Colorado returns 50 lettermen from last fall's squad, and the experience has them ahead of the game, according to head coach Gary Barnett said
"We probably were able to go at a little faster pace with so many guys coming back," he said after practice. "We already have a lot of the offense and defense in and we could get right to it today even though it was a little rusty. I think we're a step ahead of where we'd normally be at this point."
Barnett said the players were anxious to practice, and that showed with the amount of energy they had.
"We sort of looked a little bit like dogs chasing cars," he quipped. "But we had a lot of energy. It was a good practice."
It was the first practice for two new assistant coaches. Offensive assistant Darian Hagan is working closely with the wide receivers, while Bill Inge is the new defensive line coach. Asked if he noticed anything about the new assistants, Barnett joked: "As I said, we had a bunch of guys out there chasing cars. No, they're doing fine. They've got to get used to things. But they're doing fine."
Barnett said the defense is typically ahead of the offense in the spring.
"It was obvious that's holding up this year," he said. "I would imagine it'll be that way all spring."
The team is scheduled to practice Friday at 3:30 and Saturday at 10 a.m. Practices are open to the public.
Focus on Marcus Jones
One area of vital importance is the interior defensive line. Starter Vaka Manupuna returns at nose tackle, and James Garee has moved from end to defensive tackle. John Guydon will back up Garee, and currently Marcus Jones is penciled in behind Manupuna.
Jones is taking part in his third spring, but has played in just one game in his career. While juco transfer Chris Todd is expected to provide immediate help next fall, it would help the Buffs' depth if Jones took positive steps in April.
New defensive line coach Bill Inge seems to have already adopted Jones as a pet project. He was working him hard in D-line drills, and when the unit ran sprints after practice, Jones was singled out with a challenge. If he came in last in the sprint, the unit would have to keep running.
"Don't be last, Marcus Jones!" Inge hollered as the linemen ran. Jones came in fourth and he and his teammates headed for the locker room. But BSN spoke with Jones before he left the field.
Buffalo Sports News: How was the first spring practice?
Marcus Jones: It was pretty good. It feels good to be out here and get back into the mode.
BSN: How was your offseason?
MJ: It was pretty good. I got stronger in every area. My squat increased by 50 pounds, my bench increased by 20 or so. So it went pretty good in the weightroom.
BSN: What did you weight when you got here as a freshman?
MJ: About 250, 245.
BSN: And what do you weigh now?
MJ: About 290-295.
BSN: How did you do that? Just growing?
MJ: Yeah, just growing and working out and eating a lot.
BSN: Tell me about Coach Inge. What are your first impressions?
MJ: He'll make you work hard. He's a pretty good coach. You can tell that he cares about his players. He'll do a good job with us.
BSN: How hungry are you to get out there and play?
MJ: Very hungry. I've been sitting out for three years. I feel like it's my chance to shine right now. It's now or never.
BSN: What do you think you have to do to impress your new coach to earn that?
MJ: Definitely just take it one day at a time. Work hard and give it a great effort every play.
The HYPE (believe it or not)
The Buffs tested the fruits of their offseason labors earlier this week. Jack Tipton looks like he's taken over the title of "strongest on the team," as the junior put up a team-best 31 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. No surprise, Hugh Charles turned in the fastest 40 time (4.38) with Blake Mackey a close second (4.39). Though I don't know the time, word is Joe Sanders blew some people away in his 40-yard dash.
For a kid who didn't practice at quarterback last fall, Bernard Jackson looked crisp with his drop backs and his throws Wednesday. Better than he did a year ago. Brian White is participating in some individual quarterback drills but nothing that involves throwing (wrist injury).
New defensive line coach Bill Inge was among the most vocal coaches. He's animated, lively and gets in his players' faces. Was really pushing them. Stopping to show technique in certain drills, and not afraid to get after anyone. His unit was the last to leave the field.
Sophomore Reggie Joseph had a nice catch – hands out away from his body — on a long downfield pass. Alvin Barnett isn't a big-time speedster, but he's got good quickness and his strength allows him to get off cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage well.
Though the "official" depth chart has Ryan Walters second behind Tom Hubbard at free safety, Walters was lining up alongside Hubbard and corners Lorenzo Sims and Gerett Burl through most of the secondary drills.
The first team offensive line today looked like: Tyler Polumbus, Jack Tipton, Mark Fenton, Brian Daniels and Clint O'Neal. Edwin Harrison's absence (shoulder surgery) should open the door for Tipton to get a lot of experience. The scary part is that walk-on sophomore Carl Zoellner currently backs up Polumbus. However, if they had to play today and Polumbus went down, Gary Moore — who's behind O'Neal — would step in there. Polumbus had mono last year, which is why he dropped to 245. He's up around 280-285 right now.
Lawrence Vickers was not at practice, suffering from strep throat. He's expected back Friday. Tight end Dan Goettsch was out with a back issue. One player who's back in pads after sitting out last fall is running back Brandon Caesar. He'll be in a heated battle at tailback with Charles and Byron Ellis. Caesar had knee surgery six months ago, and said he thinks he's 100-percent healthy right now. He's practicing without knee braces.
Tight end Quinn Sypniewski is back for his fifth spring, preparing for his sixth season after receiving a medical redshirt. When Barnett was hiring a coach to replace Ted Gilmore, Sypniewski joked to the head coach that he could save some money by letting him coach and play since he's been in the program so long.