Buffaloes Move to 'Close the Gap'

Colorado head coach Gary Barnett introduced the 2005 recruiting class Wednesday. It's a class, he said, met the team's needs, and one that takes a first step in closing the gap on the Big 12 elite — Oklahoma and Texas. Inside, some of Barnett's Signing Day comments and Signing Day notes.

Colorado played to an 8-5 record in 2004. Barnett said the Buffs were out-manned in two of those contests.

"We had 13 games that we played," he said. "In 11 of those games we matched up very well with the team we were playing. Two teams (Oklahoma and Texas), we didn't match up. Those two teams are the teams that we need to close the gap on. This recruiting class is the first step in that direction."

The class includes 21 high schoolers and four junior college transfers. Ten are tagged to play on offense, 14 on defense, while one — James Lewis — comes in as an "athlete."

Barnett said the Buffs filled its two major needs with the class, as well.

"We had two things that we felt like we really needed to do. One, we had to get big guys," Barnett said. "The second thing we needed to do was improve our team speed."

The Buffs landed at least nine trench players, signing five defensive linemen and four offensive linemen. In addition, George Hypolite, who played fullback in high school, could grow into a defensive lineman.

"It's probably the best recruiting class for us since I've been here in the defensive line," Barnett said. "We haven't had these numbers, we haven't had this quality. And four of these youngsters are from the state of Colorado."

Lewis was one of three late commitments CU received. The other two were DB Ben Burney, and RB/DL Hypolite. Lewis could play receiver or defensive back.

Lewis did not attend high school as a sophomore in order to take care of his mother who was suffering from cancer. Lewis had been advanced a grade when he was younger, and was 16 years old when he finished his senior year at Venice High School in Los Angeles, where he was a teammate of current Buff Byron Ellis.

While he was named L.A. Player of the Year in 2003, Lewis chose to move to his grandmother's house in Texas and attend a fourth year of high school to catch up on his academics. He was allowed to practice with his high school team there, but not allowed to play in games.

Barnett said that publicity from the so-called recruiting scandal did not hurt the Buffs' recruiting. And the staff found ways to work within the self-imposed recruiting restrictions, which included 11 p.m. curfews, no player hosts and fewer official visits on game days. Complete Recruiting List

The following is an excerpt from Barnett's press conference, as well as several Signing Day notes.

Q: How gratifying is this recruiting class considering all the recruiting restrictions you had to work with?
Gary Barnett:
I think every class is special. I don't think you can relate one to another class. The restrictions that we had, we looked at them as just parameters that we had to deal with. It made us be more creative. We found some really good ways to recruit, some good things to do. We didn't lock in on anything that anybody would perceive as being a negative. We didn't just worked it through.

All these players had done their homework before they ever came. They were curious, their parents were curious. But when they left, they all wanted to be here. The players wanted to be here because of our coaches and because of the University of Colorado and the reputation that it has.

Is it any more (gratifying) than any other? No, I don't think so. It's just the way it was this year.

Q: What kind of questions were you asked by the parents and how in depth were those questions?
I got very few questions. Most of them had done their homework beforehand. I don't know that I had a single question that was tough in the process. Most of them either our coaches had answered when they were in the home, or they had researched. A couple of them came a couple times.

I know Jake Behrens' mom came with Jake to the camp because she wanted to see what it was like. They came back a second time.

Q: How many kids have already qualified.
I think all but two have qualified.

Q: Do you have this many scholarships. Twenty-five signees was a bigger number than we were expecting.
That'll all work itself out. We'll comply with all the NCAA rules on that sort of thing.

Q: Do you expect any to greyshirt?
We talked to three of these guys about potentially greyshirting. That depends upon how many scholarships are available. But we've explained the process to them.

Q: How much did academics play in this class. Were academics more of a factor?
No. No more than usual. We always look for academics. That's always an issue.

Three years ago when we realized that at the end of a young man's sophomore year he's got to have 40 percent of his work toward graduation, we saw all that coming and we recruited to that issue. So for us it wasn't any sort of a change going into this season from the last two or three.

