Depth Chart-ing – A look at the players making a name for themselves in Fall Camp

8/27 Players of Note – Junior safety Ray Polk and junior wide receiver Makiri Pugh

Both players came to Boulder to make a name for themselves.

Both players came to Boulder with fanfare.

Both can still make an impact – but not at the position for which they were recruited.

Junior safety Ray Polk came to Boulder as one of the top running back prospects in the nation, and now is the starting free safety for the Buffs. Makiri Pugh, meanwhile, transferred to Colorado from Georgia as a much heralded defensive back, and is now trying to get onto the playing field as a wide receiver.

Ray Polk – Coming to Boulder out of Phoenix, Arizona, as part of the Class of 2008, Polk was the No. 11 running back in the nation (Darrell Scott was ranked No. 1). Instead of sticking at running back, though, Polk moved over to defense, and has played safety for the Buffs for the past two seasons.

While Polk is entrenched as the starter at free safety (Polk started every game last season, and has 15 starts to his credit overall), the transition hasn’t been a complete success. On the field for over 1,000 plays his first two seasons, Polk has yet to record an interception or force a fumble, and is credited with only one pass breakup. “Looking back, I knew a lot less then than I do now. It is all coming along,” Polk told “When I look back on the last couple seasons, there are times I am like, ‘Oh, what was I doing there?’ You learn things as you go along. I was playing hard all the time but there is a ton of difference between me now and me then.”

To his credit, Polk was second on the team in tackles in 2010, with 72, and has earned praise from his head coach. “Ray is physical and he runs really well,” said Jon Embree. “I like his attitude back there. I think he has really good range. I wish he was younger. I know we got him for two years, but I think Ray is going to be a very good player for us here before it is all said and done.”

Polk is 6’1″, 205-pounds, and has adequate speed to play the position. This off-season, though, was about maturing as a confident leader. “My goal was to get a little better at one thing every day, because I figured if I did that, eventually I would be pretty good,” Polk said. “So every day I tried to fix, change or focus on one thing.”

Makiri Pugh – While Ray Polk has found his way onto the playing field, former defensive back Makiri Pugh is still trying to find a way to make an impact.

A star in high school, Pugh played in nine games for Georgia as a red-shirt freshman, but transferred to Colorado in hopes of gaining more playing time. Pugh sat out the season last year as a transfer, and was hoping to earn a starting spot as a cornerback this fall. Instead, midway through camp, Pugh switched to wide receiver.

“I asked to be moved,” Pugh told “It’s really late in the process, of course, so I’m just trying to pick up everything I can and learn as much as I can. I wasn’t really getting any reps at DB, so I figured maybe I ought to try something else. Worst case, I’d be in the same situation.”

The problem for Pugh, though, is that there are as many names ahead of him on the wide receiver depth chart as there were on the cornerback depth chart. Still, Pugh remains optimistic.

“I’m just trying to pick up everything I can and learn as much as I can,” he said. “Maybe I’ll get a shot, maybe not, but I think it was worth moving.

“I’ve just got to find a way to move forward. I definitely wanted to give it a shot. I’m looking forward to learning the position and soaking up as much as I can.”

The transition from offense to defense worked for Ray Polk. The transition from defense to offense for Makiri Pugh, however, remains a work in progress.

Best of luck to both …

8/24 Player of Note – Sophomore safety Terrel Smith

Are you a glass half-full Buff fan, or a glass half-empty Buff fan?

When starting safety Anthony Perkins was lost to injury midway through the 2010 season, true freshman Terrel Smith tore off his red-shirt and joined the starting lineup. All Smith did was lead the team in tackles the final six games, with his 60 tackles (in only those six games) the third-highest total for a true freshman in Colorado history. One record Smith did set was for single game tackles by a true freshman, with 17 against Nebraska in the season finale.

Now the safeties represent a position of strength, with Perkins back, joined by 2010 fellow starter Ray Polk. Smith is also back, as an experienced backup.

So what’s not to like?

Perhaps its the idea of your safeties (Perkins was leading the team in tackles when he was injured) leading the team in tackles. If the Colorado defense is to take a step up in production this year, the safeties need to be less …. needed.

Smith, for his part, is content with coming off the bench this fall. “We’ve got Perkins back and I’m learning from him still,” Smith told “Hopefully I get out there and get some reps when he’s tired. I’m just doing whatever the team needs me to do, and playing special teams. I’m just learning every day because I’m still young”.

As to the playing time, Smith had this to say: “I should be getting some playing time. Perk is still coming back from his knee (injury). Whenever he’s tired I’m going to help him and take some reps at safety, or even nickel. I’ve been playing some nickel this year.”

Regardless of the number of plays he sees on the field, Smith is looking to take advantage of every opportunity given. He states that he is excited about the new coaching staff, with the feeling apparently reciprocal. “Oh they love the way I play,” said Smith. “(Head coach Jon) Embree and (defensive backs) coach (Greg) Brown, sometimes I get in trouble for hitting people when there’s thud, but I love tackling. That’s what I do. That’s my natural instinct. They love it, so I’m just trying to get better.”

Next season, even with the graduation of Anthony Perkins, the Buffs appear to be set at safety. In 2012, Ray Polk will be a senior; Terrel Smith a junior.

Yes, the Buffs’ safeties are primed to be stars in the new Pac-12.

