Spring Preview: Receivers

The main emphasis for spring ball for Colorado will be improving all phases of the passing game, on both sides of the ball. Inside, a look at the receiving corps. The BSN also caught up with coaches Watson and Wristen to get their thoughts on the passing game.

Coaches: Darian Hagan, Shawn Watson, John Wristen
Players: (WR) Alvin Barnett, Marcus Gonzales, Nick Holz, Reggie Joseph, Evan Judge, Blake Mackey, Dusty Sprague, Patrick Williams, (TE) Daniel Goettsch, Joe Klopfenstein, Quinn Sypniewski

After spending the past two months viewing game film from 2004, coaches realized CU had 39 dropped balls on offense last fall. Compare that to just six drops in 2003, and it's clear there is work to do. That means better pass protection, better route running and more efficient play from the quarterback. And coaches are looking for the CU receivers to become better once the ball is in the air.

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson will be in charge of the wide receivers this spring, and he'll be assisted by Darian Hagan, who is expected to take over the receivers coach job himself by the fall.

"We were a young group (last season) and we weren't as detailed as we needed to be," Watson said. "We have to be better finishers."

Junior-to-be Blake Mackey began to emerge last season. Though he had just 15 catches, he led the team with a 16-yards-per-reception average. Word is he's had a good offseason. Dusty Sprague and Patrick Williams also have the potential to turn into big-play finishers with solid springs.

Rising senior Evan Judge was the team's leading receiver in 2004 with 29 catches. He'll serve the role that Derek McCoy or John Donahoe occupied two seasons ago.

Juco-transfer Alvin Barnett is, pound for pound, one of the strongest players on the squad and has been impressive in offseason workouts. Coaches are anxious to see what he can do on the field. Reggie Joseph will also be in the mix. Tyler Littlehales, however, is not in school this semester for personal reasons. They expect him back with the team in the summer.

Watson said wide receivers are making bigger impacts on successful college football offenses in recent years.

"The difference in all the bowl games was receivers," Watson said. "The reason why is people are stopping the run first with heavy run fronts or heavy coverages. They're designed to take away the run game — putting eight or nine guys in the box. And they're leaving receivers one on one. Whether it be by zone or by man, there is somebody matched one on one. And receivers are turning games around. That's where we've got to get to.

"That's where the game is at today. It's all about ratios. It's simple math. And we've got to be really good at executing on the perimeter."

As for Hagan, Watson said the new offensive assistant will pay dividends on the recruiting trail, especially in California, where "his name is gold. He'll have inroads into places where we'll get great players."

Hagan will be plenty busy in April at home, however.

"His job right now is to be the best drill coach in America," Watson said. "And he'll do a great job of drilling our receivers and getting them up to speed."

Meanwhile, the Buffs received some good news when tight end Quinn Sypniewski was granted a sixth year of eligibility after suffering a season-ending ankle injury early last fall. If he can stay healthy, he'll be a big asset alongside senior-to-be Joe Klopfenstein.

Teams took the Klopfenstein option away from CU more often than the Buffs would have liked in '04. But CU coaches want to get the ball in the 6-6, 245-pound playmaker's hands more.

"We've tweaked some things in the offseason to give our tight ends a chance to be more of a factor in the passing game," tight ends coach John Wristen said.

Walk-on rising junior Dan Goettsch has put on weight and gotten stronger in the offseason, and Wristen said he'll factor in this spring.

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