Football coaches all over the state are always looking to get a leg up on the competition from the time the last season ends to the start of the next.
The biggest thing going in the two months leading up to the start of the 2018 campaign are the summer camps that allow teams to strap on the pads and hone their skills.
Three area teams — Broomfield, Erie and Niwot — all went down to Pueblo for CSU-Pueblo's camp that included some of the state's best, including Pueblo West, Pine Creek, Dakota Ridge and many more.
"We do a lot of situational drills. Goal line drills, two-point conversions and a lot of other stuff that really puts kids in challenging spots," said Erie coach Chad Cooper, who took 71 kids to the Steel City. "It really helps show us some stuff."
For Cooper's Tigers, who are coming off a Class 3A state championship game appearance in 2017, it was also a chance for some of their bigger name players — notably Noah Roper and Jaymeson Nelms — to showcase their talents in front of a college coaching staff.
And it was Roper who provided one of the better highlights from the weekend, when the stout running back gashed the vaunted Pine Creek defense for a score in a goal line drill.
Both Roper and Nelms received offers from CSU-Pueblo ThunderWolves head coach John Wristen.
"I talked to them beforehand about Jayme and they saw him during a few practices and decided to offer him on the spot," said Cooper, whose team's season opener is on Aug. 24 against Evergreen. "And that is very rare, they just don't do that, so it shows how hard he has been working and where he is at right now in terms of his future."
And both Cooper and Broomfield head coach Blair Hubbard saw exactly what they wanted to see from their respective teams too.
"Two things, I'm looking to have kids learn — and not just the playbook, but how to compete," Cooper said. "And the biggest thing for me is to see kids in new spots, competing.
"That's the reason we went to CSU-Pueblo, we picked it out intentionally because we knew the teams that would be down there and we wanted to go against elite competition and we got that."
Coach Hubbard's Broomfield Eagles got back on Tuesday and had a quick turnaround to the Denver Broncos 7-on-7 camp at All-City Stadium in Denver on Thursday, and they also got a ton out of their first big camp of the summer.
"We went into it looking for an opportunity to see what group of players can step up and help us out on the varsity level. We discovered a few kids that have really come into their own since last year," said Hubbard, whose team was a 4A semifinalist last season. "Zach Young was kind of a special teams player and a role player on defense, he really stepped up and is a kid now that is on some coaches radars as an outside linebacker because of his frame, athleticism and size."
Hubbard also pointed to junior Bryant Walker, who won a team award on the offensive and defensive line.
Hubbard, whose quarterback Stevie Croell was also offered by CSU-Pueblo, wasn't sure if his team would do any other camps later in the summer — some that are offered at Western, UNC and even Chadron in Nebraska — but will likely have his teams do more of the 7-on-7 tournaments, including one at Centaurus.
The biggest key for both coaches coming out of the camps was that they were both able to stay healthy, a big plus for the Eagles, who are a little thin up front.
"We need to make sure that we get healthy and stay healthy," said Hubbard, who lost his starting center Tyler Carpenter to injury during a rugby game in the spring and hopes to get him back in September. "If we can stay healthy and get him back that will help beef up some depth for us up front.
"I'm hoping some young kids can develop through the summer and step into those role playing spots for us."