Those that had forgotten about Kory Sperry from a season ago got a nice reminder last Saturday against Colorado.
The senior tight end amassed eight receptions for 103 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams’ 31-28 overtime loss to the Buffs.
On a day when the end result was a clear negative, perhaps the biggest positive for CSU was Sperry’s dominant performance, one that enabled him to receive the national John Mackey Tight End of the Week award this week.
Ask any of Sperry’s teammates or coaches, and they’ll tell you Saturday was no fluke.
“We certainly didn’t plan it that way, but we knew he could do that,” said co-offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt.
“He’s one of the best tight ends in the country,” said senior wideout Johnny Walker.
Through three seasons at CSU, Sperry has racked up 101 receptions for 1,255 yards and 14 touchdowns, ranking among the Mountain West Conference leaders at his position in career numbers.
All the impressive stats have attracted plenty of attention, including from some NFL scouts.
But Sperry said those things won’t distract him.
“It’s nice, it’s good motivation for all of us to know (scouts) are out there,” he said. “But we have to go out and win games and have a successful season.”
Sperry’s talent is not in doubt, but some have questioned his work ethic, which coach Sonny Lubick said has greatly improved over his career at CSU.
“He has all the talent in the world,” Lubick said. “It’s always been more of a mentality issue with Kory. He’s really worked hard this season, though. I think you’ll see a lot out of him.”
Co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Dave Lay said another area where Sperry must improve this season is blocking.
While Sperry was played almost exclusively on passing plays the previous three years, this season he will be called upon to play a major blocking role in the running game, which struggled mightily in 2006.
“A successful season for Kory would be one where he blocked as physically as he is capable of doing,” said Lay. “I’m not concerned about his receiving, but if he really wants to be a great tight end he’s got to do the blocking.”
The Rams picked up 157 yards from the running game against CU, but Sperry said following the game that he expects his blocking to be better this week against 10th-ranked Cal.
Hammerschmidt also stressed the need for Sperry as a blocker.
“If he’s not blocking, our offense isn’t going,” Hammerschmidt said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Sperry said this season he is ready to prove critics wrong that have labeled him as a talented player lacking the physical toughness to be an every-down tight end.
“I’m tired of people saying I can’t be a good blocker,” Sperry said. “Blocking is one of those things that takes will power and footwork; I’m ready to get down and dirty.”
Sports writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org