After struggling through injuries and an inconsistent running game during the 2004 football season, senior running back Jimmy Green found something unique over the summer to help his off-season training.
"Yoga," Green said, a smile creeping over his face.
After years of being the bread and butter that fueled the CSU offense, the running game was a weak link last year for CSU. The Rams averaged a meager 111.6 yards per game rushing last year, and Green was the team's leading rushing with only 436 yards in limited work.
Because of that, the running game has become a focus this spring. Head coach Sonny Lubick said being physical – a trait of past CSU rushing games – was again a focus for spring practices.
"We try to just emphasize that you have to be in tough, physical control," Lubick said.
However, the battle for who will be the starter come fall is drawing the most attention. Green, the favorite to start, has lost body fat and is trimmer than he was last year. He said he has seen a big change since he started doing the yoga.
"It feels really good, I'm going to start again in summer," Green said. "It's tough training, but it feels good after a while."
Running backs coach Mick Delaney said Green's work ethic is what makes him unique.
"Jimmy's Jimmy," Delaney said. "He comes to work every day, brings his lunch pail and goes as hard as he can from start to finish."
Behind Green, both sophomore Kyle Bell and redshirt freshman Gartrell Johnson have looked impressive in practices. The coaching staff is especially impressed with Bell.
"Kyle Bell looks pretty darn good," Lubick said.
Bell said competing with Green is helping make him a better runner. He has even joined Green in a few yoga sessions
"Anything I can do to get better. You're always picky," Bell said. "You're always competing for a spot."
Bell, who is the Colorado high school all-time leading rusher with 8,248 yards, said he focused his training on getting back some speed after gaining weight in the off-season. Both he and Johnson added bulk muscle during the winter months.
With the shortage of tight ends on the roster this year, the running backs have been experimenting playing both H-back – or B-back – and running back. At times, combinations of two running backs are in the same formation.
"I love it," Bell said of the formation. "It gives me the opportunity to be on the field some more."
With the two young players coming on and performing well in spring, Green said he wanted the younger backs to push him for the starting position.
"They want to be the guys, and that's fine," Green said. "I got to always do something and I'm sure I push them also."
However, Green said, they're all teammates and working for the same goals.
"We're all competing for the same position, (but) we're still a team and teammates," Green said. "We're all looking for that common goal to be the guy, and I'm sure that everybody wants to be that starter. I'm not taking my guard down for a second."
# 32 JIMMY GREEN:
Senior, 5-11, 225
The leading rushing for CSU last year with 436 total yards, Green was limited by an ankle injury most of the season. He is the favorite to be the starter come fall. This off-season, Green trimmed up and worked on his speed and elusiveness too add to his strength when running the football.
#34 KYLE BELL:
Sophomore, 6-2, 228
The all-time leading prep rusher for Colorado, Bell saw limited action last season carrying the ball 26 times for 96 yards and playing on special teams. He is bigger and stronger than last season, but he is still quick. He figures to challenge Green for the starting role next season.
#5 GARTRELL JOHNSON III
Redshirt freshman, 6-0, 218
Johnson, a highly regarded recruit from Florida who had drawn interest from Ohio State, carried the ball only two times last season before suffering a knee injury and being redshirted. He, like Bell, is much stronger than last season, yet still quick out of the backfield. He should see time and push for a bigger role this upcoming season as a power-style runner.
#36 TRAMELL McGILL
Redshirt freshman, 5-10, 189
McGill saw time only on the practice squad last year until blowing out his ACL midseason. The former Arizona prep offensive player of the year is continuing to recover from the injury and may see time depending on progress this fall with the top teams. He has a different running style than Bell or Johnson, based more on speed than power.