Practice Report: August 25

After two strong practices earlier in the week, the CU coaches decided to lighten things up Wednesday. The Buffs went through an abbreviated practice in shorts, no pads on the CU practice fields. That meant several players who have been battling injuries, including safety <!--Default NodeId For J.J. Billingsley is 1221076,2004--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:1221076]>J.J. Billingsley</A>, were able to participate in much of the drills, while some others were able to rest.

"We had practiced so well on Monday and Tuesday, I wanted to lighten up a little bit so we could get some guys back," head coach Gary Barnett said. "We had to rest a few guys. We need it and it's timely."

The team used the practice to continue to refine assignments in their various offensive and defensive sets, much as they did a week ago when the Buffs were forced indoors because of lightning and heavy rain.

One positive note was Billingsley's return to action. He had his knee scoped last Thursday.

"He was full speed out there today," Barnett said. "A little rusty, but he looked good."

The team looks to be back in pads Thursday, and will conduct its final scrimmage of the preseason camp on Friday. The scrimmage, which is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and is open to the public, will encompass a lot of situational work, including kicking situations. Also, the team will practice some emergency situations, such as calling plays without headsets.

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson usually calls the offensive plays from a coaches' booth on game days, relaying them to wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore, who then signals them to the quarterback, or sends them in via wide receivers.

"We'll go 12 plays without having headsets on so Ted Gilmore will have to make calls on the sidelines," Barnett said.

The scrimmage may be the last chance for players vying for starting spots to make their case. But Barnett said most of the spots are already decided.

"Things are pretty much decided for us at this point in time," he said. "(However), you can always have those moves. The linebacker corps is the one that's a little more hazy than anything else. There's always a chance for somebody to really go from a rotation to a starter."

The team is scheduled to elect captains following Friday's practice. Saturday, the team is scheduled for team pictures a luncheon and another light practice. Players will have Sunday off.

Wide Receivers Update
Heading into the 2004 season, it's still unclear what to expect from the Colorado offense. Will they be able to run the ball the way they did in 2001 and 2002? How much will the tight end position be utilized? And what about the receivers? How will the CU passing game respond after losing the record-setting tandem of D.J. Hackett and Derek McCoy?

One thing seems to be clear going in. CU will not rely so heavily on two wide outs as it did in 2003.

"Barring any injuries, we'll have six or seven guys that I feel like I can rotate freely throughout the ballgame," Gilmore said after Wednesday's practice.

"Evan Judge has been very consistent in camp," he said. "Dusty Sprague has been making catches that he wasn't making in the spring. Ron Monteilh and Tyler Littlehales are doing their job."

Add Mike Duren and Blake Mackey to the group and Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt will have a lot of targets to work with at wide receiver.

"I like to think with the much-improved line and all the backs that we have, we'll be a balanced offense," Gilmore said. "And that takes pressure off us. But I think we'll be good enough to do our part.

"Obviously we haven't had a game situation and we don't know how they're going to respond once the lights come on," he continued. "But I haven't missed the guys that I lost."

Is there a chance that, since CU graduated its two top targets, and boasts no marquee players at wide out (at least as of yet), opponents may not expect much from the group? Can this group slip under the radar?

"I hope they expect that," Gilmore said. "Of course, going into last year I don't think anybody knew we'd have two guys catch as many balls as they did. The season itself will unfold on its own in terms of what we do."

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