Colorado Daily – April, 2011

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April 30th

2011 Draft best for Colorado since 2006

For the first time since 2006, four Colorado Buffaloes were selected in the NFL draft. Cornerback Jalil Brown went to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 21st pick of the fourth round (118th pick overall), while wide receiver Scotty McKnight went to the New York Jets with the 24th pick of the seventh round (227th pick overall).

The last time Colorado had four players selected in the same draft came in 2006. During that draft, tight end Joe Klopfenstein was the first Buff taken, going in the second round to St. Louis. In the fifth round, wide receiver / kick returner Jeremy Bloom went to Philadelphia, while tight end Quinn Sypniewski went to Baltimore. Running back Lawrence Vickers closed out the 2006 draft for Colorado, going in the sixth round to the Cleveland Browns. (Arguably, Colorado had five players taken in the 2006 draft. Running back Brian Calhoun started with the Buffs, but later transferred to Wisconsin. In the 2006 draft, Calhoun was selected in the third round by the Detroit Lions).

Jalil Brown becomes third Buff selected in 2011 NFL draft

With the 21st pick of the fourth round of the NFL draft (118th pick overall), the Kansas City Chiefs selected Colorado cornerback Jalil Brown. Brown became the third Buff selected, marking the first time since 2006 when at least three Buffs were selected in the draft.

Brown’s selection marks the fifth time that CU has had two cornerbacks selected in the same draft.  It also represents the fourth time two regular starters from the same position have been drafted, the first since cornerbacks Ben Kelly and Damen Wheeler were both selected in the 2000 draft.

While Brown was selected by the Chiefs as a cornerback, he may make his first contribution as a special teams member. Kansas City has three decent corners they like, though one, Brandon Carr, could be lost to free agency if the NFL lockout is ever resolved. This being the case, Brown may find his way onto the field as a nickel back and as a special teams player. As a Buff, Brown compiled 65 special teams points, the sixth highest total in Colorado history. As a cornerback, Brown played in 39 games, starting the final 22 games of his career. Brown finished his career with 167 tackles, six interceptions, and 24 pass break-ups.

“They just told me that they’re excited to have me come there,” said Brown of his new team. “I told them I was excited to come there and I’m excited to play in Arrowhead Stadium”.

Brown is the 10th Colorado player drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, the first since Jay Leeuwenburg went to Kansas City in 1992. Of the previous nine Buffs drafted by the Chiefs, most were in the later rounds, as Brown becomes – as a four round selection – the second highest selection ever by Kansas City. The only Buff taken sooner by the Chiefs came in 1977, when running back Tony Reed was taken in the 2nd round.

Scotty McKnight reunited with Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez

If Scotty McKnight was going to be drafted, the team which would likely be the best fit was the New York Jets.

Not because the Jets were shy on wide receiver talent, but because of McKnight’s relationship with the New York quarterback, Mark Sanchez. The starting quarterback for the Jets played for USC, but grew up with Scotty McKnight, and the two have remained close friends. When McKnight worked out for scouts, Mark Sanchez flew in to Boulder to throw McKnight passes.

For Colorado fans, McKnight’s numbers are well known. McKnight completed his Colorado career finishing first in receptions (215) and receiving touchdowns (22), while winding up third in all-time receiving yards (2,521; just 27 behind Michael Westbrook and 19 yards out of second). McKnight is tied for fifth-most 100-yard receiving games with five. He became the 10th player in NCAA history to catch at least one pass in every game he appeared in, and just the sixth to do the same without missing any games due to injury (48 games, 49 including the postseason).

McKnight is just the sixth Colorado player drafted by the New York Jets, and the first since Steve Rosga was taken by the Jets in the seventh round of the 1997 draft. The highest selection of a Buff by the Jets came in 1980, when cornerback Jesse Johnson was taken in the 4th round (the Jets later took CU defensive end George Visger in the sixth round).

April 28th – 29th

Two Buffs taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft

For the first time since 1997, two Colorado Buffaloes were selected in the first round of an NFL draft. Nate Solder went to the New England Patriots with the 17th overall pick, while cornerback Jimmy Smith was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 27th pick.

The last time Colorado was able to celebrate two first round picks came 14 years ago, with the draft coming at the conclusion of a three year run in which  Colorado had won ten or more games each year. In the 1997 NFL draft, guard Chris Naeole went to the New Orleans Saints with the No. 10 pick, and wide receiver Rae Carruth went as the No. 27 pick to the Carolina Panthers.

The best one/two punch by the Buffs in the first round came in the 1974 draft, when running back Bo Matthews went to the San Diego Chargers with the No. 2 overall pick (the highest Buff selection ever), with wide receiver J.V. Cain going to the St. Louis Cardinals as the No. 7 first round selection. (Only once has Colorado had three first-round picks in one draft. In 1976, center Pete Brock went to New England with the No. 12 pick, defensive tackle Troy Archer was selected by the N.Y. Giants in the No. 13 slot, while offensive tackle Mark Koncar was selected by Green Bay with the No. 23 pick overall).

