April 1, 2008

Solder adjusting to new role

BOULDER, Colo. - When Nate Solder was recruited out of high school by the Buffaloes' former coaching staff, he was told that he might be moved from tight end to the offensive line down the road.

"The potential position switch has always been kind of a joke since I came here," said Solder, who caught three passes for 50 yards as a redshirt freshman last fall. "This winter the coaches said, 'You would be great on the line, so would you like to try it?' And I said, 'Yes, I definitely want to do it so lets jump on that boat'.

"It (the move) is definitely permanent at this point. If it comes to fall ball and we have a deficit at tight end, which I don't think is going to happen at this point, then they might have to put me there for a while. But my understanding is that this is my position and I am going to work to be as good at it as I can be."

Solder has added 35 pounds since signing with Colorado back in 2006. He is currently listed at 6-foot-8, 275-pounds. But Solder said he is closer to 6-foot-9 without shoes and 6-foot-10 with shoes on.

Solder has just four spring practices under his belt as an offensive lineman. The early progress he has shown has encouraged offensive line coach Jeff Grimes.

"He has still got a long ways to go, obviously, but I think he is a guy that has all the physical tools," said Grimes. "I've had a lot of guys that have moved over from defensive line or tight end and have gone on and become not just good but great offensive linemen. Those guys particularly become great tackles because they have the length that you are looking for. Now he just has to fill out and put on some weight.

"I think he has got tremendous feet, tremendous athleticism and he has good strength for a guy that is as tall and lean as he is. A lot of those guys that are that tall and skinny looking don't have much strength and don't want to come off and knock guys off the ball and that is not the case with Nate at all. He has a very physical mindset. Again, he has got all the physical tools. Now it's just a matter of thickening him up a little bit and teaching him how to play the position."

"The areas where the transition has gone smooth is where it matches up with tight end and that is a lot of the run blocking stuff," added Solder. "A lot of the double teams and a lot of the calls are the same. And just looking at film, it is all the same. Some places it doesn't match up is pass sets and some of the pass blocking schemes that we do. The footwork involved in pass blocking is really strange, foreign for a tight end to do at first."

Solder has added more meat to his diet and he is drinking two protein shakes a day to try to gain weight. He said he would eventually like to get up to 300-pounds.

"For guys like him, that have such a fast metabolism, they got to realize they can't eat just three meals a day," said Grimes. "He has got to eat six or seven meals a day to get enough calories. They just can't put enough calories in him."

Back from spring break

The Buffaloes returned to practice on Tuesday afternoon after an 11-day hiatus for spring break. The team wore pads for the first time this spring.

Head coach Dan Hawkins always expects the team to be a little rusty in the first practice after spring break. "But I thought they were okay," he said after Tuesday's workout. "It wasn't bad, it wasn't bad."

The team will practice in pads again on Thursday and Friday afternoon before running through their first scrimmage of spring ball on Saturday at 1 pm in Folsom Field.

Having more than twice as many offensive linemen on campus as they did last spring means the team will be able to run through a lot more live plays during their spring scrimmages.

"We'll try to get in rough 50 [live] plays for the ones and 50 for the twos and probably 25 for the threes," Hawkins said in regards to the upcoming scrum on Saturday. "We'll see how it goes."

Senior defensive tackle George Hypolite, sophomore fullback Kai Maiava and senior offensive center Daniel Sanders all missed Tuesday's practice due to class conflicts.

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