Here’s hoping they don’t have to make as many tackles this fall to prove their worth …



Post-Two-a-Days Depth Chart released

Colorado practices are now behind closed doors, and will remain there until the team trots out onto the field on the evening of September 3rd.

Barring injuries or other unforeseen circumstances, there could be at least three freshman taking the field with the starters.

The new depth chart has been released. A few changes were noteworthy:

– Senior wide receiver Toney Clemons has not been demoted from the first team, at least not officially. Clemons is now sharing the starting role with true freshman Tyler McCulloch (with fellow true freshman Nelson Spruce next on the list). “Tyler has earned it and we need Toney to keep coming,” Embree said. “The guys on the offensive staff believe we’ve got to continue to bring Tyler along; we just don’t want to throw him in the fire. That’s why they’re co-starters right now.”

– Senior tailback Brian Lockridge has been demoted to fourth position on the depth chart, with senior Rodney Stewart now backed up by red-shirt freshman Tony Jones and sophomore Josh Ford;

– Senior defensive end Conrad Obi is now a starter. Two of last year’s three starters along the defensive line, junior Will Pericak and senior Josh Hartigan, return to their roles as starters (although Josh Hartigan is listed as an outside linebacker in the Buffs’ new 3-4 defense), joined by Obi and sophomore Chidera Uzo-Diribe. Last season’s defensive tackle starter, senior Curtis Cunningham, is now listed as the backup to Pericak at left defensive end;

– The cornerback search has apparently ended, with senior Travis Sandersfeld and true freshman Greg Henderson listed as starters. A pair of sophomores, Ayodeli Olatoye and Parker Orms, are listed as the primary backups. “Both of those guys showed more consistency in camp than the other candidates,” Greg Brown said of Sandersfeld and Henderson. “Travis has been around the block here and played a lot of football here. He knows both positions and how to get it done. (Henderson) was thrust into action and just answered every bell and challenge. He stepped up and claimed the job.”

Added Embree of his new corners: “I feel really good about both of those guys. I think both had very good camps. Once Greg (Henderson) kind of figured it out, he played really well. He’s around the ball a lot and has good instincts and he’s physical. I’m happy about him. And Travis is a guy who’s always at the right spot. He’s smart, savvy in figuring out pattern read and recognition – those things. I’m very pleased with both of them.”

– There has been no decision as to the starting center, with red-shirt freshman Daniel Munyer listed alongside sophomore Gus Handler. Both players will see playing time early, while senior Shawn Daniels, who was also competing for the position, has been moved under the heading of “Out for Extended Time”. Daniels is still recovering from a calf injury which has plagued him since fall camp opened;

– The starting punter is …. freshman Darragh O’Neill. Ever since head coach Jon Embree had misidentified incumbent Zach Grossnickleas the odd man out of the three man race for the starting position, it appeared as is Grossnickle was enjoying a resurgence. Now, however, it appears that O’Neill, a true freshman, will be the starting punter, joining fellow true freshman Will Oliver, who was previously named as the starting placekicker. “It’s not like it was overly cut and dried,” special teams coach J.D. Brookhart said. “No one dominated the competition, but somebody won it”;

– Consistent with Jon Embree’s philosophy that the best players need to be on the field, sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson, perhaps the best player on the team (or at least the most recognized outside of Boulder) is listed as the primary punt returner. His partner back on punt returns? Senior running back Rodney Stewart;

– Sophomore Ryan Iverson, who was placed on scholarship this year after handling the short snaps last year, will handle all of the snapping duties. The holder on kicks will be red-shirt freshman quarterback Justin Gorman.

Players who might have impressed, but haven’t made the starting lineup – at least not yet:

– Senior wide receiver Logan Gray, who was thought to be having a good camp, is listed third at the z-position, behind Paul Richardson and senior Kyle Cefalo;

– True freshman guard Paulay Asiata is already listed at backup at left guard, behind senior starter Ethan Adkins, but already ahead of senior Blake Behrens;

– Sophomore tight end DaVaughn Thornton, thought to be the next Daniel Graham (or at least the next Jon Embree) is buried at third string behind starting senior Ryan Deehan and senior Matthew Bahr;

– Junior defensive end Nick Kasa, the four-star phenom who dumped Florida to join the Buffs, is listed third on the depth chart at right defensive end, behind sophomore starter Chidera Uzo-Diribe and senior Tony Poremba (a former walk-on who was just awarded a scholarship this season);

– True freshmen defensive linemen Stephane Nembot and Juda Parker may see the field fall, but that is not yet a certainty. Nembot is fourth at right defensive end, while Parker is listed as third-string at Jack (Outside) linebacker, behind seniors Josh Hartigan and David Goldberg (another former walk-on awarded a scholarship for his senior season);

– While all of the defensive backs will see action in 2011, the third-stringers at each position – sophomore Paul Vigo and senior Jonathan Hawkins at cornerback; freshman Will Harlos and senior Arthur Jaffee at safety – were higher on the lists of many.

Overall, on the two- or three-deep chart, five true freshmen are listed on offense, six on defense and three on special teams. But that total could change before the Buffs travel to Hawaii; Embree said freshman D.D. Goodson will be given a long look this week at punt returner.