Q: What kind of modifications do you expect in the recruiting restrictions after you meet with the administration?
I don't know what to say there. I have no idea. I think we're going to explain and outline to them whatever obstacles we saw in the process, and what we think needs to be done to be more competitive. We'll talk it through and explain our experiences, and players' parents' experiences.

Q: What kind of obstacles did you experience?
The No. 1 obstacle for us is (lack of) a recruit having time with players. When you're coaches tell you how they think it is, players tell you how it really is. Recruits know that. They can be around a coach all day but they want to get with the players one on one, and they want to get with the players who play the position they play, who is coached by the guy they're going to get coached by to see what that's really like.

In the last weekend that we had recruits in we were able to get that concession. They were still under the 11 o'clock curfew but we were able to steal a couple of hours with them with players by themselves. I know that had to help.

Q: Over the years, have you found that offensive linemen are the most difficult to predict in terms of future playing ability?
Frankly, I think the quarterback spot … is the one that's hardest to predict. There's so much pressure on them and so many expectations, so many things they have to learn. To me that's the one spot that you just don't know.

The linemen, if they have the size potential, and especially if you have them in camp and see their explosiveness (you can predict).

The one thing you have to find on every player is how much they love to play the game because there's so many potential distractions. Whether it's injuries, being away from home, family issues that come up, whatever it is, if they really love to play the game then they'll find some way to get through it. If they don't then they'll fall off the wayside.

Q: You said Maurice Greer could possibly play immediately? Is he that talented as a true freshman to potentially move to the font of the line on your depth chart?
I don't know about the front of the line. We've had guys that before. But he certainly has the tools to come in and play right away.

A lot of guys have to get stronger and mature a little bit more physically. Maurice is already physically mature. He's a guy that's already there.

Q: How important is it to have a lot of these guys in camp when it comes down to recruiting?
Over half of these guys were in camp. No question, that's the most valuable thing you can do is to have them in camp. One, you get a feel for them as people, whether they're coachable or not. Two, you can evaluate their athletic ability. You can see their potential, what kind of competitor they are.

I think it was good for us because you're also able to establish a relationship. And they see the way you are on a workday. Recruiting weekends sometimes can be dog and pony shows. We try not to make it that way here ever. But when you're in a camp you get to see what it's like to work with your coach and see what the other players are like. That's really a valuable experience.

Q: What are some examples of creative things you did because of the restrictions?
For example, we had training table on Saturday night. Because we couldn't have our recruits meet with any of our players individually, we had it set up so that almost all of our team would come up and eat dinner and provide a venue where (the recruits) could meet a lot of our players. We did some things like that.

We had some bowling tournaments. Different things like that.

Q: How much negative recruiting did you run across?
Not nearly as much as I had anticipated. We had a couple. And we had a couple on the last day. But not anything that I could stand up here and complain about.

Q: What impact did the new NCAA recruiting regulations have compared with your own recruiting restrictions?
We didn't have any impact from the NCAA at all. I talked to other schools regarding the new NCAA regulations. One is the schools who are in hard to get to places who always use private places really struggled.

The second thing I heard was having enough personnel to host 12 and 15 players and their parents and get them around campus – that created some real hassles for everybody. Those are the two things I've heard as I've talked to other coaches.

Many of them put in curfews – none of them as early as 11 – but many put them in at 1 or 2 a.m.

Q: Was your 11 p.m. curfew any problem?
Well, I think it's too early. That'll be one of the things I'll ask to be changed. I think the idea of a curfew is fine. We've been doing it here for two years prior to this year. I think just a little more reasonable time is what I would ask for.

Q: Your getting some of these players for spring ball. Is that a big advantage?
It's a big advantage for the players and for us. Especially a couple guys like Reggie Foster who might figure in right away. And Alvin Barnett and Bryce MacMartin. Those three guys will all get a chance to make us better and be involved in our team right away.

