Spring Review -- Receivers

One of the biggest question marks heading into spring practices was how far the mostly young wide receiving corps would progress. After a rash of nagging injuries, that question remains unanswered.

Both offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and receivers coach Ted Gilmore said the wide receiver positions are still up for grabs following spring practices.

That's due to injuries suffered by sophomores Tyler Littlehales and Blake Mackey and redshirt freshman Stephone Robinson. All of the injuries were minor but the kept the trio out of several practices. Littlehales was the only one to return to health soon enough to participate in the Spring Game, and he led all receivers with four catches in that intrasquad scrimmage.

Also, redshirt freshman Dusty Sprague suffered an illness that kept him out of several practices.

In their absence, senior Mike Duren — who was awarded a scholarship this year — was impressive, and earned the team's offensive Most Improved Player for the spring. Juniors Evan Judge and Marcus Gonzales also saw a lot of reps.

Senior Ron Monteilh, the returner with the most experience, failed to distinguish himself this spring as the team's go-to guy. And it's unclear at this point whether the Buffs will head into 2004 with a clear-cut go-to player among the wide receivers. But the potential for this to be a productive group is there.

Mackey has battled with ankle problems for the past year, but is among the fastest players on the team. Lacking his presence this spring, the passing game didn't have a long-ball threat during the spring game.

Littlehales certainly looked good in the final scrimmage, and will be in the mix for plenty of playing time in August. Robinson gives the team a player who can make things happen after he makes a catch. And Sprague has impressed coaches and teammates with his work ethic and deceptive speed and strength.

The picture is more clear at tight end, where junior Joe Klopfenstein played the spring at 100-percent. Coaches think he will be one of the best tight ends in the conference. And senior Quinn Sypniewski played well this spring, too, after missing most of 2003 with a toe injury. Sypniewski, already an excellent blocker, showed signs of putting his questionable pass-catching abilities behind him, after spending the past several months working on his hands. And senior Jesse Wallace had a good spring as well and will certainly play a role in the fall.

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