“I feel good about our two-deep, even some of our ‘threes’ in the D-line,” Embree said. “Actually, I feel really good about our first 30 or 35.”

Let the games begin …

8/21 Players of note: Quarteracks

For the first time since 2005, Colorado went through fall camp not having to wonder about its starting quarterback. Any issues as to whether senior Tyler Hansen would be unseated were erased during spring practice, as Hansen responded well after suffering a season-ending spleen injury late in the 2010 season, and, just as significantly, neither of the two potential replacements created a controversy by dazzling the coaching staff.

This fall, junior college transfer Brent Burnette and red-shirt freshman Nick Hirschman were joined on the roster by freshman recruits Stevie Dorman and walk-on John Schrock. The race for the number two quarterback was supposed to be at least an issue, but that turned out to be uncontroversial as well. Nick Hirschman, despite missing a good deal of camp so far with an ankle injury, has been slotted as the number two quarterback.

“Nothing is given to anybody on this team. It’s a whole new mindset and it’s good for us,” Hirschman told the Daily Camera when asked if he felt comfortable with his position as the primary backup. “The way I looked at it is that I must have played well during that time frame. I was glad they had enough confidence in me to allow me to keep my spot. But as athletes, we’re always looking behind our shoulders and looking ahead of us to make sure.” Now fully healed, Hirschman did not waste time when he was not allowed out on the practice fields.

While his teammates were grinding in the heat, Hirschman was studying his X’s and O’s in the Dal Ward Center. The coaching staff didn’t want the 6-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman standing on his injured foot watching three-hour practices.

“It allowed me to get into my playbook even more so than I would have been able to having practices every day,” Hirschman said. “I was able to master the offense even better than I think I would have been able to.”

The suprise of fall camp has been the play of walk-on freshman quarterback John Schrock. Earlier this week, head coach Jon Embree not only had Schrock as his number three quarterback, but said that he felt comfortable using the entire offense with Schrock in the lineup.

So who is John Schrock again? Freshman John Schrock is a quarterback from Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Schrock was a star quarterback in high school, but injured his shoulder in the next to last regular season game. In Boulder since May, Schrock is fully healed. “I’ve been out here since the end of May taking classes and doing workouts,” Schrock told “The workouts have been great and practice has been great. My shoulder didn’t heal until about a month and a half before I got out here”.

What will become of Brent Burnette, the junior college transfer? He will likely spend the next two years holding a clipboard.

As for Stevie Dorman, the jury remains out. A true freshman, Dorman was expected to red-shirt this fall, anyway, and compete with Nick Hirschman for the starting role in 2012.

But it now sounds like John Schrock may have something to say about that competition as well.

8/20 Players of note: Linebackers

While there is much discussion as to the openings at several positions, there appears to be little debate as to who the starting three linebackers for Colorado will be on September 3rd.

“(Doug) Rippy and (Jon) Major and (Derrick) Webb are our starters and I feel like everybody is doing a good job working in there and doing their responsibility”, said red-shirt sophomore Liloa Nobriga, himself a starter in 2010.

Nobriga, though, isn’t looking at coming off the bench as being a demotion, but rather incentive to do well for his team. “For me, it’s just a team effort,” Nobriga told “I feel like we’re one unit, we’re whole. Everyone’s accomplishments, it’s all reflected on each other because we battle every day in practice. I have to give credit to everybody. We’re all just out there working hard.”

While the Buffs do appear to have talent at linebacker, the depth chart is perilously thin. Junior Jon Major is a team captain, but he has played in only 13 games as a Buff. Despite the low total for the starter, Major is still the second most experienced linebacker on the team (senior Patrick Mahnke has played in 23 games). Major’s fellow starters, Douglas Rippy and Derrick Webb, played were in on only 151 snaps combined in 2010.

Jon Major, then, may be the key to the Buffs’ success at linebacker. A starter for the first six games of 2010, Major, as a sophomore, was leading the team in tackles. Against Texas Tech, however Major suffered a sprained MCL, and did not play the remainder of the season.

“It hurts (to miss games), but what can you do? It’s life,” the junior told “It lights a bigger fire this year. The new goal is to stay healthy and just play the game that I know how to play.”

Linebackers coach Brian Cabral agrees that Major’s health is of primary importance. “Jon Major is key to my group,” coach Cabral said. “Jon Major is the leader of my group. Jon Major needs to stay healthy this season.”

Still, Cabral likes the hand he has been dealt. “I really like the group that I have,” Cabral said. “It’s a young group that should be getting ready to mature. Our challenge has been to take the next step. Our challenge has been to start becoming what they’re capable of doing. So, I like the group as a whole.”

Major has moved to the outside, making room for Rippy, who will be the middle linebacker between Major and Webb. Of Rippy, Cabral said, “He is really starting to turn it on. That’s part of the coming of age we need from the whole group.” Webb has also been impressive, according to Cabral. “He’s always been a passionate player and he just needs to be passionate about his preparation, as well, and he’s starting to do that,” Cabral said.

With little experience behind them (Rippy is backed up by true freshman Brady Daigh), Cabral will need great production from his starting three linebackers …

… and good health as well.

8/17 Player of note: Junior defensive end Nick Kasa

One of the few great recruiting coups of the Dan Hawkins’ era was the signing of local star Nick Kasa. The top-rated player in the state of Colorado in the recruiting Class of 2009, Kasa was a five-star recruit who gave a verbal commitment to Florida. When the Gators asked Kasa to move to offensive tackle, Kasa balked, and the Legacy high school prospect signed with Colorado.

