Buffs Newcomers Sneed, Brown Making Immediate Impact
BOULDER — New Colorado receivers coach Phil McGeoghan isn't having trouble this spring getting enough practice reps for his players.
Rather, he's having to be creative to find ways to get enough players to complete all the necessary repetitions when the Buffs go through 11-on-11 team drills.
Due to injuries and offseason roster changes, McGeoghan has had basically six healthy receivers, barely enough to run through team drills. On some days — such as Tuesday — that number is even smaller, as bumps and bruises are taking their toll (as well as the occasional class conflict).
"We were about four and a half," McGeoghan said after Tuesday's practice, the Buffs' first in full pads this spring. "We made it through, we made plays and we're excited about the guys taking reps."
The Buffs had several players from last year transfer in the offseason, and several others have been limited — or are out for the spring — because of injury or offseason surgery.
But McGeoghan likes the group he has available, which includes grad transfer R.J. Sneed, who came to Boulder from Baylor. Sneed, who caught 133 passes for 1,564 yards and eight touchdowns in five seasons at Baylor, brings experience and leadership to the Buffs' wide receiver room.
He has quickly made an impact on CU's wide receivers room after just four practices.
"R.J.'s an outstanding leader," McGeoghan said. "Everybody knows he's had great production, but he's very intelligent. He's a good leader by example and he'll pull guys to the side and teach them proper learning habits … He's been good for us from a scheme and personnel standpoint as far as upgrading the position and also from a leadership role."
Also having a good camp early has been sophomore Montana Lemonious-Craig. But McGeoghan said sophomores Ty Robinson and Chase Penry, two players who had excellent moments last year, have been hampered by injuries this spring.
McGeoghan did have high praise for senior Daniel Arias, a talented player who has shown flashes of outstanding play over the last several seasons but must add consistency to his repertoire this year.
"I've seen him take some very remarkable steps in such a short period of time," McGeoghan said. "It's very important to him. He is here all the time working on his body, doing extra in the classroom studying, asking a lot of questions in meetings. I've been very pleased with Daniel's progression and he's a guy who I'm really counting on this year to take that next step."
But McGeoghan said the biggest priority of camp has been making sure all of his receivers know the new offense — and not just one position. Thus, they will have a better understanding of the overall offensive philosophy and be ready to perform in any situation on Saturdays.
"We don't teach, 'Oh, you're the X and Z,'" he said. "We teach concepts right off the bat. They don't get assigned a position until the day of practice. It's important that they learn our coverage recognition and understand all the formations, understand all the assignments and how the spacing of the passing game works and the blocking assignments … When you understand that, the game slows down, you're able to catch more passes and we win more games."
GAINING TRUST: When Kyle DeVan took the job as CU's offensive line coach in the offseason, he became the fourth position coach a handful of CU O-linemen have had — and the fifth for at least one (Casey Roddick).
Thus, one of DeVan's first tasks was developing a sense of trust in the offensive line room. Now, as the Buffs enter their second week of spring ball, he is seeing the results.
"I want them to understand that this is us, this is how we're going to do it, and couple that with getting them to buy in and trust that I have their best interests in mind," DeVan said after Tuesday's practice. "The more we got to know each other through January and February, the more we built that trust. Now, they're starting to see the stuff that I teach is favorable."
DeVan has been shuffling a variety of players in different rotations with the No. 1 and No. 2 units. He said it is a process that will continue through the spring and into fall camp.
"It's not about finding the starting five," he said. "It's about finding the best five, and when you find the best five, it's about the best pairing of those five individuals."
DeVan did say newcomer Tommy Brown, a transfer from Alabama, is already making a strong impression.
"Tommy has been a great addition," DeVan said. "He has a great foundation coming from his previous school and he's obviously worked with some really good offensive line coaches. His knowledge of the game has really helped the younger guys. He's been a great leader in that sense."
Brown, who played tackle at Alabama, has been playing guard early in the spring. But DeVan said Brown will get some time at tackle as well.
"I want guys to be multiple," DeVan said. "We're going to move guys around."