Buffs Complete Third Week of Spring Practices
BOULDER-The University of Colorado football team held its final pre-Spring Game scrimmage Saturday with several players who were in the shadows last season making a name for themselves.
Junior tight end Patrick Devenny continued his solid spring work by leading all receivers with six catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns during the scrimmage which lasted almost two hours and spanned almost 150 total plays.
"I think we've always felt like he was a good pass receiver," head coach Dan Hawkins said. "He can run, he can catch, he's got good hands and he's developed some more confidence. I sort of pointed it out to our team that he is another great example of a kid who has a new coaching staff come in and says ?We don't see you at quarterback' and he'll play wherever so we move him to tight end. It was a tough transition but he's starting to show up and make some plays."
Devenny, who recorded a three-yard touchdown score against Miami (Ohio) on his only touch of 2007, has been working with the first team offense for most of the spring.
"I've been given an opportunity this spring and I approach every play as an opportunity to make a play," Devenny said. "When I go out there and line up against (senior linebacker) Brad Jones, it helps me know I can compete because I've been watching him make plays for three years."
Another bright spot on offense was redshirt freshman wide receiver Jason Espizona, who finished with four catches for 66 yards a year after practicing at safety. He also made a big splash in the punt return game, gaining 95 yards on seven returns.
"He hasn't really been a surprise guy," Hawkins said. "We had him as our ?ready-ready' guy last year at punt return because he has really quick feet and we knew he was kind of a jitterbug guy who can do some things. That is why we put him back on offense; we think he can really do some things for us on offense."
Espinoza had punt returns of 25 and 45 yards and receptions of 17 and 25 yards, displaying a quick, make-you-miss athleticism that the offense welcomes. He also proved fearless fielding punts, a trait CU has required of its returners for many years.
"I don't think I will take a fair catch," Espinoza said. "It hurts more being on the sideline than it does to take a hit from not calling a fair catch."
Sophomore quarterback Cody Hawkins completed 17-of-30 passes for 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Senior Nick Nelson was CU's most accurate passer for the second scrimmage in a row, completing 12-of-17 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown on a quarterback sneak. Redshirt freshman Matt Ballenger completed 8-of-16 passes for 106 yards and a score.
Junior tailback Kevin Moyd led all rushers with 59 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Sophomore tailback Demetrius Sumler had 10 rushes for 49 yards and a touchdown.
"I think today was a good step forward," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich said. "We learned some things and fixed a couple problems that we had. We're starting to make a few plays that aren't tailor-made. We're making a few guys miss, catching some balls and we just have to keep getting better across the board."
The defense also made some strides, highlighted by the play of the linebackers. Junior linebacker Jake Duren snagged the Buffs' only interception of the scrimmage and also had six tackles, a forced fumble and a pass broken up. Junior linebacker Marcus Burton, who sat out the 2007 season after being ruled academically ineligible, led the defense with nine total tackles.
"I'm just trying to get back into the flow," Burton said. "I missed some practice but I'm just trying to come out here and compete. We have some great players, a great coach who teaches us what we need to know and we have some great recruits coming in, so I need to make every play I can, and that is what I'm trying to do."
Defensive coordinator Ron Collins also singled out sophomore linebacker B.J. Beatty, who is fighting the veteran Jones for the starting outside linebacker spot.
"The competition right now is pretty stiff and those guys are battling it out," Collins said. "At some point we want them both on the field but B.J. has come a long way in the last year. He's playing as well as anybody right now on defense. He's always been a smart football player, but it just seems like he's figuring it out in all phases.
"There is no given here, everybody has to earn their position. I think that's only going to make Brad better that he's got somebody right there on his tail."
Scrimmage Notes: Senior wide receiver Cody Crawford, who has a knack for blocking punts, got his hands on two of them Saturday ... CU's placekickers were 1-of-3 on field goals: Sophomore Aric Goodman missed his only attempt from 41 yards and freshman Jameson Davis made a 42-yard field goal and missed his other attempt from 27 yards as it banged the left upright and bounced away ... Eight different defenders combined for seven sacks, but they were aided by the fact that the quarterbacks were off limits and whistles blew the plays dead when they were touched ... CU's first offensive fumble in the two full scrimmages didn't come until the 154th play from scrimmage ... The Buffs will practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of next week before the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 19.
For more information on the Spring Game and coaches Bill McCartney's and Dan Hawkins' challenge to fill Folsom, click here.