A sprained knee limited Kasa to only four games in 2009 (with only two tackles in 47 plays on the field). Last season, Kasa played in 11 games, but was hardly more effective. On the field for 274 plays, Kasa managed only 17 tackles and one sack.

Hardly the statistics Buff fans envisioned when celebrating Kasa’s signing in February, 2009.

Now a junior, Kasa is looking to have a breakthrough season in 2011. “I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life,” the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder told “I prepared really well this offseason.

“I’ve been pretty embarrassed about how I played the last two years,” he said. “I was really hurt my freshman year, but last year I just didn’t put out enough, as much as I should have. I really put it forth in the offseason and I want to make a difference this season.”

The defensive line is considered by many to be the Buffs’ strongest unit. “Our D-line has been maligned (in the past), but I think they have had a very good camp,” said Jon Embree after Wednesday’s practice. “I think we have good quality. I feel like there is not this huge drop off when one guy comes out and the next guy comes in. More importantly, I feel like they all play together; they all play for each other; they pull for each other.”

Mike Tuiasosopo, the Buffs’ defensive line coach, is ready for Kasa to step up. “He looks the part, there’s no question about that,” Tuiasosopo told “That’s not the problem.”

So, what is the problem?

“We tell all our players, consistency equals trust and equals playing time,” Tuiasosopo said. “That’s the equation right there. We’ve seen flashes (from Kasa), there’s no question about that. We just would like to see those happen more often.”

Senior quarterback Tyler Hansen, who has seen Kasa on the opposite side of the line for the past two seasons, agrees with Tuiasosopo.

“There’s times where he looks like a beast, he’s getting up the field and getting a sack,” Hansen said. “And there’s times where he’s getting blocked too easy.”

Hansen, however, has seen a difference in Kasa this fall.

“It seems like has a different attitude going into this year,” Hansen said. “The last couple of years he’s just been kind of getting hurt and not been doing much. This year, he’s getting out there and I’m seeing that five-star guy in him. It’s good to see. Hopefully he can keep that going and stay healthy.”

Buff fans would like nothing more than to see just that this fall.

8/16 Player of note: Red-shirt freshman running back Josh Ford

The long journey back to the playing field might just be about over for red-shirt freshman Josh Ford.

Two years ago, Josh Ford was just another one of those Denver prep stars who got away. A 1,300-yard, 17-touchdown runner for Mullen high in 2008, Ford was a state champion. Instead of heading to Boulder, Ford opted to join Kansas State as a preferred walk-on. While in Manhattan for summer drills in 2009, Ford broke his wrist, prompting Ford to postpone his enrollment at Kansas State. While at Barton Community College in Kansas, Ford decided he wanted to return to his home state and his home state team. Last summer, Ford was accepted into CU, and he has been waiting for a chance to play ever since.

After sitting out his transfer/red-shirt year, Ford made strides – and turned a few heads – this spring when he rushed for 264 yards on 30 carries. Ford was not satisfied – “The spring game is in the past,” Ford told in April. “I have to keep working, keep showing the coaches that I am going to play hard and not dwell on the past. Spring was spring. This is fall; just got to keep trying to be consistent. … I am real hungry.”

Ford has fared well in the early part of fall practices, catching the eye of his head coach on Tuesday when both Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge were held out with minor injuries. When asked if Ford had a chance to play this fall, head coach Jon Embree responded: “Yes he does. Josh just keeps making plays. He keeps showing up. He’s does that since spring (practices).”

Ford has shown the ability to gain yards after contact, bounce runs outside and has also had some impressive blocks in pass protection during camp. “We have a bunch of great running backs, we can all run,” Ford told “Being a good pass blocker is the quickest way to getting on the field.”

At 5-foot-9, 195-pounds, Ford is not a particularly large running back. But freshman Malcolm Creer is the only back on the Buffaloes’ current roster that is bigger. “I feel I am an instinctual runner,” Ford said. “I pay attention to my assignment and don’t try to do anything that I shouldn’t be doing. Each position has a job and if we all execute our job, we will be successful as a team.”

Unless the Buffs recruit a junior college player during the off-season, there will be no upperclassmen at the running back position in 2012. One of the freshman of 2011 will be the starter in 2012.

It sounds like Josh Ford is positioning himself to be that starter.

8/15 Player of note: Sophomore defensive back Parker Orms

Of all of the players returning from 2010 injuries, perhaps none was more anxious than sophomore defensive back Parker Orms. A star athlete in high school, Orms sat out the 2009 season as a red-shirt. Primed to start at nickel back as a red-shirt freshman, Orms didn’t last even one quarter of his first game, going down with a torn ACL against Colorado State.

Ready for action this fall, Orms was sidelined again the first day of camp. Orms “tweaked” his knee midway through the Buffs’ first preseason practice. Also been dealing with a minor calf injury, Orms was out of action until Monday’s practice.

“I definitely felt like my legs were all over the place today but I was just excited to get out there and I am just going to keep working every day,” Orms told “It sucked not being able to participate for a week, not getting those reps, but I am going to work twice as hard as the other guys now.

