Huntley Adjusting to Life in Boulder

One of just four true freshmen to play at Colorado this season, wide receiver Johnny Huntley had never seen snow until two weeks ago...

Has the Florida native been curious about the snow on the ground in Boulder recently? Has he built a snowman or made a snow angel?

“Oh, no!” Huntley said with a smile. “I avoid it. I try to stay inside, watch TV. … It is kind of tough adjusting, and the classes are a lot different from high school to college, but you just have to manage your time better.

“I do feel like I fit in. There are a lot of people around from different places, which is what I really wanted to experience. I have met people from China, Indiana; I never did that in Florida. That is why I came here.”

Huntley also came to Boulder to make plays. Although he saw action in 12-of-13 games, his opportunities were limited this fall. Huntley caught one pass for a 14-yard gain against Idaho State and he had five special teams points.

“I definitely expected it to be real tough to get a starting job because most of these guys have been here for three or four years already, so they are a lot more experienced than I am,” said Huntley, who had nearly 1,000 yards receiving during his final prep season at South Plantation.

“I still built some confidence going out there and playing a little, showing I am not going to fold on the big stage,” he added. “It feels pretty good playing on special teams, helping the team. It has been a great experience getting me ready for the next few years.”

Since arriving at Colorado, Huntley has been working primarily at X-receiver. The big 6-foot-3, 210-pound pass catcher believes that is the spot that plays to his strengths on offense.

“At X, you have to win one-on-one most of the time, and you are probably going to get the best corner in the game. That is what I love to do,” Huntley said. “Catching the ball at its highest point and winning those one-on-one match-ups has always come natural to me because I have always been taller than a lot of other guys and I can jump.”

Huntley and Anthony Julmisse, who have been friends since they were both four years old, are among the young Colorado players currently benefiting from extra work leading up to the Alamo Bowl. Following each of the Buffs' bowl practices so far, the veteran players have headed to the locker room roughly a half-hour early.

“The non-travel guys and redshirt [freshmen] and a few of the travel guys who don't play a whole lot stay out and practice some more,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “It is extremely important. It gives us a chance to catch up with the other bowl teams that have been doing it for the last [nine years].

“I was telling [the young players], 'This is your time to get better. We are going to coach you, evaluate you, push you, work with you. We're getting you ready to play fall of 2017. This isn't just coming out here and [going through the motions].' That'll help us really improve in some areas with some guys. You get 15 more days to help those guys improve, which is exciting, and then we have 15 [more practices in the] spring. That is huge.”

Jackson will likely be important piece in 2017

After playing 586 defensive snaps as a sophomore in 2015, Leo Jackson saw a decreased role this fall. He still played in all 13 games, but only played 254 snaps.

The Buffs are set to graduate all three of their starting defensive linemen, so Jackson knows he will have a chance to play more in 2017.

“I am so excited for next year,” Jackson said. “This year I had to kind of step back and my role changed a bit so this was more of a learning season for me. I do still feel like I have gotten better."

MacIntyre decided they would switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme before Jim Leavitt was hired little less than two years ago. So even though Leavitt has left Colorado to join Oregon's new staff, the Buffaloes are expected to keep their base defense.

“Staying with a 3-4 would help us keep this train rolling,” Jackson said. “If we keep our defense, it won't be like the first year when Leavitt got here. We did show improvement but there were growing pains. I think we need to have a 3-4 so we can make this transition seamless.”

Additional notes

*** Cornerback Isaiah Oliver has seen substantial action as a sophomore (440 defensive snaps), but like Jackson, he expects his role to increase in 2017 with three starting defensive backs set to graduate.

“I have watched guys like 'Chido' (Chidobe Awuzie), Ahkello [Witherspoon] and Tedric [Thompson] because they are in leadership roles,” Oliver said. “I watched how they handled themselves in different situations so that next year when I have a bunch of younger guys with me that I am able to do that and they are able to look up to me and ask me questions.”

*** MacIntyre has been conducting one-on-one meetings with players since bowl practices began. He does it every year after the fall and again following spring practices.

We go through academics, social life, social things, how they are doing there, and then we just talk about their future and what they are thinking,” MacIntyre explained. “It gives some time to let them talk. It is not just me talking. It is really me listening to them a lot and then kind of going through everything because everybody has different questions. It is just a good time for communication.”

*** The Buffs rented out a theater last Friday and showed the team the new Star Wars movie. They have planned activities at Top Golf and Dave and Buster's this week, and then out in San Antonio the team will attend a Spurs game and go to SeaWorld.

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