CU Wide Outs Coming On Strong In Spring
BOULDER - It's no secret that during the early stages of spring football, a team's defense is usually leaps and bounds ahead of its offense. The University of Colorado has been no different over its first four practices, but Wednesday afternoon head coach Gary Barnett noted that one particular facet of his scoring unit "turned the corner."
In what is an area oozing with talent and potential, the Buffaloes' receiving corps has been under heavy scrutiny since CU kicked off spring drills one week ago. While the group returns only one starter ? senior Evan Judge ? from 2004 and boasts three players with significant game experience (Blake Mackey, Dusty Sprague and Tyler Littlehales), Barnett hasn't shied away from revealing what his expectations are for the receivers this April.
Looking for consistency, competition and a couple individuals to "take control," CU has focused much of its attention on the passing game in hopes of shoring up last year's mistakes and eliminating dropped balls. Thankfully for the Buffs, Wednesday was a step in the right direction, as both the head coach and several key student-athletes left the field smiling.
"I thought the receivers picked it up today, and that they really turned a corner," Barnett stated following CU's fifth session of the spring. "I thought we executed on offense better than we have so far."
"There is no question that we are coming together and beginning to make the plays we're supposed to," added Judge, who reeled in a 40-yard touchdown pass over the middle from quarterback Joel Klatt at one point during the day. "There were glimpses last year of what this offense is capable of in the air. Now we need to focus on our chemistry and have guys continue to step up."
With former starter Ron Monteilh lost to graduation, Judge and Mackey return with the most playing time under their belts. Last season Judge led the team with 29 catches for 336 yards and three touchdowns, while Mackey snared 26 balls for one score and a team-high 416 yards. In addition, Sprague, who missed three games due to a broken collarbone, racked up 278 yards and one touchdown on 22 receptions.
Sporting a strong nucleus amongst this trio, and with a new supporting cast of younger players looking to make some noise, Klatt noted Wednesday that he too feels the passing game is making strides. Specifically pointing out veteran leadership and the younger players' quick development, the third-year starting gunslinger said CU's air assault is primed for a bright future.
"You're going to see some of our younger guys develop into really good players," the senior said. "I think we've made strides every practice, and I expect us to be better each day because we are building that chemistry and we are working hard."
And that's exactly what the Buffs' coaching staff wants from its wide receivers and quarterbacks. In what's been especially crucial in the growth of sophomore Reggie Joseph, redshirt freshman Patrick Williams and sophomore junior college transfer Alvin Barnett, all continue to receive quality reps while Mackey nurses a sore knee and Littlehales remains absent from the team (he'll return this summer) tending to family matters.
"We are in a position where we all have a lot of work to do, but the best thing about it is that nobody has stepped away from the challenge," Klatt continued. "One of our top priorities is to get the passing game where it needs to be and to fill that consistency void. I think the offense, as a whole, is aware of that and we're doing the things to get it done."
Practice Highlights: Alvin Barnett, who continues to see time with the first-team, turned a broken run play into a touchdown Wednesday. After knocking over junior corner Lorenzo Sims with a big block, Barnett quickly realized the busted play, sprang to his feet and then caught an errant pass. Before the defense could recover, the 6-foot, 190-pounder was downfield headed to the end zone.
However, Sims would get his revenge later by delivering a ferocious hit on Judge, who appeared to snag a 25-yard Klatt pass until the ensuing smash. Noted Judge after practice: "Oh yeah, I definitely am still feeling that one."
In other big hit news, seniors Brian Iwuh and Lawrence Vickers met head on to produce one of the day's loudest knocks during a running play up the middle. Iwuh seemingly won the battle with a monster lick on the fellow Houston native, but the 240-pound Vickers popped right back up and without hesitation.
Injury Updates: Coach Barnett said senior safety Tom Hubbard will miss the remainder of spring ball with a knee injury. Hubbard, who sustained the injury in Monday's first full-contact session should be healthy enough to return in August. In his place, juniors Tyrone Henderson and Dominique Brooks, redshirt freshman Charlie Sherman and freshman Reggie Foster will all get looks. Barnett also said Mackey "is making progress," but that trainers have yet to predict a date when the junior may return.