“I can’t really worry about it, I just have to go out there and play,” Orms said. “My brother (Dylan Orms, the starting quarterback at Northern Colorado) actually tore his meniscus and he has been playing with it so he has been telling me, ‘You just have to play hurt’, so that is what I am going to try to do.” Orms worked at safety and nickel back his first two years at Colorado. He is now practicing at cornerback and nickel back.

“[As a cornerback] you are playing pass first, run second, instead of [safety, where it is] run first, pass second,” Orms said. “Cornerback is different, but I like it. … We definitely need corners and I want to compete for the job.”

With sophomore Jered Bell and freshman Sherrard Harrington already going down to injuries this fall, Colorado needs all the help it can get at defensive back.

8/12 Player of note:   Senior cornerback Jonathan Hawkins

The last of the Gary Barnett recruits, Jonathan Hawkins will play for his third head coach this fall. Initially a grey-shirt who joined the team in December, 2006, Hawkins was a special teams player in 2008 and 2009. As a junior last fall, Hawkins saw action as a defensive back in eight games. In 197 plays on the field, Hawkins had 14 tackles, including one tackle for loss and two third-down stops.

This fall, the 23-year old veteran will be expected to contribute even more, as the race for starting quarterback remains wide open. “I think (defensive backs) coach (Greg) Brown is going to do a good job of making sure everybody gets the right amount of reps to see who is going to perform,” Hawkins told the Boulder Daily Camera. “The thing we have to do is keep competing, because if we do that’s going to raise the level of everybody.”

As far as coaching styles, Hawkins likes what he is seeing from the new coaching staff. “The mindset for the whole team is changing,” said Hawkins. “For me being here all those years, I can definitely see the change and the build up. Coach Embree is doing a great job of building a foundation here and building it on the old-style tradition of CU. He’s bringing back the legacy. More of the older players are coming back and supporting us and passing on that legacy to us.”

Being one of the oldest players on the team, Hawkins is now viewed as a leader. “I tell some of the younger corners, you look at Deon Figures and Chris Hudson, those two dudes won Thorpe Awards here. So that’s the standard at which we need to perform as cornerbacks.” said Hawkins. “The Butkus Award (won by Alfred Williams and Matt Russell) is the standard the linebackers have to live up to. You have the kicking award (Ray Guy, won by Mark Mariscal) the kickers have to live up to. You have a national champion team, that’s a standard we all have to live up to.”


8/11 Players of note:   Junior linebacker Douglas Rippy

Last season, Douglas Rippy was on the field of play in only have of Colorado’s games, and for only 27 total plays. His four total tackles were hardly the stuff of legend.

In 2011, however, much more is expected of the 6’3″, 230-pound junior. After a great spring practice, Rippy was chosen as the Buffs’ top junior-to-be.

Was there a reason for the change? “It was a level of maturity that I gained,” Rippy told “I had to grow up, and I finally did. [Linebackers] coach [Brian] Cabral has been pressing me ever since my freshman year but I had to learn myself. It was great having [defensive coordinator and secondary] coach [Greg] Brown back. During the spring, he challenged me. He wanted to know what I was capable of doing.”

And now? “For them praising me for the spring that I had, it was a boost of confidence because I knew I can play. But at the same time, it was just a matter of me growing up and taking responsibility for everything that I do like studying the playbook and coming out here and practicing and competing. It is definitely a boost of confidence now that I have a larger role. It is great. But at the same time, I have to bring the younger guys up, too, because if one of us [starting linebackers] goes down, they are going to have to step in.”

In the pre-fall depth chart, Rippy is listed as the starter at the middle, or Mike linebacker, with sophomore Derrick Webb listed as Rippy’s primary backup.

8/10 Players of note:  The Colorado offensive line

While the Colorado defensive line may be the deepest and most talented unit the Buffs have in 2011, the success or failure of the season will rest with the CU offensive line.

Three of the positions appear to be set, with senior right guard Ryan Miller, senior left guard Ethan Adkins, and sophomore left tackle David Bakhtiari all returning as starters. Miller and Adkins return to their old positions, while Bakhtiari moves from right tackle to left tackle, replacing first-round NFL selection Nate Solder.

Last season, as a red-shirt freshman, Bakhtiari started 11 of 12 games, and rated out as the second-best lineman on the team (behind only Solder). “I think he’s a rising star,” Marshall told “I don’t know if he’ll stay at tackle the rest of his career,” Marshall continued, “but he’s an excellent football player. Not to take anything away from some other guys, but as a young kid he’s got a chance to be a good player.

“The only thing that maybe David lacks – he’s 6-4 (and 295 pounds) and maybe his length is not like a Nate Solder. But if he learns to play with technique he can overcome that. In the run game, I think he can be a force when he learns everything.”

With the guards and one tackle position largely set, that leaves open the battle for starting center (see 8/9 Players of note discussion, below) and for starting right tackle. The leader for the job going into fall camp was sophomore Jack Harris. “He’s a big athletic kid and he’s worked extremely hard,” said Marshall. “He hasn’t played much in games (Harris didn’t see the field of play in 2010 as a red-shirt freshman), but in his first 15 (spring practices) he’s done some nice things. He’s got to improve in all aspects, but he’s got the capabilities and the right mind set. We’ll see how it goes as we approach the game and make another evaluation.” Harris is battling for playing time with senior Sione Tau, who lost some 50 pounds since last winter, according to B.G. Brooks at Though a senior, Tau is also looking for his first downs as a Buff on the playing field.

