Notes: Winfree Ahead of Schedule in Recovery From Torn ACL

The only current Buff that has played in a bowl game before, Juwann Winfree will not be able to don pads on Thursday. But the talented wide receiver did get to participate in SeaWorld Media Day with four of his injured teammates on Monday morning.

Winfree, outside linebacker Derek McCartney (knee), safety Jaisen Sanchez (knee), place kicker Diego Gonzalez (Achilles) and walk-on linebacker Trent Headley (shoulder) swam with dolphins and got an opportunity to hop on the Steel Eel roller coaster.

“Just seeing how the dolphins interact with humans and how they understand, it was just amazing for me,” Winfree said. “I like animals but I like roller coasters even more so that was a thrill for me.”

The players fed the dolphins fish and another snack, which resembled jello, and Headley decided to give it a taste to the disbelief of his teammates.

“It tasted a little salty and a little fishy but it was good protein,” Trent Headley said laughing. 'No, it was not good.”

Winfree was arguably the most well-rounded receiver for the Buffs through the first two weeks of preseason camp before he suffered a torn ACL. Co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini recently said Winfree is ahead of schedule with his rehab.

“I am about four months out. I feel alright,” Winfree said Monday. “They are saying I am moving pretty fast in recovery so they feel I will be back in the spring. Not fully, though.”

Winfree spent his true freshman season at Maryland and he caught a pass in the inaugural Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara before he decided to transfer to Coffeyville Community College. He had 55 receptions at the Junior College level as a sophomore and was labeled a four-star prospect before landing in Boulder this past summer.

Winfree's injury was unfortunate, but he still had his redshirt available, so he was able to separate himself from the Buffs' other starting receivers in terms of eligibility.

“Mentally at first it was pretty hard but it is not my first setback so I just had to keep faith,” Winfree said. “The positive is that I am able to grow as a person, grow as a man and study more film. There are positives to being hurt, even though it is not what I wanted.”

Winfree said he has “high hopes” for his redshirt junior campaign in 2017. He believes he has a different skill set than Colorado's other receivers.

“We all bring something different to the table,” he said. “With me, being as big as I am, not many people [my size] can move how I move. I watch a lot of film on Julio Jones, just the way he moves. I feel like I bring that aspect to the game, that big creature who can do a lot.”

Tumpkin brings different coaching style

It has been nearly two weeks since Jim Leavitt accepted Oregon's lucrative offer to leave Boulder and become the Ducks' new defensive coordinator. Since then, Joe Tumpkin has been coaching the Buffs' linebackers while head coach Mike MacIntyre has been keeping a more watchful eye on Colorado's safeties.

“It is a relatively smooth situation. The linebackers know what they are doing, we're doing the same things we've done all year,” MacIntyre said. “Charles [Clark] handles all the meetings [with the defensive backs]. … I have just had my eyes out there a little bit more.”

Sophomore inside linebacker Rick Gamboa admits there is a difference in the style of coaching they have received from Tumpkin during recent practices.

“Coach Leavitt was a little more hyper, more abrupt about things,” Gamboa said. “Tumpkin would rather talk to you, make sure you understand what is going on. … It has been fun.”

The Buffs' players found out about Leavitt's departure through social media. Recently, Leavitt reached out to “a few” of Colorado's defensive players.

“He knows we'll play hard,” Gamboa said of the message he received from his former position coach and coordinator. “He just wanted to make sure these seniors go out the right way, that our goal is still the same.”

Additional notes

*** MacIntyre said the team practiced with “good intensity” at Incarnate Word on Monday, the Buffaloes' second practice in San Antonio.

“I haven't had to take out the Louisville Slugger and try to get them going. They really had a good practice,” he said. “The weather was nice, the sun peaked out, so I think that got them going.”

*** While Colorado's defense was solid in most areas this season, ranking top 20 nationally in fewest points allowed per game, the Buffaloes did struggle against talented tight ends in the regular season. Michigan's Jake Butt caught seven passes for a team-high 87 yards in week three and USC tight ends Tyler Petite and Daniel Imatorbhebhe combined to catch three touchdown passes against the Buffs in early October.

The Buffs will face two talented tight ends in the Alamo Bowl on Thursday. Blake Jarwin and Zac Veatch combined to catch 26 passes in the regular season. Jarin averaged 17 yards per reception.

“Both of them [earned] all-conference [recognition] so that just shows you what they can do,” junior safety Afolabi Laguda said. “We just have to read our keys and play fast.”

*** Senior athlete Jaleel Awini, junior linebacker Christian Shaver and redshirt freshman wide receiver Justin Jan are the only scholarship members of Colorado's roster that did not make the trip to the Alamo City. Awini and Shaver have been suspended for violation of team rules, while Jan is out due to academic reasons.

*** This is the ninth bowl game for Colorado in the state of Texas, breaking a tie with Florida (8). The Buffs' other bowl appearances have been in Arizona (4), California (3), Hawaii (2), Tennessee (2) and Louisiana (1). Overall, CU has a 12-16 record in bowl games.

*** It marks the return to home for 10 Buffaloes that hail from the Lone Star State, although none are from San Antonio: Jimmie Gilbert (College Station), Sean Irwin and Jeromy Irwin (Cypress), Jonathan Huckins and Sam Kronshage (The Woodlands), Eddy Lopez and Steven Montez (El Paso), Uryan Hudson (Manvel), Austin Shaw (Austin) and Jacob Stoltenberg (Sugar Land).

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