard, but just as players we went out and did 7-on-7 a lot to improve our game conditioning. There were times when we came in by ourselves to learn the plays and run our routes and figure out how to play with more pace on our own. I think it was a huge offseason for us, and I think it’s why we’re having some success early on running our offense.”

The challenge over the past few days and for the rest of fall camp, according to both Bobo and his players, will be not allowing themselves to become complacent with their with grasp of the new offense, especially as their minds and bodies fight through the fatigue of practicing every day, and sometimes twice a day. During team drills especially, there’s no time for the offense to rest because as soon as the ball is dead, offensive graduate assistant and former Georgia quarterback Joe Cox is signaling the next one in.

“We’re getting the plays in a lot faster than we ever have before,” junior guard Fred Zerblis said. “We have to get on the ball and get our feet set and make our calls because then we’re off running the play. It was definitely different doing it that fast for the first time in the spring, and then now we’re pretty used to it and it’s kind of become second nature.”

Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.