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Depth Issues Don't Hinder Buffs' Progress This Spring

Apr 2, 2022

BOULDER — As is the case with programs across the country, the Colorado Buffaloes are dealing with depth issues at several positions this spring.

The reasons vary. Injuries, players still recovering from offseason surgeries, and attrition via graduation and the transfer portal all have an impact. Programs are also waiting for the majority of their newest recruits to arrive on campus over the summer, meaning virtually nobody has a full complement of players.

But no matter the reason, the result is coaching staffs must adjust for thin positions during spring ball — and do their best to make sure the players who are available stay that way throughout the spring session.

Colorado is no different, as head coach Karl Dorrell noted Saturday after the Buffs wrapped up their third spring practice. CU has just six healthy wide receivers for the spring, with running back and the secondary also areas that are not at full strength in terms of sheer numbers.

"In drills we have to slow down the pace so we're getting quality reps instead of quantity," Dorrell said. "I have to do a great job with that … (But) our depth is what it is. I think every team in spring ball across the country doesn't have full depth right now. Some positions have more depth than others. It's just kind of the nature we have right now. We just have to find the right pace so we can have some sustainability."

But the lack of depth in those areas isn't slowing down Colorado's overall progress this spring. Dorrell has been pleased with the advancement the Buffs have made thus far on both sides of the ball — in particular the communication aspect on defense, where Dorrell heard adjustments being called out by the line, linebackers and secondary.

"That's something that's going to be really important for our defense to be a really good defense — if we can get all 11 guys to really understand their role and have great discussion and communication in their adjustments," he said. "I felt for the first time since I've been here, that was as good as I've ever seen and heard. Even the second team did a really good job."

The Buffs were in helmets and shoulder pads Saturday, meaning a little more "thud" work could be accomplished in team drills. CU continues to install its new offense under new coordinator Mike Sanford and Dorrell said they are working on more and more of the overall package on a daily basis.

Up front on offense, new O-line coach Kyle DeVan's group appears to be gelling quickly.

Dorrell said he is very pleased with the progress of returning starting guard Casey Roddick, who made some critical strides in CU's offseason strength and conditioning sessions.

"He looks like a different Casey Roddick," Dorrell said. "Better athlete, better condition, his weight is probably right around where it should be. He's not too heavy. He's moving around so much better."

Roddick is one of three returnees up front with significant starting experience, along with tackles Jake Wiley and Frank Fillip. Taking snaps at the other spots with the No. 1 group have been Noah Fenske at center and newcomer Tommy Brown at guard. 

Replacing multi-year starter Colby Pursell at center will be a key, and along with Fenske, Austin Johnson has been getting work at center. Also seeing some time with the top units at tackle has been Jack Seavall.

Overall, Dorrell said he's pleased with the first week. Now, the challenge will be for the team to maintain that consistency and continue to improve over the next three weeks, when the Buffs will practice four times each week.

"I just told them our challenge now is how are we going to handle this progress back to back," he said. "We have to have great performances on Tuesday and Wednesday and the same thing backing that up on Friday and having a great scrimmage on Saturday. That's the challenge. I want them to grow and mature and understand."

BUFFS BITS: While the receiving corps may be thin in numbers, those who are healthy made some nice plays in Saturday's practice. Newcomer R.J. Sneed II (grad transfer from Baylor) is quickly making it apparent he will be a big weapon in CU's new offense, showing an ability to go up and get the ball in coverage. Returnee Montana Lemonious-Craig is showing more consistency after he had some flash moments last season, and walk-on Jack Hestera (son of former Buff Dan Hestera and nephew of former Buff Dave Hestera) had some nice catches Saturday …

Meanwhile, the running backs who are available are also making plays. Alex Fontenot broke a couple nice runs Saturday and Deion Smith, who came on strong in some moments last season, looks ready to compete for his share of carries this season … On defense, Jaylen Striker and Trevor Woods are getting snaps at safety, Kaylin Moore is getting plenty of work at corner and Dorrell noted some nice play from incoming freshman Joshua Wiggins at corner … CU's edge rushers had good days Saturday, with Terrence Lang getting to the QB on a couple of occasions and Devin Grant forcing plays inside … LB Marvin Ham II is getting work with the No. 1 unit.

SCHEDULE: The Buffs were able to practice outside Saturday, their first time outdoors this spring … They will return to the field next Tuesday for their first workout in full pads and will practice four times next week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), with the first scrimmage of camp scheduled Saturday.

Contact: Neill.Woelk@Colorado.edu