Nate Solder 17th pick of 2011 NFL draft

Colorado left tackle Nate Solder will be a New England Patriot.

Solder was the 17th pick of the 2011 NFL draft, becoming the first Buff to be selected in the first round since Tyler Brayton was picked by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft. Solder is the highest pick for the Buffs since offensive guard Chris Naeole went No. 10 overall to New Orleans.

Of the 23 first round picks in Colorado history, 15 have been picked 17th or higher. Solder joins Charles E. Johnson as the 2nd Buff to ever be picked 17th, as Johnson was picked in the first round of the 1994 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Solder is the fifth offensive lineman out of Colorado to be taken in the first round.

Solder’s resume includes All-American honors, the first for a Colorado offensive tackle since Stan Brock in 1979. Solder was in for 2,540 plays out of 2,542 offensive snaps the past three years (“It’s funny – when they told me I missed two snaps, I had to think about what the heck happened because I couldn’t remmeber missing those two snaps,” said Solder. “I think that that was an end of game situation. I think one of the backups was in there just to kneel the ball”. In that 2,540 play snap total, Colorado had 1,400 pass plays. During those 1,400 pass plays, Solder surrendered five sacks and 21 pressures. Translation: the man Solder was blocking figured in on 1.8% of Colorado’s pass plays the last three seasons.

The New England Patriots have been good to the Colorado Buffaloes. All time, New England has picked 12 Buffs, including two Buffs in the first round – Center Pete Brock in 1976 (No. 12 overall), and tight end Daniel Graham in 2002 (No. 21 overall).

In 2001, 2003, and 2004, Buffs were on the rosters of the Patriots when New England won the Super Bowl. Offensive tackle Tom Ashworth won three Super Bowl rings with New England, as linebacker Ted Johnson. Tight ends Christian Fauria and Daniel Graham both won two rings while wearing the red,white, and blue. The other Buffs to win a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots were wide receiver Charles E. Johnson and kick returner Ben Kelly.

Jimmy Smith the No. 27 overall pick

The Baltimore Ravens were able to see past some of the “character issues” which were leveled against Jimmy Smith late in the draft process, picking up the two-time All-Big 12 cornerback with the No. 27 pick of the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.

Jimmy Smith is the third Colorado cornerback taken in the first round, and the first since Deon Figures was selected with the No. 23 overall pick in 1993 by Pittsburgh. Mark Haynes was the other Buff cornerback taken, going as the No. 8 pick to the New York Giants in 1980.

Smith finished his career with 183 tackles, not bad considering most teams keyed their offense to not involve Smith. Smith allowed just 11 completions in man-to-man coverage his final two seasons, and, of those 11 completions, only one went for a first down.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was very excited about landing Jimmy Smith. “This guy, he’s a special player,” said Harbaugh. “He’s exactly the type  of corner that we’re looking for. He fits our defense just the way we need him to fit our defense … I want you to know, as a head football coach, I’m excited about this pick. This guy makes us better.”

There was some confusion before Jimmy Smith’s name was announced. Baltimore had the 26th overall pick in the draft, but their time to pick expired, allowing the Kansas City Chiefs to move ahead of the Ravens on the draft board (the Chiefs selected Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin). “Iwas on the phone with the other team, and John (Harbaugh) was on the phone with Jimmy Smith,” said Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome. “Once an agreement is made, then you have to call the League. We’ve been in this situation before that when you get close to the clock, in order for a trade to happen, both teams have to talk to the League, and the other team did not get the confirmation.” Does that mean that the Ravens would not have taken Smith if the pressures of the clock hadn’t forced their hand? “When we were trading back several spots, someone could have picked him between the time we would have gotten back on the clock,” explained Newsome. “But, if we would have gotten back on the clock, and Jimmy would have been there, yes, we would have taken him.”

With a shorter history than the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens also have a shorter list of former Buffs. Only twice before has a CU Buff been picked by the Ravens, with safety Ryan Sutter going to the Ravens in the fifth round of the 1996 draft, and tight end Quinn Sypniewski going east in the fifth round of the 2006 draft. Sutter never played for the Ravens, with his NFL career consisting of one game for the Carolina Panthers in 1998 (Sutter did achieve fame, though, as an eligible bachelor on television), while Sypniewski played four seasons for the Ravens, starting 28 games.

 

Buffs honor their own

This week, the University of Colorado took the time to honor its own, with the 11th annual CUSPY’s. Over 300 student-athletes, coaches, staff, and C-Club members attended the event at the Coors Event Center on Tuesday night.

The male athlete of the year went to sophomore basketbal star Alec Burks, who recently declared for the NBA draft. Colorado All-American left tackle Nate Solder and skier Reid Pletcher were the other finalists.

The female athlete of the year was junior skier Eliska Hajkova, who was an All-American twice this year, first by winning the 15K classical cross-country race at the NCAA skiing championships at Stowe, Vermont, then by coming back two days later and finishing second in the 5K race. Hajkova helped the ski team build an insurmountable lead on its way to its 18th national championship. Hajkova won the award over Brittany Spears (basketball) and Jessica Wallace (golf).

