Buffs backs full of power, speed
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
BOULDER, Colorado ” Blame his gene pool, but of all the things Darian Hagan accomplished as a quarterback at the University of Colorado, he never towered.
Sure, he squatted – which is what quarterbacks do under center, especially those 5-feet-10 or shorter. But as for sprinting, feinting and flawlessly directing the option, he most certainly did all the above.
So Hagan’s anecdote on a pair of incoming running backs demands his stature be taken into account. Said Hagan on Tuesday of freshman tailbacks Darrell Scott (6-2, 220) and Ray Polk (6-1, 200):
“I told Mark Helfrich (offensive coordinator) that today was my first . . . that I could stand behind them and not see the sun. So, yeah, it was pretty impressive.”
And coach Dan Hawkins added this about a third freshman running back, diminutive (5-6, 170) Rodney Stewart: “Yeah, and although Rodney doesn’t block out the sun, he can blur out the sun.”
Bottom line: CU’s Class of 2008 has nice legs, the most heralded pair belonging to Scott, a Parade All-American who comes in as the Buffaloes’ most celebrated tailback since homegrown Marcus Houston a decade ago.
The affable Scott, dubbed “Five-Star” by teammates, settled on campus about 21/2 weeks ago, his arrival delayed by summer-course work (algebra II) required to render him eligible. That completed, he began concentrating on conditioning, which he conceded was a minor concern during his first CU practice.
“If I had been here earlier, I would have been all good with the altitude,” Scott said. “I’m still adjusting . . . I got a little winded.”
But it was a temporary shortage Hagan and Hawkins could overlook, given the whirlwind that envelops players transitioning from high school to college.
Hagan, in his third year coaching CU’s running backs, will take a steady, but not necessarily slow, approach in bringing along his young trio. Tuesday saw them introduced to two primary running plays, with Hagan advising, “They’re the most important plays they’re going to run and they’re going to have to be patient learning (them).
“Once we got to the individual periods and they understood what we’re trying to accomplish, they started picking it up.”
Once immersed in the individual periods, Scott’s conditioning was overshadowed by something else – an innate talent that had veteran players curious to watch during some seven-on-seven work before camp.
“You put the ball in his hands . . . all that training and stuff goes out the window and he’s a special athlete,” Hagan said. “He gets the ball in his hands, he turns it on.”
Scott, who ran for 2,433 yards and 33 touchdowns as a high school senior, said he had no problem hitting holes Tuesday, “but coach wanted me to go vertical more than outside . . . I’ve never had a running backs coach, so (Hagan) is just coaching me up.”
Scott also tried his left foot at punting – “Weird,” he said, because he throws right, catches primarily with his right hand and considers his right leg dominant – in a camp experiment Hawkins hinted at a couple of weeks ago.
Hawkins was more focused on punt protection than who was punting, but Hagan said Scott “was booming it. I would say he looked like Ray Guy, but (he’s) white. So I would say Reggie Roby.”
Whatever Scott’s or Polk’s or Stewart’s roles eventually become won’t be decided for several weeks or longer. Hawkins tells all freshmen “to come in with the plan they’re going to play . . . work hard, think like they’re going to play and act like they’re going to play – and then we’ll sort it out. You never know who’s ready emotionally, mentally and physically.”
Of course, Scott, who is rooming in camp with defensive back Steven Hicks but will be paired with Polk once school starts, hopes to play ASAP. Asked if he felt as if all eyes were on him, Scott laughed and said, “It’s whatever. I’m out here to have fun . . . and to win the Big 12. Honestly. I think we’ll be very good this year.”
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