While Buff fans may be interested in who will be named starters, offensive line coach Steve Marshall is looking at the long term. “I’ll know more in the first half of the first game than I did during 27 practices (in camp),” Marshall said. “There’s nothing in practice I can do to simulate game speed. I like this group as far as its willingness, and we do have some guys with some ability. But putting it all together is not going to be a process that’s going to happen in the first or second game; it’s going to be an on-going process. I’m trying to develop a lot of guys early. We play 13 straight weeks; we’ve got to have a lot of guys ready to go to the dance.”

Keep ’em, healthy, coach. And get ’em ready to dominate!

8/9 Players of note:  Freshman running back Malcolm Creer; the battle for starting center

– With Rashad Hall not qualifying academically, Malcolm Creer becomes the only running back of the Colorado recruiting Class of 2011. With senior Rodney Stewart poised to set the all-time rushing record at Colorado, not to mention senior Brian Lockridge and a pair of other young legs in front of him on the depth chart (Tony Jones and Josh Ford), it would seem logical that Creer be expected to red-shirt this fall.

Perhaps not. At least not if Creer has his way. “I want to play badly, but I know it’s a process,” Creer told “I need to know the playbook and I need to work hard and be consistent in practice. So I’m just going hard in practice and camp so I can get my name out there and at least get recognized.” How is it going so far? “What I’ve learned is this is way different from high school. I’m a a gold fish in a shark pond right now,” said Creer. “That playbook is no joke, but as days go by I’m learning each day from upperclassmen and my coach. They know it’s not going to be easy. That’s why they’re being tough on me. I’m just a sponge right now, just soaking everything in.”

And what is Creer’s take on running back’s coach Eric Bieniemy, noted for being verbal with his players? “There are kind of like a million words, kind of like a picture, but how I see it is he is there to push me to my full potential and just having him here is a great honor,” said Creer. “Having him come back from the NFL and coming back to his school to put us back on track is a real honor to play under him and learn from him. So I have no problem with him.”

At least having Creer in the lineup adds some height to the running back corps. Creer is 5’11”, 200-pounds, a giant compared to Stewart (5’6″), Lockridge (5’7″), Jones (5’7″) and Ford (5’9″).

– One of the more interesting battles for a starting job is taking place between senior Shawn Daniels, sophomore Gus Handler, and red-shirt freshman Daniel Munyer for the position of starting center.

When asked after Tuesday afternoon’s practice about the battle, head coach Jon Embree had this to say:  “I am alright with the centers. I am mad obviously and not happy (about the overall performance of the team at Tuesday afternoon’s practice). It is not everybody but the result affects everybody. Having said that, I am pleased with what the centers have done. Shawn Daniels has done a good job. He has some limitations. Daniel Munyer, he has done well. Gus Handlerhas done a good job.”

When asked about being comfortable not having a starting center decided, Embree replied, “I am comfortable with our offensive line in general, really. We have a lot of versatility and guys to help with depth. I think [offensive line coach Steve] Marshall is doing a good job with those guys.”

8/8 Players of note: Senior fullback Evan Harrington; Senior defensive lineman Conrad Obi

The fullback position went unmanned in the Colorado offense for the most part under Dan Hawkins. This season, with the shift from a spread formation offense to a power-I, the Buffs are bringing a greater emphasis to the fullback position. So far this fall, Harrington appears to have the upper hand in the race for the starting role.

“In the spring, Coach [Bieniemy] told me I had like frying pans on the end of my hands and I needed to work on my catching,” Harrington told “[Quarterbacks Tyler] Hansen and [Nick] Hirschman said the same thing and I have to give them credit because they came up with the idea that every day after practice they would throw the ball as hard as they could to me 10 times. I feel like I have shed the frying pans.”

Harrington gained 20-pounds between the end of spring ball and the start of preseason camp and he now stands 5-foot-11, 232-pounds, and, according to coach Embree, is leading the race to be the starter on September 3rd. “Tyler is physical, they are both physical,” said Embree. “It is just that Evan is a little farther along on the playbook and understanding what we want and who to block and how we want it done. So I would say he has the edge right now.”

– Senior defensive end Conrad Obi, a place-holder on the Colorado depth chart his first three seasons, made a name for himself this spring. Obi stood out during spring ball, giving rise to the hope that Obi would become a force on the field this fall.

Through the first four practices of fall camp, Obi is continuing to impress.

The new coaching staff has been calling out players who make mistakes during practice, telling them to leave the field. Obi was called out on Sunday, and told to leave the field … but not for failing to execute. “He was messing up the practice,” said head coach Jon Embree. “We couldn’t do nothing. We had to get him off the field so we could practice.”

Keep up the good work, Mr. Obi!

8/7 Players of note: Red-shirt freshman center Daniel Munyer; kick and punt returners through the first four practices

The center position is one of the few positions up for grabs this August, with senior Shawn Daniels, sophomore Gus Handler, and red-shirt freshman Daniel Munyer all vying for the starting job. caught up with Daniel Munyer Saturday:

– On practices to date – “Coach (Steve) Marshall wants to see us out there, making our calls. He wants to see who has control of the line”.