The career achievement awards both went to basketball players, with Cory Higgins and Brittany Spears earning those awards. Spears played in more games than any other player in CU history (127), finishing as the all-time leader in field goal attempts and double-figure scoring games. In all, Spears is in the top ten in 18 Colorado career lists. Cory Higgins, meanwhile, also is the all-time leader in games played in CU history (132), as well as the all-time leader in starts (131), free throws made, double-digit scoring games, and minutes played. Higgins finished with 2,001 career points, tying him atop the list with Richard Roby.

The other finalists for the Career Athletic Achievement Award were Scotty McKnight (football) and Gabriel Rivas (skiing).

The Male Freshman Athlete of the Year was split between Andre Roberson (basketball) and Paul Richardson (football).

Other Awards of note:

- A new award, called the CU Sports “Moment of the Year“, was skier Reid Pletcher’s coming from behind to win the men’s classical 20K race at the NCAA championships.

- The prestigious Buffalo Award of Distinction, given to student athletes of each gender for outstanding contributions to their team, to their peers, and to the athletic department overall, went to skier Katie Hartman and running back Brian Lockridge. Both participated in several CU community outreach projects, including Buffalo Hugs, Read With the Buffs, and the Holiday Angel Tree.

- The SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Committee) Distinguished Service Award, presented to senior members who have contributed significantly to the SAAC, was awarded to eight student-athletes, including two football players who will be seniors this fall, Ryan Miller and Brian Lockridge.

Congratulations to these fine University of Colorado student athletes!

 

 

April 27th

Season ticket renewals at 81%

 To date, 81% of the 2010 season-ticket holders have renewed their seats for the 2011 season. In addition, 1,378 new season-ticket customers have placed down a $100 deposit, waiting for the existing season ticket holders to have their seat change requests addressed.

Last season, Colorado had 19,638 season ticket holders, but Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn has set a goal of 25,000 – a 27% increase over 2010. “We have a lofty goal of 25,000 season tickets this year,” Bohn told the Boulder Daily Camera. “But we believe with the energy around the team and coaches, coupled with the price adjustments and the strength of schedule, we believe we can reach that number.”

The “price adjustments” have to do with the mandatory donations of between $25 and $300 per seat on top of the cost of the tickets, depending on where the fan has their seats. Most Buff fans have been paying the premium for the past several years, but some 1,200 customers were grand-fathered in, and did not have to pay the increase until this season. Bohn reported that 90.6 percent of the customers affected renewed their season tickets.

On the other end of the “price adjustments” discussion are those that had their season ticket prices actually lowered. Bohn stated that 60 percent of the stadium had their ticket prices reduced, and that 93.8 percent of the season-ticket holders in those areas renewed their season tickets.

The only area of renewal which is lagging comes from faculty and staff who were not previously donors (75.6 percent renewals) and from former letter winners who were not previoulsy donors (75.5%).

Despite having under 20,000 season tickets sold to date, Bohn remains confident that the 25,000 figure will be reached. July and August are usually good months for picking up new season ticket holders, and the schedule, while it does offer only five home games, does include the CSU game in Denver, along with home games against Cal (a non-conference game), Washington State, USC, Oregon, and Arizona.

With interest picking up as the first season of the Pac-12 approaches, quality games against high profile opponents should help with ticket sales for years to come. Next season, the Buffs will have home games against Washington, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, and Arizona State from the Pac-12, as well another non-conference home game to be announced later this year (the Buffs will again play CSU in Denver. The sole road non-conference game in 2012 will be against Fresno State).

If Jon Embree and his staff can put together anything close to a winning season in 2011, in the future 25,000 season-ticket holders will no longer be the goal …

… it will be the base.

April 25th

“Ohio State University is potentially facing the most severe NCAA penalties to its storied football program …”

So began the lead story in the Columbus Dispatch article on the “notice of allegations” sent to Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee by the NCAA. The Notice itself goes on for eight pages, accuses Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel of dishonesty for hiding violations by seven current and former players.

While the allegations are severe, they did not amount to a charge of “failure to monitor” or a “failure of institutional control”, which would have potentially greater penalties. The reason that the University avoided such charges is that it was not the institution, but rather its coach, who violated NCAA rules.

The Ohio State University could, though, be treated as a repeat offender due to past issues with Buckeye quarterback Troy Smith and OSU head basketball coach Jim O’Brien. Repeat offenders, according to the article, can lose scholarships. This would be the first actual penalty assessed against the University, as Jim Tressel has only – so far – been fined and given a self-imposed penalty of a five game suspension.

While not against the University, the allegation that Tressel lied is still significant. Since 2006, the NCAA has sanctioned 28 schools for violations of the ethical bylaws which Tressel admits to having violated. Of the 13 head coaches involved in those violations, 12 either resigned or were fired.

In addition to stripping Ohio State from its wins using ineligible players in 2010, the NCAA can strip the Buckeyes of scholarships, and can ban the University from participating in the Big Ten championship game and in bowl games.

