Colorado coach Jon Embree has made it clear to his players this spring that their opportunity to make an impression on coaches is now. When fall camp arrives in August, Embree and his assistants will turn their attention to breaking in a class of 28 freshmen and seeing, who among them is ready to play right away.
Embree is already on record saying he expects that number to be large and could approach 20 true freshmen seeing the field next fall. That means players who have been in the program for a few years and haven't earned much playing time are in real danger of getting passed by if they don't raise their level of play.
We're not trying to pick on anyone here, but there are a few obvious examples of Buffs who fit that description.
Paul Vigo -- A fourth-year junior who has endured several injuries that have kept him from more playing time as well as finding his way into the coach's doghouse last season when he was suspended for half the year. He showed flashes when he made seven tackles in 62 plays from scrimmage two years ago as a redshirt freshman.
Josh Moten -- Maybe Moten doesn't belong on this list. After all, plenty of guys who change positions going from high school to college take a few years to find the groove. He came to CU in 2010 hoping to play quarterback and ending up in the secondary. Moten will be a third-year sophomore in the fall and he will have to fend off a lot of incoming talent and prove he's ready to contribute at cornerback.
Jarrod Darden -- A fourth-year junior who just hasn't shown two different coaching staffs that he will compete consistently. He's not a speedster, but he hasn't learned how to use his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame to his full advantage. One positive for Darden is that quarterback Connor Wood has said he has liked what he has seen from Darden. Three scholarship freshmen join the program in August.
DaVaughn Thornton -- Another fourth-year junior who switched from tight end to wide receiver last fall when it became apparent he was never going to be able to add enough weight to play the traditional tight end role in the CU offense. Thornton is a tweener at his new position. He lacks the speed to threaten most cornerbacks, but he does have the size to out-jump and out-muscle them. Might have to settle for a limited role and take advantage of his opportunities when coaches feel he matches up well with a particular defense.
Kyle Slavin -- If coaches could have gotten away with moving Slavin to wide receiver along with Thornton, they might have. He has struggled with the same issues at tight end. He is a bit undersized and lacks the strength to block defensive ends and linebackers consistently in the running game, which prevents him from being an every-down kind of player. He also hasn't found a way to contribute on a consistent basis on special teams. Unless he can get stronger and add more pounds without slowing way down, he also might have to carve out a niche role.
Kirk Poston -- Hey, college football is filled with defensive linemen who don't earn meaningful playing time until they are third-year sophomores. Poston has nothing to be ashamed of there, but he does have reason to be concerned with nine defensive linemen signed in the 2012 recruiting class. Poston earned playing time in only two games for a total of six plays as a redshirt freshman in 2011. He didn't find a way to make any meaningful contributions on special teams either. It's time for him to make his case.
Lowell Williams -- A third-year sophomore who is still looking for his first playing time on defense after two years in the program. He managed to earn three special teams points in 2011, but he didn't get on the field for a single defensive snap in a season where there were a lot of blowouts and garbage time snaps for this program. Once again, there is nothing unique about a guy entering his third year in the program still trying to find ways to get on the field. It happens all the time, but Williams and these other Buffs need a real sense of urgency in the second half of spring ball and moving into the summer.