– On the importance of the center in the new offense – “This offense relies heavily upon the center. You come up to the line, and he’s the first one to make a call, calling out the front, naming the protection, who’s blocking who. So basically the center is the quarterback of the offensive line in this offense.”

– On the naming of a starter – “I’m sure later on (in camp) they will, but right now they just want to see us rotating in, see which guys go with who”, adding, surprisingly enough, “I’m even playing left guard sometimes.”

– On this August camp compared to last fall’s camp – “A lot more fast paced than last year … a lot more fiery; aggressive”.

Kick and punt returners

On the Pre-Fall depth chart, Paul Richardson and Rodney Stewart are identified as the team’s punt returners, while under the heading of “kickoff return”, the roster is left blank, with a “TBA in the fall” filling the space.

It has been assumed that some of the new talent coming into Boulder this fall (read: new speed) would take over the returning positions (especially due to the reality that Rodney Stewart and Paul Richardson are vital cogs of the 2011 Colorado offense.

Still, through the first four practices of the fall, Stewart and Richardson are returning punts, joined by true freshman D.D. Goodson. As for kickoff returns, players who have been on the field so far include Stewart, Goodson, senior wide receiver transfer Logan Gray, senior running back Brian Lockridge, and senior cornerback Arthur Jaffee.

But, it’s still early …

Jon Embree speaks out on what he has seen in the first three days of practice

Running backs

– Red-shirt freshman Tony Jones – “had a good spring. He’s doing okay right now” … True freshman Malcolm Creer – “he’s starting to show a little bit of stuff” … senior Brian Lockridge – “He hasn’t played in awhile. He’s got to pick it up. It looks like he fatigues some”;

– Senior Rodney Stewart – “I hope this doesn’t offend him – he’s a great little guy. When you’re a smaller guy, every time you get the ball, if you don’t have an attitude, you’re in trouble”. Embree then went on to say that Eric Bieniemy, Maurice Jones-Drew (who Embree coached at UCLA before Jones-Drew went on to the NFL) and Stewart were in the same category of smaller players who played with an attitude.


– Senior Tyler Hansen – “I see great leadership; a great command of the offense … He’s really good about making plays on schedule, but he’s also a player who can make plays off-schedule. I think the world of Tyler. I wish I had him for another year.”

Wide receivers

– In addition to presumed starters Paul Richardson and Toney Clemons – Red-shirt freshman “Keenan Canty has done some good things” … Senior “Kyle Cefalo has done some things” …

… but – “the kid right now … It’s been three straight practices, and he’s a freshman, but Tyler McCulloch. He’s doing a lot of good things. He’s very aggressive catching the ball; he has a way of getting behind people. I gave him No. 87 because he reminds me of an 87 I used to watch as a Denver Bronco, Ed McCaffrey. I’m excited to see if he keeps progressing. He has jumped out right now.”

– Senior transfer “Logan Grey’s done some good things. Logan has a good role, a good fit for us right now; a skill set we’re going to use (but will not install into the offense for 2-3 more practices). He’s another guy I see helping us a lot.”


– Justin Castor was excused from practice to attend to a family matter, but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t competition – “We did some field goal kicking (Saturday). We put the young kid (freshman Will Oliver) out there – he didn’t know he was going to kick – and he made all but one (a 53-yarder). Three of them were game-winning situations, so he did well.”

– As for the punting – “We’re not kicking with consistency yet … It’s coming along”.  

8/6 – Today’s players of note:  Freshman cornerback Kyle Washington; senior safety Anthony Perkins; freshman defensive lineman Stephan Nembot;

– Senior safety Anthony Perkins was leading the team in tackles last season, before going down with a season-ending knee injury against Missouri. Perkins is back, but is “still trying to get back into football shape” this August. “Everyday my knee is getting stronger; it’s getting better,” Perkins told the Daily Camera. “I just love being able to be out here and compete.” While no one enjoys being injured, Perkins is trying to see the silver lining. “When I got hurt, it was almost like a blessing in disguise, because when I first got hurt, I got to step back and see the big picture.”

Perkins, along with junior free safety Ray Polk, are being counted on to lead the very young secondary. “We’ve got a lot of young corners,” said Perkins, “and they’re ready to compete.”

– Freshman cornerback Kyle Washington is one of those new young cornerbacks. Washington, a 6’1, 200-pound prospect from Pasadena, California, has been in Boulder since the end of May. “The speed of the game is a lot different,” Washington told of his summer workouts. While Washington acknowledges that he may be called upon to play as a true freshman, that is not his immediate goal. “I’m just going to try and be a student of the game. If coach sees that I should be able to play, that will be something that he will choose. I come in with the goal of just trying to help the team anyway I can … but if I’m not ready, if I need to be developed, then that’s just fine.”

– Freshman defensive lineman Stephan Nembot already has been called many names, all the way from “freak” to “giraffe”. At 6’8′, 270-pounds, the man-child from Cameroon by way of Van Nuys, California, makes an impression. However, Nembot has only been playing football for three years, and is not yet ready to dominate the line of scrimmage. “Everybody here is big and strong”, Nembot told the Daily Camera. “College football is really no joke.”

