“It is special coming back home,” the Buffaloes' co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach said earlier this week. “Obviously I played here and won a lot of games and bowl games here. I wanted to come back and help our program. I wanted to help [head] coach [Mike] MacIntyre and the staff and I think I have been able to do that. But it is all of us, it is not just me. It is our whole coaching staff.
“And it is our players out there making plays. Coach MacIntyre preaches, 'Players make plays, players win games.' I believe in that, too. We can coach them, but at the end of the day, the players have to commit to the process and they've done that. We're excited. Yeah, I think the rise is real right now. We have to continue to keep it real the rest of the year.”
Chiaverini said his interactions with fellow co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren on game days have been “great,” largely because they have a lot of respect for each other.
“I think we both made each other better coaches,” Chiaverini said. “I brought a lot of stuff with me from Texas Tech and we're still doing stuff that he did last year. So I think there is a really good give and take with both of us. We are very different personalities but we mesh well together.”
Despite playing up-tempo offensively, the Buffaloes still rank second in the conference in time of possession.
Only two teams in the Pac-12 - Cal and Oregon - are averaging more yards per game than Colorado through four weeks. But the Bears and Ducks are giving up more than 450 yards per contest, while the Buffs are first in the conference in total defense, giving up an average of just 306.5 yards per game.
“We're excited about the way we've been playing but you are only as good as your last game and I told those guys that,” Chiaverini said. “You have to continue to work the process and the results will come. And they have been doing that for us but now we have to take the next step and we have to show consistency.
“We have shown the ability to score and we've shown the ability to move the ball and be able to get first downs and stay on the field and run tempo. But now, what do you do when you've had a little success? We preach to them, the true test of a man's character is how you respond to adversity, but how you respond to success is just as important. So are they up for the challenge? They are working hard, and we're going to continue to coach them hard.”
Price is right?
When previewing a football game, the kickoff and kick return teams are not usually part of the discussion. But go ahead and put it under the microscope this week as the Buffaloes prepare to face one of the nation's most dynamic kickoff returners.
True freshman Davis Price, a walk-on from Evergreen, Colo., won the competition to replace the injured Diego Gonzalez as the Buffaloes' kickoff specialist last week. He used adrenaline to boot his first kick out of the end zone at Autzen Stadium. And while his next five kickoffs did not travel as far, the Ducks only averaged 19.4 yards per return.
“I had a great time,” Price said when asked about his first college action. “I could have done better, definitely. I can definitely improve on the depth of my kicks. I just need to make sure I stick with my technique and stay on my line. If I do that, I'll hit good balls throughout the entirety of the game.”
Price went on to say that he “definitely” hits his kickoffs deeper in practice than he did last Saturday against Oregon.
“Going into the wind was a little bit of a factor,” he added. “I went in with more of a goal of where I wanted to place the ball instead of touchbacks. So I was just placing it in the right spot, in the corner. Making it harder for their returner to return the ball was my main goal.”
Price hopes to serve as the Buffaloes' place kicker in the future. But for right now, his focus is keeping Victor Bolden Jr. from breaking any long returns on Saturday. The Oregon State senior leads the Pac-12 with an eye-opening 40.2 kickoff return average early on this season.
“Bolden is really good,” MacIntyre said. “He's quick and fast and they do a good job blocking up front.”
Price's father Doug, who graduated from CU, along with his mother, two brothers and some friends will be in the stands Saturday to cheer him on.
“I can't wait to go run on the field behind Ralphie,” Price said. “I was just hoping to be Diego's back-up this year. He is a great kicker and he has been a great mentor to me this whole time. So it is really unfortunate to see him go down but I am going to make the most of this opportunity.”
Haigler holding his own
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Aaron Haigler, a converted tight end, has seen an increased role through the first four weeks of the season. He played four snaps against Colorado State, 46 versus Idaho State, 53 in Ann Arbor, and 70 last Saturday against the Ducks.
Haigler has yet to give up a sack or get flagged for a penalty, and he was responsible for a direct touchdown block.
“I guess as the lightest tackle in college football, it can be challenging. But playing so far, I feel I have done a good job,” said Haigler, who has gained 40 pounds since enrolling at CU but is still lean at 6-foot-7, 270-pounds.
“Obviously there are tons and tons of things I need to improve on. I am nowhere near where I need to be, but overall, I am pretty pleased with how I have played,” he added.
Haigler wants to get up to 290 or 300-pounds eventually, but he is simply trying to maintain his weight throughout the season. He will go back into weight gaining mode in the off-season.
“In order to gain weight the right way, you have to do it over a period of time otherwise you'll just be adding fat,” Haigler said. “This upcoming off-season is going to be huge but right now we are so focused on the season and I am focused on using great technique.
“Maybe playing light right now will help me in the future. For me to play at 270-pounds, I have to learn how to play with good technique because I can't rely on my size right now. I am committed to this. I don't miss being a tight end. I love being a lineman. I wouldn't have it any other way.”
Additional notes -
*** The Buffaloes' receivers refer to themselves as “The Blackout Boyz.” Chiaverini likes that they have a nickname. Colorado's top three pass catchers – Devin Ross, Shay Fields and Bryce Bobo – all rank in the top 11 in the conference in receiving yards per game.
“I think it is cool because when I played here, our receivers group was called 'The Untouchables.' We all had shirts, we all had nicknames,” Chiaverini said. “It creates an identity, it creates a kind of swagger of the group and they are owning up to it. They are playing to that level and they have to keep playing to that level.”
*** On Wednesday, during his last meeting with local reporters before the Oregon State game, MacIntyre said senior quarterback Sefo Liufau has not had any setbacks in his recovery from the sprained ankle he suffered at Michigan.
“But it'll still be more of a game time decision again,” he said. “Sefo was moving around okay today so we'll just kind of see where he is at as we get to the end of the week.”
*** Senior athlete Jaleel Awini, who has spent time at linebacker, quarterback and receiver during his time at CU, has been out with a back injury since early on during preseason camp. MacIntyre is hopeful he will be back in the mix soon.
“He's been with the doctors, he's been with the trainers. He's working hard on his core, we're letting that calm down a little bit,” MacIntyre said when asked about Awini. “He's doing more this week. I'm hoping that he can be back for our last six games. If he keeps moving like he is right now, he will be.
“I don't know how big his role will be. I know he'll play on special teams. We've just got to see how he recovers from his back injury. That's been tough on him, what a great young man. He's been through a lot. This year looked really promising, then this hit him. He wants to keep trying and keep going. I sure would like to see No. 16 back out there, there's no doubt."
Awini led the Buffaloes with 29 special teams points in 2015.