Q: In recent years, Jeff Byers, Kasey Studdard and LenDale White have gone to other schools. How important is it to get the best in-state talent to come to Colorado?
It's always important to get the best players. It's important in-state because it helps you in so many ways. All three of those guys went somewhere else for personal reasons.

Two of those cases had nothing to do with the University of Colorado, it had to do with something else. But we're always going to look at Colorado (players) first.

Q: Is the level of talent in Colorado going up?
I think it is going up. Numbers are going up, that's one thing, but I think the level of talent is on the rise as well.

Barnett Foundation

Barnett, and his wife, Mary, announced Wednesday that they've formed The Gary Barnett Foundation. The organization's goal will be to provide funds for educational programs for economically disadvantaged kids in the Boulder County area.

Barnett said for a while he had wanted to start a foundation, and that when he attended the funeral for former player Gabe Oderberg, he knew it was the time to do something. Oderberg took his own life last year.

"We've been blessed to be at the University of Colorado, and we wanted to be able to give back in the way that so many people have given to us," Barnett said.

The foundation will host several fundraising events in the coming year, including a 5k run/walk. For more information, visit www.GaryBarnettFoundation.org.

Coaching Search
Barnett said Wednesday he hoped to hire a new wide receivers coach by next Wednesday. But it may take longer. Ted Gilmore left the job for a similar position at Nebraska last month.

"I've made a couple contacts with a couple guys," Barnett said. "There are a number of people who are interested and I'm sort of wading through."

Greenberg, Miles Gone
Quarterback Erik Greenberg was recently married and will graduate in August. HE does not plan to return to the team. Likewise, Lenny Miles has left the team. Also gone are former walk-ons Charlie Aweida, Casey Brown, Jordan Dame, Andrew Ford, J.P. Heaton and John Martin.

Barnett said with the success of landing two players from Florida — P Matthew DiLallo and RB Kevin Moyd — CU plans to put a coach in the area in the future, likely Shawn Simms. (Simms' name came up several time when Barnett complimented an assistant coach's recruiting efforts on Wednesday). It sounds like Barnett – who has shied away from Florida because of logistical reasons in the past — has finally given in to assistants' urging for Colorado to recruit the Sunshine State. Barnett said Simms and the Buffaloes' name was well-received this go around, and Moyd gives the Buffs an inroad to Miami Northwestern, a bigtime program. …CU may go into Chicago in the next recruiting cycle, and Barnett said they need to do a better job in California — a state that boasts tons of talent and that's a cultural fit for Boulder. …

The coach was very high on all the players (not unusual), but really seems excited about the crop of defensive linemen. He thinks Taj Kaynor could end up being a 6-6, 280-pound defensive end with great athleticism. Zach Jones will likely grow into a DT. …He likes Sam Zimmerer at DE, as well. Names like Joel Steed and Leonard Renfro were brought up, and Barnett said CU hasn't recruiting the defensive line well dating back to Rick Neuheisel's last two years. He thinks they've changed that trend. …

The reason they didn't do as well in Texas this year (just one signee – Marcus Burton) is because the program was in flux back in May when Barnett was suspended. He said many of the Texas guys they would have been in on left the Buffs off their early interest lists because the situation at CU was up in the air, and the other schools had too much of a head start. Barnett said that while Texas players tend to decide early, Florida players tend to decide later in the game.

No word yet on the medical redshirts for J.J. Billingsley, Chris Hollis and Quinn Sypniewski, but Barnett reiterated that he thought they'd come through fine.

The group didn't have many, if any, wafflers. Barnett said he visited everyone the final two weeks and didn't have to close any deals. They were already on board. He said the surprises — guys they didn't think they'd get before they verballed — were Burton, Maurice Greer, Paul Backowski, Jake Behrens and Gardner McKay.

Players who will miss spring ball because of injury include linebacker Jason Ackermann (knee), Terrence Wheatley (wrist) and Walter Boye-Doe (ankle). Billingsley will have limited participation (knee), while Brandon Caesar (knees), Kyle Griffith (systemic illness), and Sypniewski (lower leg) are questionable.

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