Nembot understands that he has a great deal to learn before he takes the field. “I’ve got to know the technique. I’ve got the power and no technique. With power and no technique you can’t do anything”. The true freshman also has been buried in the playbook, noting that his day consists of – playbook; breakfast; playbook; sleep; practice; dinner; playbook; sleep.

While Colorado fans are anxious to see what Nembot can do wearing the black-and-gold, patience may be a virtue with this raw talent. If the options are: A) play Nembot as a true freshman, hoping he can learn on the fly, and contribute in 2011, but lose him after 2014; or B) red-shirt Nembot in 2011, and have him available as a chisled, well-schooled, dominating All-Pac-12 senior in 2015 … the Colorado coaches would be well-advised to choose option B.

8/5 – Today’s players of note: Senior tight end Ryan Deehan; senior right guard Ryan Miller; sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson; Preferred walk-ons Parker Norton (WR), John Schrock (QB), and Mark Brundage (P).

– Senior tight end Ryan Deehan had 25 catches last season, the fifth-highest total on the team. Still, despite his personal success, Deehan was not pleased with the Colorado offense. Deehan noted “a lot of dissension among the players about who should be doing what and among the staff”, as well as a “disconnect between players and coaches”. And now? “We’re more focused … We never knew what our identity was last year. I’m not even sure what to call (last year’s offense). This year I know we’re a pro-style offense that’s going to run the ball at you, and then play-action off of that.”

Tight ends coach J.D. Brookhart calls Deehan, “clearly our best two-way – pass/run guy … but I want him to be dominating in the run game, become a physical, dominating blocker. I think he understands full well the nuances of the receiving part. He knows what he’s doing in the run game; I just want to see him get nasty.”

– Senior right guard Ryan Miller echoed some of the sentiments of fellow senior Ryan Deehan with respect to last year’s team. “I don’t think we felt like a team sometimes,” Miller told the Boulder Daily Camera. “We may have been, but I don’t think we melded as a team. We melded as position groups, but we didn’t meld as a team.” As to the shift to the pro-style rushing attack, Miller is another true believer. “I definitely think it suits me better,” Miller said. “I’m a lot better at going forward than going backward. The whole mindset early on has been physical, physical, physical and that’s how it’s going to be. I guess that’s what has been ingrained in my system since high school.”

Miller has goals for this season, above and beyond personal accolades, and even an increased victory total. “Cohesion,” Miller responded when asked about his top priority for the 2011 season. “Whether it be cohesion as an offense or a defense, cohesion on the offensive line. What I want most, what is number one on Ryan Miller’s wish list is for people to understand that they are not playing a team. They are playing a family.”

– Sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson was a late signee in 2010, joining the team the week before Fall Camp. With the late start, it took some time for Richardson to be integrated into the Colorado offense. In the first half of 2011, Richardson had seven catches for 64 yards. In the second half of 2010, however, Richardson had 27 catches for 450 yards and six touchdowns. At the end of the season, there was speculation that Richardson might transfer back to a California school, but in the end Richardson decided to stay. What does Richardson expect from 2011? “To pickup where I left off last season,” Richardson told the Daily Camera. “Now, I’m a leader. I’m just trying to coach up the young guys as much as I can.”

— Colorado has 105 players in camp. The NCAA allows for 85 scholarship players. As Colorado is not currently carrying 85 scholarship players, that means that there are almost two dozen walk-ons currently suiting up at Fall Camp. Most will toil in anonymity, but a few, especially the preferred – or “invited” – walk-ons have a real chance of making the roster (wide receiver Scotty McKnight and quarterback Joel Klatt, just two name two record-setting Buffs, were preferred walk-ons). Several are already making a name for themselves:

– Freshman Parker Norton is a wide receiver from Costa Mesa, California. Norton is 6’0″, 190-pounds, and has been in Boulder all summer. While Norton might not be a household name to the Buff Nation right now, he may be one of the first walk-ons to see playing time. Norton, in addition to playing wide receiver, is a kick holder. Norton also happens to be a former high school teammate of … long-snapper Ryan Iverson. With former holders Cody Hawkins and Scotty McKnight having moved on, the holder position is up for grabs – and Norton might earn the job (thanks to former CU great Lance Carl for this story).

– Freshman John Schrock is a quarterback from Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Schrock was a star quarterback in high school, but injured his shoulder in the next to last regular season game. In Boulder since May, Schrock is fully healed. “I’ve been out here since the end of May taking classes and doing workouts,” Schrock told “The workouts have been great and practice has been great. My shoulder didn’t heal until about a month and a half before I got out here. It’s been doing really good and I am excited about camp opening on August 3rd.” Those who observed the first fall practice noted that Schrock, while not a challenger to Tyler Hansen for playing time this fall, did hold his own (thanks to SDBuff for this story).

– Senior Mark Brundage is a punter coming to Colorado by way of Rice University. From Centennial, Colorado, Brundage graduated from Rice in four years, but still has a year of eligibility remaining. Brundage backed up a Ray Guy award finalist at Rice, and hasn’t seen any playing time since 2009. However, Brundage is considered to have a real opportunity to be the Buffs’ starting punter this fall. While it is far too early to handicap the race for starting punter, Brundage is worthy of note here because of a line he had. When asked by BuffVision “What is your strength as a player?”, Brundage responded, “Well, I’m a punter. So I think that my strength is that I can kick the ball.”

Hard to argue with a Rice graduate …



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *