Looking for a Few Good Men

With injuries to several key players in the secondary keeping them out of action, Coach <b>Craig Bray </b>is looking for some backup players to catch his eye and make Bray want to play them when the season rolls around. The opportunity is there. The question remains: Who will seize the opportunity?

Following Thursday morning's practice, a two-and-a-half-hour session outside under cloudy skies, Bray was frustrated. He hadn't seen what he was looking for.

"We're trying to find someone to step up and take a position that's open," Bray said. "At this point, we're not having it. I think the corner play from (Gerett) Burl and (Lorenzo) Sims is pretty consistent. I think Dominique (Brooks) is playing pretty well for us.

"And then (besides that) it's just kind of ‘what day is it?' There's no consistency."

Bray also said that the play of the two injured secondary players, CB Terrence Wheatley and FS J.J. Billingsley, has been encouraging. But those two have been out of the lineup in recent days. CB Vance Washington's shoulder has kept him out for the past several practices, as well, and it's unclear how quickly he'll be able to return.

Billingsley had his knee scoped Thursday after developing soreness earlier in camp. Word is, the scope went well and he's expected back sooner rather than later, according to Gary Barnett.

Wheatley suffered a pulled groin muscle and has missed the past few days. It was thought he could practice Thursday, but that wasn't the case. Bray said the trainers are being conservative with Wheatley so that his problem doesn't turn into a nagging injury all season long, as pulled groins can do.

With those two players out of the lineup, Bray was looking for backups to step up and make a claim on playing time. After Thursday morning's session, the new secondary coach was disappointed that no one had.

"My expectation is perfection, and we're never going to reach it, but (this morning) was a (practice) that I thought was sub par," he said. "We didn't have the mental or the physical intensity back there. We're not getting done what we need to get done. We're not having young kids step up and decide they want to take a role. And there are spots there.

"It's like, ‘Hey, here you go, you've got a chance to play.' I guess that's youth. We're going to have bad days, but I'm disappointed."

Redshirt freshman Chris Russell has been getting reps at cornerback, while sophomore Tyrone Henderson, junior Tom Hubbard and redshirt freshman Lionel Harris have been seeing a lot of snaps at the two safety spots in recent days.

Asked if Stephone Robinson had a realistic chance of converting to cornerback from wide receiver, where the redshirt freshman had played until Monday, Bray said, "It's realistic, but because he wasn't here for the major part of the input and a lot of the technique work, he's way behind. But it's possible. It's just a matter of convincing yourself that that's what you want to do."

Bray said he intended to speak with Robinson before Thursday afternoon's practice. He wanted to make sure Robinson really wanted to play corner.

"Sometimes, when you move a kid from offense and he's not sure if he really wants to do it, he doesn't really dive into it like he should," Bray said directly following Thursday morning's session. "You can't go ‘try the secondary.' You can go try wide out, run around and catch the ball. But a defensive back, there's a whole bunch of things you've got to do in the course of the snap of the ball to the finish of the play. Mentally, as well as physically, you've got to be totally in tune."

Bray also said that true freshman Ryan Walters has a chance to play at safety eventually, but that making the switch from quarterback when he did earlier this week, puts him behind the learning curve.

"I actually threw him in with the ones today, just to say, ‘Here it is. You want it?' He's not ready, but you throw that bone out there," Bray said.

Bray and Robinson had their conversation between practice sessions. And the first-year CU coach must have gotten through to his entire secondary, as he was much more encouraged following the afternoon practice.

"I feel good," he said."

Asked about Robinson in particular, Bray said, "Stephone had a good practice. He did some really good things. All he has to do is want to be here. I think he does because he played with a lot of energy, and he made some plays."

Sims, a sophomore, said Bray's experience will pay off for the CU secondary if the players take advantage of his presence.

"He knows a lot of tricks," Sims said. "If you want to make plays, he can get you in position. I think he can make me and (my teammates) the best players we can become. It's easy to learn from a guy like that."

One player who looked like he was picking up Bray's new schemes was Billingsley, before his sore knee flared up. Bray called him the leader of the secondary.

Billingsley was able to practice Wednesday at half-speed indoors, and "everything just picks up when he's in there," Bray said.