University officials are to meet with the NCAA on August 12th in Indianapolis. Some time after that, the NCAA will issue a ruling and impose sanctions.

Short of any additional revelations which would back E. Gordon Gee into a corner, and force him to act on Tressel’s future before the season starts, it is unlikely that there will be any changes before Colorado travels to Columbus in September. Tressel will not be on the sidelines, but will coach during the week leading up to the game.

In other words, next to no penalty at all …

April 24th

Colorado/Hawai’i to close out first weekend of college football

There will be plenty of opportunities to watch college football the first weekend of play. Starting on Thursday, September 1st, with a couple of clunkers (Montana State at Utah; UC-Davis at Arizona State), the Pac-12 will conclude its first weekend of play with Colorado at Hawai’i.

The game will be shown on an ESPN channel, according to a report in the Honolulu Star-Register, the game between the Buffs and the Warriors will kickoff at 6:00 p.m. local time.

Do the math, and make sure you get your nap Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps surfing channels for other exciting Pac-12 games – Northern Arizona at Arizona; Sacramento State at Oregon State; San Jose State at Stanford; Idaho State at Washington State; or Eastern Washington at Washington – will help you get you get your rest.

Besides the Buffs, there are several Pac-12 teams which are testing themselves on the opening weekend. Oregon will be taking on LSU in Arlington, Cal will take on Fresno State in San Francisco, while UCLA travels to take on Houston.

April 21st

Alec Burks heading off to the NBA

At a press conference this afternoon, Alec Burks announced that he would be entering the 2011 NBA draft. Burks will be hiring an agent, which would preclude Burks from changing his mind and returning to the University of Colorado. Burks did hedge a bit about when he might be hiring an agent, but CU men’s basketbal head coach Tad Boyle made it clear that Burks’ decision was final.

While a disappointment for the Buff Nation, we were lucky that Burks chose to return to Colorado for his sophomore season.

Best of luck in the NBA, Alec. Do the Buffs proud as a professional basketball player!

April 19th

Academic excellence rewarded

Over three dozens University of Colorado student-athletes, including 17 with perfect 4.0 GPA’s, were honored this past week at the 19th-annual Student-Athlete Recognition Banquet.

Academic team winners for grade point average were the women’s cross country team for the fall (for the fifth straight year), with the women’s tennis team taking the honors for the spring sports teams.

Out of 336 student-athletes, 143 attained a GPA of 3.0 or higher, either cumulatively or for the spring or fall semesters, with 61 student-athletes earning GPA’s of over 3.5.

One member of the football team was specifically cited. Senior running back Rodney Stewart was honored with the Most Improved Student Athlete Award.

Here is a link  to the story containing the names of all of the individual student-athletes honored at the banquet. Congratulations, Buffs!

April 16th

NCAA Rules changes – 2011

Remember last spring, when there was consternation over a new taunting penalty passed by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel? When the only mitigating factor to the new penalty was that the rule was not to go into effect until next year?

Well, it’s next year.

Starting this fall, any player who taunts another player or team before crossing the goalline will have the touchdown nullified. Previously, if a player finished a touchdown run by high-stepping into the end zone, or by pointing the ball toward an opponent, would be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct (unless your Bradlee Van Pelt of the CSU Rams, who got away with just such an infraction against the Buffs a few years back), and a 15-yard penalty would be walked off against the offending team, either on the extra point or the ensuing kickoff.

Now, if a player taunts the opposition on the way to the endzone, a live-ball foul will be assessed against the offending team, with 15 yards marked off from the spot of the foul – and the touchdown nullified.

My concern, as expressed a year ago when this rule first came out, is not that it will be assessed against a running back or wide receiver (who should know better), but against a linebacker or a defensive lineman making a once-in-a-lifetime play on a fumble or interception. Such a foul – subjectively called (and we know how well subjective penalties like pass interference and personal fouls work out) – could change the outcome of a close game.

I guess we’ll have to see how the rule is applied. For me, if it’s the opposition scoring on a long play, I will see taunting. If the Buffs are scoring on such a play, I will see it as a “youthful expression of joy and team spirit”.

Po-TA-to / Po-ta-to

Other rules changes …

Ten second markoff … As the possibility of college football on Sunday grows with each week the NFL remains in stalemate, college football rules also move closer to their Sunday brethren. College teams, like teams in the NFL, will now have the option of shaving 10 seconds off the clock for penalties in the final minute of each half. Instead of just marking off the yardage against the opposing team, the offended team will have the option of taking the yardage and 10 seconds off the clock, the yardage only, or declining the penalty.

Intentional grounding … Another rule which will more closely resemble the NFL model. Previously, intentional grounding would be called if the intended receiver did not have a “reasonable opportunity” to catch the pass. Starting this fall, intentional grounding will only be called if the receiver is not in the area of the pass.

Video monitors … will now be allowed in the coaches’ boothes, but only if the home team and road team have equal access. The coaches will have access to video recording devices, and will only have access to any live broadcast of the game. This rule is intended to assist coaches in deciding whether to challenge a call on the field.

