Durango Duo Making Mark In Buffs Secondary
BOULDER — After a successful spring foray at their new positions, two former offensive players from Durango could become future mainstays for the Colorado Buffaloes' defense.
Former Buffs quarterback Jordan Woolverton and ex-wide receiver Ben Finneseth both had outstanding Spring Showcase performances at safety last weekend.
Finneseth led all tacklers with six stops, including five unassisted. Woolverton had the scrimmage's only interception, stopping an offensive drive in the end zone, and also had a tackle.
Both, said CU head coach Karl Dorrell, could be contributors next season — and for years to come, as they become more and more comfortable with their defensive duties.
"It's been great, everything I could ask for," Woolverton said. "I came in as a quarterback and I loved it. But I felt like my best opportunity to help this team was at safety. So I met with Coach (Brett) Maxie and we talked about it with Coach Dorrell and we made the change. I've really enjoyed it up to this point."
Woolverton and Finneseth were a big part of a Durango success story. The two played together through middle school and high school, and capped their prep careers by leading the Demons to a perfect record and 3A state championship in 2020.
Woolverton finished his Durango career with 387 completions for 5,535 yards and 69 touchdowns, and he also rushed for 1,641 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also played defense, finishing with 69 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Finneseth finished his prep career with 67 catches for 1,012 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he also ran the ball 61 times for 617 yards and nine scores — and he averaged 12.7 yards every time he touched the ball on offense. He also played defense, finishing with 134 tackles, three interceptions and six forced fumbles.
Both had scholarship opportunities elsewhere, but decided to walk on at Colorado, where they spent last season practicing on offense. But both also had some defense in their background, and decided to make the switch in the offseason when they saw an opportunity to be on the field more often.
"I love the physical part of playing defense," Finneseth said with a grin. "I'm a great guy off the field, but when I'm out there, I come down to hit — that's for sure."
Both are using their history on the offensive side as tools to learning the details of full-time defense.
"Knowing how to play quarterback helps tremendously," Woolverton said. "Just knowing a quarterback's progression and knowing where they want to go with the ball is big. Having that quarterback's mind in the back of my mind while I'm playing safety helps me every play to make breaks on the ball faster and be out there making plays."
Finneseth said his experience at wide receiver also gives him an edge.
"You know what to expect based on releases, splits, timing — all the things that you have to understand from the offense," he said. "I can see that and know what they're thinking offensively and be on the jump. It's most definitely helped."
Still, the transition has by no means been easy, especially after spending last season playing only offense.
"Just getting used to the speed of the game again from a different spot has been one of the toughest parts," Woolverton said. "Obviously it's different from safety to quarterback speeds. You have to know different things. But I feel like I've done a good job getting used to that so far and I'm super excited about this transition."
Finneseth said he is using film study to help speed up the transition.
"Instead of knowing what you're going to do and reading the defense, now you have to react to what the offense is doing," he said. "You have to study offense, learn to react quickly and make decisions. It's new film techniques, knowing movement and trying to anticipate what they're going to do."
Both players received plenty of repetitions this spring, thanks in part to offseason departures and injuries to remaining players. Those extra snaps are proving invaluable.
"Getting reps is everything at this level — at any level," Woolverton said. "It helps you learn, helps you play that much faster, knowing what's going on. It's really helped me progress. I'm still learning and have a lot to learn, but those reps were big this spring."
And, the two admit to thinking about what it would be like to be on the field together at Folsom Field on a fall afternoon.
"We talk about it all the time," Finneseth said. "Just the opportunity to be here — even if we're not playing together at the same time — that opportunity to just be out there in Folsom is great. Obviously if the two of us are playing together, that's the best it could possibly be. But we're just excited for what's to come."