"When Terrence gets back, and when J.J. gets back, I'll feel a lot better," Bray said. "I just would like to see the guys that have been in the backup roles, or the new people, take more of an attitude that there's a spot out there, I'm going to go show that I can take it. That's what was missing (in the morning practice)."

Guydon Will Practice on Both Sides of Line
In an effort to prepare for a worst-case scenario, junior John Guydon will practice on both sides of the line as Colorado continues preparation for the 2004 season.

Guydon, who redshirted last season after coming to CU from Fullerton Community College, spent 2003 as a defensive lineman. This spring, he competed at center and offensive guard. But in an effort to shore up the defensive tackle position, Guydon was moved back to the defense prior to preseason camp, where he's been practicing the first week-and-a-half of August drills.

Gary Barnett said following Thursday morning's practice that Guydon would begin getting snaps on both side of the ball so that "If we have to use him in an emergency situation on offense, he'll know what to do."

He practiced with the defensive line Thursday.

The move is in large part because senior guard Derek Stemrich has missed a significant amount of time this August as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery, which also caused him to miss the entire spring.

Senior Terrance Barreau has moved into the starting rotation at split guard. Junior Gary Moore has been playing behind starter Brian Daniels, a sophomore, at tight guard, and Moore is the only other guard on the roster with experience.

Barnett said Stemrich wants to play more, but the team is being careful with his knee.

"If we can get 20 plays a game out of (Stemrich), I'd be real happy with that," Barnett said. "We've just got to get him through camp and get him into that mode. It's hard for him. It's hard to see yourself contributing when you're playing just 20 plays. But that's what I want him to understand."

Guydon, meanwhile, has been a pleasant surprise on defense in the first part of camp.

Miles Update
Transfer Lenny Miles has been in pads the past few days. He's been working at cornerback, but got a look at receiver today. Barnett said he'll work as a running back next week.

"We're in the process over the next six or seven weeks of figuring out where we might project him," Barnett said. "That's what we're doing, giving him a lot of looks."

Miles, who played basketball at New Mexico as a true freshman last year, must sit out a transfer year. He's on the record as saying he may like to play both sports at CU. Barnett said Miles has not approached him about the idea, but said playing both would be tough to pull off.

"I think that'd be really hard here to do," Barnett said. "He's got to get his schoolwork done first."

Orange Report
It didn't look like there were any new faces wearing orange jerseys because of injury. McKenzie Tilmon had a blue jersey on, which indicated he could participate in drills, but not in full contact scrimmage situations in the afternoon session.

Buff backer Brian Iwuh got treatment today on an undisclosed injury and responded well. Barnett said he could be back by Saturday's scrimmage.

J.J. Billingsley is a fast healer, according to the coach. He had his knee scoped and will be out of action for a few days, but Barnett didn't know how many. He said Billingsley would be back in time to participate in the CSU game.

Thursday's HYPE (believe it or not!)
The team practiced on the artificial grass on the west side of the practice fields for both practices Thursday. Conditions were wet, but not nearly as bad as Wednesday's downpour. It was so overcast that they turned on the field lights for the afternoon practice.

In the morning practice during a scrimmage situation, James Cox rolled out and tucked the ball to run, but pulled up and fired a bullet to Tyler Littlehales in the end zone for a score. A few plays later, Dominique Brooks picked off a Brian White toss in the end zone.

Robinson made big plays on consecutive snaps during the afternoon practice, drawing cheers from his teammates on the defense. He went high to break up a pass by Cox intended for Reggie Joseph near the sideline. On the next play, he came up an put a loud hit on Hugh Charles who was trying to get to the corner.

Freshman Byron Ellis looked good on one run against the twos, popping off a defender and dancing through a crease for a good gain. … Bobby Purify cutback against the ones for some good yardage a little later. …Isaiah Crawford ran off tackle for some good yards, as well, on one play. …Joel Klatt threw a bullet over the middle that Mike Duren hauled in. … And Ryan Walters flew across the field and got his hand on a pass from White to a receiver near the end.

In one-on-one drills, Alonzo Barrett went up against Tyler Polumbus, and beat him to the outside. On the next try, Barrett faked outside and put a spin move on Polumbus that froze the tackle, allowing Barrett a straight shot to into the backfield.

Robinson, Purify and Ellis were taking turns in kick off return.

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