Blocking rules … Any players lined up within seven yards of the center on scrimmage plays (i.e., excluding wide receivers, running backs, and slot backs) will still be permitted to block below the waist anywhere on the field. Those outside of the “tackle box” will only be allowed to block below the waist if they are: a) blocking straight ahead; or b) blocking towards the nearest sideline. Basically, this is reinforcing the rule against chop blocks by receivers against defensive linemen and linebackers.

No over-powering lineman … Remember “no center dunks”? Centers have been, for some time now, off limits on place kicks. Now, for safety reasons, it will be a five-yard penalty if three or more defensive players try to overpower (read: gang up on) one offensive lineman.

Legislative changes

In addition to the above rules changes, there were some administrative changes passed this spring by the NCAA.

- Starting in 2012, teams will be allowed to have four graduate assistants, up from the two currently allowed.

- Starting this fall, there will be new rules on maintaining academic eligibility. In the fall, any player who does not pass nine hours (or eight quarter hours) of classes will not be eligible for the first four games of the following season. If the offending player does pass 27 hours (or 40 quarter hours) before the start of the fall term, the player can be reinstated for the third and fourth games of the season. In addition, the player will be able to use the latter “catch up” provision only once during his five years of eligibility.

 

 

 

April 12th

Colorado will petition the Big 12 to allow MTM and Jefferson to receive permanent medical exemptions

From CU Sports Information Director Dave Plati:

University of Colorado head football coach Jon Embree on Wednesday wanted to clear up some misconceptions about two of the five players he announced a day earlier who would not be returning to play this fall.

Senior offensive guard Max Tuioti-Mariner and junior receiver Will Jefferson have been deemed medically unable to compete by team doctors, and the school will petition the Big 12 Conference for a permanent medical exemption for both that will enable each to continue to receive full benefits, e.g., tuition, fees, room and board, study table, etc., if they decide to continue their academic pursuits in Boulder. In essence they remain full members of the team but their scholarships would not count toward the team total.

“Things have been written and implied that aren’t true about these two student-athletes,” Embree said. “Will and Max will retain their scholarships and receive all the benefits that they currently have. Some have grouped the situation these two are in with three others that I did not invite back, and that is not fair to Will and Max. Clearly that is not what we released.”

CU currently has two players enrolled working toward their degrees who received the exemption, Jameson Davis (kicker) and Anthony Wright (cornerback) and have also filed paperwork for a third, Dakota Poole (defensive linemen), who was ruled medically ineligible late last year.

April 11th

Six players not returning

It was announced Tuesday that five players – senior offensive guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, junior receiver Will Jefferson, junior defensive end Forrest West, red-shirt tight end Henley Griffon and red-shirt tight end Harold Mobley – will not be returning to the team this fall. (It was announced over the weekend that walk-on sophomore running back Quentin Hildreth would not be returning to the team).

Colorado head coach Jon Embree indicated that two of the players – MTM and Jefferson – both have medical reasons for not returning. Jefferson has been bothered by tendinitis in his knees (remember the Embree comment earlier this week that he could out-run Jefferson), while Tuioti-Mariner has undergone mulitiple surgeries that has kept him off the field since 2008.

The other three, including two tight ends and a defensive end (two positions where the Buffs are not flush), come as a surprise. The defensive line was so thin that the Buffs were forced to go with a scrimmage for the Spring game instead of an actual game.

Meanwhile, at tight end, the Buffs have two quality players returning in senior Ryan Deehan and sophomore DaVaughn Thornton. However, there is little depth behind them – on the roster is senior Matt Bahr (a converted offensive lineman who was out for the entire spring recovering from off-season shoulder surgery), and red-shirt freshman Kyle Slavin.

That’s it for scholarship tight ends, folks, with none signed for this fall.

So, Colorado will now head off to the 2011 season with one veteran tight end, one sophomore tight end with one career catch, one red-shirt freshman tight end who has never seen the playing field, and a senior tight end who used to be an offensive lineman and missed all of spring practice. 

With such a lack of depth, walk-on sophomores Alex Wood or Matt Allen might be pressed into action, or perhaps former tight end (and 2010 fullback) Scott Fernandez will be moved back. Fernandez is also a walk-on sophomore.

No explanation was offered by Embree, other than to say that, “They won’t be invited back to be a part of the program in the fall. We will work with them to see if we can place them elsewhere.”

Wow …

In other news … Colorado will have no quarterback controversy this August

Not that it was controversial, or even unexpected.

But any other day it still would have been big news.

After enduring four straight years of battles for the starting quarterback position, Colorado fans will not have to spend the summer debating who will be the starter in the opener, as Jon Embree announced Tuesday that Tyler Hansen will be the starting quarterback this fall.

“Tyler did a great job all spring,” said Embree. “He has command of everything you need to have at quarterback, and has developed into a team leader. This was a goal of his heading into the spring, and I’m happy that he was able to attain that goal.”

