Spring Preview: Quarterback

Colorado begins spring practices March 30. The annual Spring Game is scheduled for April 23. Inside, a look at the quarterback position, where Shawn Watson has declared the competition "wide open."

Coach: Shawn Watson
Players: James Cox, Bernard Jackson, Joel Klatt, Brian White

Joel Klatt was the No. 1 quarterback coming out of the season and he will be No. 1 on the depth chart when practices begin at the end of the month. However, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson says the competition is wide open for Klatt's job.

The plan all along was to move Bernard Jackson back to quarterback this spring. This is the time for Jackson to step up and prove his athleticism can work in the CU system.

Brian White is out with a wrist injury. They hope he can compete some toward the end of spring, but it will likely be August before he's really ready.

James Cox will be given the opportunity to unseat Klatt.

"James, Brian, Bernard — they're chasing Joel," Watson said. "If they catch him, they got him. Joel knows that and everybody knows that's the situation. That's why it's wide open, in terms of ‘You guys can go chase him.' It's not like Joel's the guy.

"I think you create softness whenever you say, ‘Hey, it's a done deal.' The back ups don't get any better and the starter doesn't get any better. And then you don't get any better as a team."

Klatt threw nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions last fall, and Watson wants more efficient play from the quarterbacks.

This is a different situation from what CU has had the past few springs, in terms of quarterbacks.

In spring 2002, there was a clear No. 1 in Craig Ochs, and the idea was to develop solid back ups. In 2003, all the quarterbacks were unproven. Last spring, Klatt and Cox pushed each other some, but it was really Klatt's job to lose.

Now, Klatt is a seasoned veteran, but Cox also has a start under his belt and will get a legitimate shot and proving he deserves to lead the team. Jackson adds a playmaking potential the others don't possess.

If White had not injured his wrist in the offseason, this may have been a huge spring for the quarterback many think is the most physically gifted of the bunch.

"The one thing we're pleased with is we've got a lot of guys coming back who have played ball," Watson said. "Now we can't rest on that. That gives you a false sense of security. We have got to improve immensely if we're going to close the gap on the top part of our league, and where we expect to be."

"Closing the gap" is a theme the team has taken, and it extends beyond Signing Day where Gary Barnett first mentioned it publicly.

This past season was the first time in recent years where the Buffs haven't finished in the top 20 in the country in some offensive category.

"I'm not a happy camper, and neither are any of our coaches or our players," Watson said. "So we're going to go pursue perfection and detail."

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