Here’s one for you: How many first-round draft picks does it take for Colorado to have a winning season?
No, that’s not a joke, it’s a riddle.
Come April, two CU prospects could provide the answer: “More than a couple.”
Left tackle Nate Solder and cornerback Jimmy Smith endured a 19-30 record during their college careers, providing further evidence to the already long pile of ways in which the Dan Hawkins test failed.
They barreled through the frustrating times without a winning season and saw only one bowl appearance – in their freshman season of 2007.
Now Smith and Solder stand alone in Indianapolis to take part in the annual NFL Scouting Combine. Both are expected first-round selections, even without benefit of the team successes known by fellow big name prospects.
Solder could be the first offensive lineman taken off the board, and Smith will likely get a phone call in the mid to late first-round.
The tallest player at the combine, Solder was also able to establish himself as one of the most athletic. Scouts got caught drooling when the 6-foot-8-inch tackle showed off his famed footwork in the kick-slide drill. In addition, his broad jump, vertical jump and 40-yard dash all placed within top five for his position.
For Smith, his performances during drills will probably influence his draft stock much more. Though he had no interceptions in his final year, opposing quarterbacks rarely challenged the athletically tall corner.
A time of 4.46 in the 40-yard dash basically assures Smith a first-round pick. Added to 24 reps on the bench press and a 36-inch vertical, the gifted defender showed his abilities could make him a potential lock down defender in the league.
As these two remarkable athletes leave for clearer waters and paycheck spoils (unless a lockout really does materialize), they separate themselves from a losing legacy under the Hawkins regime. For five years, Folsom Field was a nuclear wasteland of talent, a place more disappointing than Disneyland Paris. Not even Jeb Bush’s political career could shake a stick at the lifeless depression held in Hawk’s era.
Consider those years a time spent training in bitter air, where defeat contaminated the waters and stability questions shook the grounds. Solder and Smith were big fish in a school of sardines.
As they jump from the abundant waters of college ball to join the hungry pond of NFL hopefuls, they carry a motivation to avoid that well-known feeling of despair.
An energetic and young coaching staff colors the future bright. Considering that both Solder and Smith were lightly recruited out of high school, the star-deprived inaugural recruiting class for Jon Embree seems destined to spawn some NFL players.
Besides, having two former players taken in the first round cannot hurt when selling future recruits on the product. Though he did not coach the budding first-rounders, Embree can convince recruits of how Boulder is a prime platform to boost into the NFL, that someday they will be the coveted targets of NFL scouts.
Back in Indianapolis, hundreds of pairs of eyes follow just-out-of-college prospects as they try to run, lift and even answer their way into April’s NFL draft. They are pieces of inspected meat, defined not by where they came from, but how well they fit the tastes of gluttonous suitors.
Beneath the NFL combine’s large media microscope, Solder and Smith impressed everyone after putting their raw talent on showcase, while scouts lined them through an alphabetical routine of chores.
Concerns still linger in list-form under their names, as they do with every prospect on top of the food chain.
It’s no secret that Smith struggles against the run, as he failed to consistently wrap up the ball carrier during his college career. And scouts have told Solder to work on keeping his hips lower.
Not since 2003 has an NFL team chosen a Buff in the first-round, when Oakland chose defensive end Tyler Brayton on the last pick of round one. The last time the Buffs had two first-round picks requires a trip back to 1997, when Chris Naeole and Rae Carruth came off the board early.
Every year the combine marks low tide in the football fan’s desperate need for an off-season fix. So what if the Super Bowl was less than a month ago? I don’t even remember who won.
Now ‘tis the season of the mock draft; a time when speculation becomes the norm.
The most recent Sports Illustrated mock has Solder going 13th to Detroit, and Smith following him at 26th to Baltimore.
Wherever they end up, both will have another place to call home and a new team to represent. No doubt they will elicit the same dedication to their future city and teammates, as they were able to on campus for four years.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Michael Krumholtz at Michael.email@example.com.