“I’m excited about the challenge,” said Hansen. “I’m looking forward to getting into more of a leadership role in the summer, getting even more familiar with the playbook, organizing the seven-on-seven sessions, and concentrating on our first and foremost goal to beat Hawai’i.”

“I thought that he grew a lot faster with the offense than I had anticipated,” said quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer. “He had a solid performance for the most part starting from day one through day 15 in spring practice, and he really gives us a chance at quarterback … I’m also really pleased with the depth at the position with Nick Hirschman. I expect him to keep pushing Tyler, which is exactly what we as coaches want to see.”

 

April 10th

Linebacker Wall of Fame dedicated

Long-time linebackers coach Brian Cabral invited back a number of his pupils for the Spring game for the dedication of a wall honoring the best linebackers in Colorado history.

Adjacent to the linebackers’ meeting room, the wall is a “collage-type” mural, and features Barry Remington and Chad Brown at either end, with Butkus Award winner Alfred Williams in the center. A number of other players, including Joe Romig and Matt Russell, have their biographical information on the wall.

Also featured is a list of the school’s Top 19 career tacklers, with the No. 20 slot asking, “Who’s next?”.

“I owed my opportunity in the NFL to Coach Cabral,” said Chad Brown, who played 15 years in the NFL. “You can’t do what he’s done for this long without long. Sometimes it was tough love, but it was love for everybody in the room.”

Sean Tufts had nothing but praise for his former coach. “Cabral has been here for most of the guys on the wall … he’s been an amazing part of my life.”

Barry Remington said it was an honor to be included on the Wall. “That’s a bunch of tough, talented guys … I feel honored to be up there.”

April 9th

Fifteen players out for spring game

It won’t be Tyler’s team against Cody’s team this spring.

And it won’t be Tyler’s team against Nick’s team, either.

Due to a lack of healthy players – especially along the defensive line – the 2011 Spring game will more resemble a scrimmage than a regulation game. The No. 1 offense will square off against the No. 1 defense on occasion, but will also see action against the No. 2 defense.

The reason for the change in format can mostly be attributable to the injuries along the defensive line. Out for certain are senior Curtis Cunningham and junior Nick Kasa. Also dinged up and possibly out for the Spring game are senior Josh Hartigan, junior Forrest West, sophomore Nate Bonsu, and sophomore Chidera Uzo-Diribe. In fact, of the defensive linemen on the roster, only junior Will Pericak, junior Eric Richter, and senior Conrad Obi have ever been on the playing field for Colorado in the fall. The ranks will be supplemented during the Spring game by senior walk-on Tony Poremba, senior walk-on David Goldberg, red-shirt freshman Kirk Poston and freshman Andre Nichols.

Other key players who have participated in spring drills, but will not be in uniform for the Spring game, include senior wide receiver Toney Clemons, tight end DaVaughn Thornton, and linebacker Derrick Webb.

Here is a list of the Spring game rosters and depth charts, including the names of all of the players who are being held out.

Depth Chart contains a few surprises …

The Spring depth chart contains only a few surprises, but there are surprises nonetheless.

Senior Tyler Hansen is listed as the No. 1 quarterback, with no “And” nor “Or” tying him to a subordinate. The running back corps is also as expected, with Rodney Stewart backed up by (injured) Brian Lockridge, followed by Tony Jones and Josh Ford. The wide receivers will be led by Paul Richardson and Toney Clemons. The tight ends will be senior Ryan Deehan and sophomore DeVaughn Thornton.

Along the offensive line, four starters return, with sophomore David Bakhtiari moving from right tackle to left tackle to replace NFL-bound Nate Solder (who will be honored at halftime of the Spring game). Replacing Bakhtiari at right tackle will be sophmore Jack Harris.

The defensive line will have to be sorted out in August. All three players who started for most of last season – Josh Hartigan, Will Pericak, and Curtis Cunningham – return, but senior Conrad Obi has had a great spring, and is currently listed as the stater at nose tackle. Also, with the Buffs going to more of a 4-3 approach to the defense, Chidera Uzo-Diribe is listed as a starter at right defensive end.

The linebacker corps must replace two starters (Michael Sipili and B.J. Beatty), with the new lineup showing junior Douglas Rippy, senior Patrick Mahnke, and junior Jon Major as the starters.

The secondary depth chart raises the most eyebrows. Gone are two starting cornerbacks, Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith. The mediocre play of the potential replacements has been a disappointment to the coaching staff. Still, it has been presumed that sophomore Jered Bell was having a decent spring, along with junior transfer Makiri Pugh. Both of those players, however, are listed third on the depth chart for the two cornerback positions. Running ahead of Bell at the right cornerback spot is senior Arthur Jaffee and senior Jonathan Hawkins, while at the left cornerback position, sophmore Parker Orms (who hasn’t yet played a down for the coaching staff, after being injured in the first game of the 2010 season) is listed atop the depth chart, followed by sophomore Ayodeji Olatoye. At safety, there is some measure of stability, as senior Anthony Perkins and junior Ray Polk both return, backed by sophomore Terrel Smith (who started the last six games of 2010 after Perkins was injured).

