Head coach Gary Barnett was pleased with what he saw.
"We did a lot of good things," Barnett said. "I felt like our receivers picked it up today, felt like they turned a corner a little bit."
Part of the receivers' success may have been due to what defensive backs coach Craig Bray called an "awful" day by the secondary.
"We were not prepared, we didn't come to practice with focus and we saw what happens when you do that in the secondary," a disgruntled Bray said after practice.
Bray said part of the reason for the poor day in the secondary was due to the youth of the unit. Starting safety Tom Hubbard is out with an undisclosed leg injury, and will miss the rest of spring. (Barnett said Hubbard would be OK to play in the fall.) With J.J. Billingsley on the sidelines with academic issues this spring and Terrence Wheatley out recovering from a wrist injury, that leaves just four secondary players with experience in practice: corners Gerett Burl and Lorenzo Sims and safeties Dominique Brooks and Tyrone Henderson.
In the first four spring practices, Bray had been running some of the young players with the veterans. Ryan Walters had been playing alongside Hubbard with the No. 1 group. But Walters struggled Wednesday, and Bray ran Brooks and Henderson with the ones.
"There's going to be mistakes," Bray said. "We added two things today. You'd think we hadn't added what we did (earlier in the spring). That's just what happens if you play young guys. You add something and they get overwhelmed with ‘What do I do?' and they forget the coverages we've been playing since we started Day 1."
Freshman Reggie Foster stood out on one play during the afternoon when he knocked the ball loose from a receiver. But Foster hasn't played football in a year and a half, and is still out of shape. Plus, Bray's system is new to him.
"Summer is critical to (Foster)," Bray said. "I like his instincts, I like his toughness. I don't like where his body is right now.
"If Reggie gets in great shape, maybe he'll play next year. He's got to be able to run better than he does now."
Despite Walters' off day, Bray expects him to compete for a starting spot, or at least a position in the two-deep, next fall. His classmate, Charlie Sherman, is a bit behind. Bray said Sherman continues to show good instincts, but the former high school quarterback needs to become more physical.
Hubbard's absence will allow more reps in spring for Sherman and Walters.
Further complicating things at corner is the fact that Stephone Robinson missed with a hamstring issue, a similar issue that nagged him last fall. Prior to today, Robinson had looked like a solid third corner behind Sims and Burl. Meanwhile, redshirt-freshmen Terry Wilson and Corey Reid are not yet ready for prime time, Bray said.
"(Robinson) was doing very, very well," Bray said. "He gave me a good feeling (earlier in camp). I thought, ‘I've got three guys who are playing well.' Then he goes down and now I'm playing with two freshmen corners (as backups), and no way would they be ready next year. It really sets us back. Without him and Wheatley, we don't have a two-deep."
Bray admitted he needs to work on his patience with the youngsters. But he stressed that the unit, as a whole, doesn't have the speed to make up for shoddy play.
"We're just not a fast enough group of individuals to not be close to perfect in what we do," he said. "And once they realize that they'll understand because we lack speed I've got to open my hips a little bit, those kind of things."
And he tried to turn the rough practice into a learning opportunity.
"I ripped their butt first, and then I said this could be a good day if you'll take it as a learning experience and understand that your focus has to be right on," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's a practice or a game."
Blake Mackey watched practice in street clothes as he's out with a leg injury. Barnett said Mackey was progressing, but that "We don't have a date that we'll get him back." …Also missing from practice was Thaddeus Washington. I don't know the details on this one. …Vance Washington practiced early, but spent the second half in an orange jersey. …Mason Crosby kicked for the first time all spring.
The HYPE (believe it or not)
Alvin Barnett continues to look impressive both in drills and in 11-on-11 situations. He had a nice over-the-shoulder downfield catch during a drill which pitted the wide outs vs. the corners. I'd be surprised if he wasn't starting early in the fall. …Dusty Sprague has great hands, and is learning how to use his body to shield defenders. He's the nicest, most well-mannered kid you'll ever meet, but he showed some fire and got into it with a defensive back in one drill. …Evan Judge got behind Henderson and Brooks for a catch in the end zone. …Henderson broke up a Reggie Joseph catch with a good hit minutes later. Then Sims separated Judge from a ball later in the drill. …Joe Sanders was running alongside Akarika Dawn with the ones most of the day in Washington's absence. …Joel Klatt looked sharp at quarterback most of the afternoon. I'll say it again, one of the big battles in August will be for the No. 2 quarterback spot, where Bernard Jackson continues to look much better than he did a year ago. I don't know where the "Jackson looks small" thing started – he looks like he did in the fall. He's plenty big enough for the Big 12. Brian White is still going through drills that don't involve throwing. …Brian Iwuh had the hit of the day when he flew across the field and popped ball carrier Lawrence Vickers.
Interim athletic director Jack Lengyel was at practice. He's always on message: he approached the reporters (something Dick Tharp NEVER did) and was talking about how the department needs to reach out and embrace the community and fans. He was headed for a CU Lettermen meeting and was going to bring that message there too.