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Branden Oliver Looks for Blueprint Year

The quick bursts up the gut.

The choppy jukes before planting his foot and cutting up field.

The physical finish at the end of a run to fall forward for extra yards.

Head Coach Mike McCoy said it best when talking about Branden Oliver's return from a foot injury that ended his 2015 campaign after just eight games.

"(He looks) like Branden," McCoy said with a smirk.  "He just goes out there and shows up every day.  He only has one way to do it….Now he is back to his old self, and he stands out every day the way he runs the ball.  You don't see too many clean shots on him.  It's always downhill, and it's always positive with him. He is a good football player."

Oliver says he feels no ill effects from the foot injury that prematurely ended his sophomore year.  In fact, the only thing that has slowed down is the game around him.

"I feel good.  My body feels great.  My foot feels great.  I'm just getting back into the groove of things. I already trust my foot.  That's over with. I'm focused on the field, producing and doing what I need to do to help the team win.  The game has slowed down for me.  The playbook is easier, so I am really trying to make this a blueprint year."

As McCoy alluded, the 5-8, 208-pound running back has been up to his usual tricks thus far in training camp. One of Oliver's trademark moves is the manner in which he finishes each carry.  The 25-year old constantly keeps his feet moving, and nearly always falls forward at the end of his runs.  As he explained, it's a habit he formed at a young age when he didn't have the same athleticism he does now.

"That is something that coaches have always instructed on, but honestly, I think it comes from when I was younger because I didn't know how to shake.  I was always a straight ahead guy.  I didn't have those moves, and I didn't start getting them until my eighth grade year.  But I always had that vertical, downhill, north-south mentality.  I think that's where it comes from.  I used to play fullback then too, and had those full back dives, so I think that is where it comes from, too."

While Oliver has had a strong camp, he says there are plenty of areas that need improving.  First and foremost, he's dead-set on refining his technique in pass protection.

"That is still something I am honing in on.  You won't be back there if you can't block.  So that's my first priority right now.  I know I can run the ball and catch the ball, so blocking is what I'm really working on."

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