The kicking game will be manned by sophomore punter Zach Grossnickle and kicker Justin Castor, at least until freshman recruit Will Oliver comes to camp in August.

So, the offense seems pretty set in its starting lineup, though greater depth at wide receiver would be much appreciated. The defense, though, has issues. The defensive line may have talent, but the new coaching staff will have to wait until August to see if it is real, and the secondary remains a work in progress. Special teams, meanwhile, remain far from “special”, as concerns with both kickers abound, and the coaches are not even bothering to list potential kick returners on the depth chart, preferring to wait until August, when some speedy freshman will join the team.

 

April 8th

Spring game reunion  … and hopes for the weather to hold

The Spring game has been moved to prime time for the first time, with kickoff at 6:00 p.m. For those who are not in the Denver metro area, and will not be in attendance, the game will be shown live on BuffsTV (the CU website will also show former head coach Bill McCartney’s luncheon speech Saturday, scheduled to be shown at 2:20 MT).

McCartney will also be a participant in the alumni flag football game, scheduled for 4:00 p.m. at Folsom Field.

On the opposing sideline will be former Colorado head coach Gary Barnett, returning to the fold after being fired in 2005. “He’ s just a classy guy. For him to stay involved … let’s face it, he was treated unfairly,” said Bill McCartney. “I just think it says a lot about Gary’s character to come back.” The Buffs’ new head coach, Jon Embree, agreed. “Gary is an integral part of this program, he always has been,” said Embree. “I remember first meeting him in 1984 as an assistant coach, and just his fire and intensity, and then obviously coming back when Rick (Neuheisal) left and getting a Big 12 championship … Gary is a Buff. That’s why I wanted him back.”

For his part, Barnett is anxious to be back at Folsom Field. “I’m looking forward to the whole weekend, and seeing everybody having some fun”. Barnett couldn’t help but poke fun at his former boss when it comes to the alumni game. “Mac’s team is going to struggle,” said Barnett. “He’s got all the old guys.”

Former Buff quarterbacks Charles Johnson will captain the McCartney team, while Barnett’s team will be captained by Joel Klatt.

Hopefully, the weather will hold ….

A week ago, the Saturday forecast looked bleak. A high of 50 degrees with rain, with the game ending with temperatures around the freezing mark. Since then, the forecast has continued to improve. On Thursday, the high was projected to be 73 with partly cloudly skies – a perfect day to show off Boulder to the 25 or so high school juniors in town to take a look at the Colorado program.

The latest forecast has been dialed back a bit, with a projected high of 67 with “showers late”.

With the late kickoff, we’ll hope that means “very late” in the day, so that Buff fans will come out in droves, and the prospective members of the Colorado Class of 2012 will see that the program has great support.

April 5th

“The deal they sign will eclipse all others”

In order to avoid having to pay USC and UCLA an extra $2 million apiece, the new Pac-12 television contract must garner over $170 million per year. The guarantee was built into the league agreement, in part to off-set the potential lost revenue due to splitting the southern California schools from the northern California schools when the Pac-12 divisions were created.

$170 million per year?

Okay, how’s about $220 million per year?

As the Pac-12, behind dynamic commissioner Larry Scott, negotiates its new television contract, Jon Wilner from the San Jose Mercury News is quickly becoming my favorite journalist.

In his latest update about the Pac-12 television negotiations, there are so many superlatives that it’s hard to know where to start.

A  few months ago, AJ Maestas of Navigate Marketing, which has done media rights schools for teams like Arizona State and Ohio State, estimated six months ago that the Pac-12 television package would be worth about $175 million per year. Not quite in the league of the $205 million annual deal signed by the SEC with CBS and ESPN, but much more than any member school was used to seeing.

Now, Maestas has revised his estimate for the Pac-12 up to around $220 million per year.

Why the huge increase?

“This is the best possible time for the conference – they’ve caught lightning in a bottle,” explained Maestas. “The rest of the economy is tough, but the media world is booming.” The perfect storm for the Pac-12 is a combination of a lack of other options for media outlets – the ACC, Big Ten, SEC, and Big East are tied into long-term deals – and several competitiors anxious to expand their live sports footprint.

Turner Broadcasting and ESPN are potential network partners, but the betting money remains on either Fox or Comcast. Fox is quite clearly interested in expanding its sports inventory. Witness the recent $90 million deal Fox recently made with the Big 12, which has ten schools – two of which (Texas and Oklahoma) which will have their own networks. “It makes no sense economically,” one analyst said of the Fox/Big 12 deal. “It’s all about Fox’s national push with FX and subscriber fees … But it’s all good for the Pac-12.” Fox’s chief rival, Comcast, recently merged with NBC/Universal, and is also looking to expand its inventory of programming.

There are several aspects to any new deal which has Pac-12 fans ripe with anticipation. First, as we’ve discussed before, the Pac-12 presidents last fall gave the league commissioner, Larry Scott, permission to negotiate a deal for the entire league package. Every other deal in the country leaves some games uncovered if no television partner picks up the game, and the home team can’t find a local outlet willing to pay for the broadcast. Now, every game will be shown, either by the corporate sponsors’ networks, or on the Pac-12 Network.

Oh, yeah, about the Pac-12 Network.

It will be coming to a cable/satellite provider near you in August, 2012, the analysts all seem to agree. In addition to football and basketball games not picked up by the network sponsor would be shown on the Pac-12 Network. In addition, the “League of Champions” would finally have an outlet for all of those Olympic sports the league keeps dominating. “We have some of the best amateur athletes in the world, and people aren’t able to see them because we don’t have a platform,” said Larry Scott.

With the new deal will also come some concessions. Thursday and Friday night football games will not be uncommon, but those changes will pale in comparison with what will happen with the basketball schedule. “We’re at a crucial point,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller. “For the conference to be the best it can be, there has to be significant change in televisions across the nation being able to watch Pac-1o basketball.”

How will this be accomplished? Travel partners will go the way of the Southwest Conference, as instead of a Thursday/Saturday weekend in Washington state for travel partners Arizona and Arizona State, games will be spread out throughout the schedule – and throughout the week. “We’re going to spread out the nights they play – like every other BCS conference,” said Scott. In order to help minimize the time away from campus, the league might use chartered flights (you can do that with $220 million rights fees).

The other interesting aspect of the negotiations is the league’s push to get its games on mobile networks. Right now, you can’t watch college sports on your iPhone, but, if Larry Scott has his way, you will soon be able to do just that. “We have a lot of alums and students who are very technologically savvy,” said Scott, “and we’re planning to make a big commitment to distribute our content through mobile networks.” The league might even create its own media company to control the digital and mobile programming.

“This deal they sign will eclipse all others,” said Maestas, the media advisor, “and that’s shocking to me because the league was always the least pro-active, and the least liberal with its scheduling policies.

“But it’s a new regime.”

Indeed it is.

April 4th

Nate Solder to have his name immortalized

Watching Bill McCartney and Gary Barnett patrol the sidelines not enough of a draw?

Cheering for Joel Klatt’s and Charles Johnson’s teams an insufficient lure?

Not interested in watching the 2011 Buffs strut their stuff for the last time until August?

Well, you should plan on attending the 2011 Spring Game for this reason … Nate Solder will have his name added to the Wall of Fame on the west side of the Fred Casotti press box. In a press release Monday, the University of Colorado announced that Solder will be so honored this weekend.

There are several ways a player can earn his way onto the Wall of Fame, and Solder met two of the criteria: Solder was a unanimous All-Big 12 performer, as well as the conference’s Offensive Lineman-of-the-Year. Solder is the 25th football player to have his name raised to the rafters at Folsom Field, and the 41st Colorado athlete overall to be so honored (and the first since Mason Crosby in 2007).

Congratulations, Nate, and thank you!

April 3rd

Givens suspended for the 2011 season

Junior offensive lineman Bryce Givens has reportedly been suspended for the remainder of the 2011 season.

Givens was arrested for kicking in three car doors in a Denver parking garage on January 15th. Givens’ case remains before the Office of Judicial Affairs, but Jon Embree said on Saturday that Givens will not play in 2011. The junior is still in school, and will be eligible to play in 2012.

In 2010, Givens played in only three games. Against Colorado State in the opener, was in for 13 plays. The following week, against Cal, Givens saw action in 14 plays. Five games later, Givens was in for 24 plays against Texas Tech. In 2009, Givens played in eight games, playing every down against Colorado State, Toledo, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska.

April 1st

Injury Update

The good news is that the Buffs have not yet had a season-ending injury this spring.

The bad news is that the list of players who are spectators at practice continues to grow.

There were several players who had off-season surgeries that were known to be out for the spring, including tight end Matt Bahr, offensive lineman Blake Behrens, center Mike Iltis, and offensive lineman Max Tuioti-Mariner.

Others, including three defensive backs - safety Vince Ewing, nickel back Parker Orms, and safety Anthony Perkins – were slated for limited, if any, participation due to their off-season surgeries.  

Since spring practice began, though, several other names have joined the “walking wounded” list. Outside linebacker Liloa Nobriga, defensive lineman Nick Kasa, defensive end Forrest West, wide receiver Jason Espinoza, and running back Brian Lockridge are amongst those who were sitting out of practice on Thursday.

“There is nobody on this team you have to have,” said Jon Embree, echoing his comments earlier this week about only taking to Hawai’i those players who could help the team. “The guys who are playing for the guys who are injured are doing a great job of taking advantage of their opportunities, and they are showing up.

“The guys that aren’t here, we’ll go on without them, because we are going to play 13 straight weeks. We are not going to have everybody,” said Embree. “So, as a staff, we really don’t talk about it. We just go out and coach those guys that we have.”

 On the good new side of things … Red-shirt freshman tight end Harold Mobley, who had been held out of the first nine practices due to academic concerns, returned to practice on Friday.

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