COACH BARNETT: On my immediate left is Joel Klatt. He is a returning quarterback for us, will be third year as our starter. He is out of Pomona High School, which is a suburb of Denver.
Joel played two years in the San Diego Padre organization traveling around eating hamburgers and riding buses, and couldn't hit the curve ball, so we got him to come to Colorado and play football for us. He walked on as a starter. Because of the rules, we couldn't put him on scholarship until the second semester.
He's had a great career for us. Got married this summer. He was late when I picked him up this morning but I didn't ask him why.
Next to him is Brian Iwuh. Brian is also a four-year player for us. Brian is from Worthing High School here in Houston. Brian will be a four-year starter for us as an outside linebacker, safety, and he is probably the most feared player on our defense. When Joel comes to the line of scrimmage, he has warned the receivers to know where Iwuh is.
Brian had a great spring for us and is also a very good student.
On the far left is Joe Klopfenstein. He is our returning tight end. Joe is also a four-year player. Neither one of these two guys, none of these three players have red-shirted. Joe is from Grandview High School, which is a suburb of Denver, was our leading receiver a year ago and came in as a freshman and played for us, has been a tremendous player for us and look forward to him having a great year this year.
I think these three players sort of represent our team. We are a pretty balanced football team. We have 19 starters coming back, and even of the 19 starters that came back, six of those are seniors. We are still a relatively young football team from that standpoint.
We were fortunate enough to play in the Big 12 championship game -- I should say we were fortunate to be at the Big 12 championship game last year. Oklahoma played it, we watched it. We were there, third game for us in the last four years, third opportunity to be in that game. But we have, I think, a kind of team coming back where we don't have any apparent weaknesses. I think that the only area that doesn't have a great deal of experience is the running back spot, and we have two returning sophomores, as well as a senior back there, so we have got some guys that played a little bit.
We were young last year. I think we have just gotten a little bit older and better at most positions. I think our two kickers, place kicker and punter, in combination there isn't a better pair in the country. They were very critical to us last year.
I think we are a team that truly appreciates the opportunity to play college football. I think we truly appreciate the opportunity to be around each other, had a good summer from what I hear. I know everybody is eager to get back and have a chance to play, to get things started. We have a very difficult road schedule. I think that the team that wins the north is going to have to play well on the road. We play at Miami, at Oklahoma State, at Texas, at Kansas State, at Iowa State, but if you come to the University of Colorado, you look forward to playing those kinds of teams, look forward to playing the tough non-conference – and I think it's part of the attraction of Colorado is our non-conference schedule through the years.
Happy to take some questions.
Q. Gary from the Austin America. Given that so many Big 12 teams aren't settled in quarterbacks going into the season, how much of a luxury is it to have somebody that is definitely number one, some guy you trust?
COACH BARNETT: It's not only a luxury to have a guy who has started two years, but having a guy that brings as much credibility and maturity to the program as Joel does. Joel can coach our offensive line. He can coach all our protections. He has taken all the young guys this summer, coached all the young quarterbacks and receivers. He is literally a coach on the field for you. So to have that, you know, that's really special, not only do you sleep better at night, but you are a better football team because of it.
Q. Houston Chronicle, you mentioned about Big 12 championship and being in Oklahoma. Can you just talk a little bit about there was a gap between the two divisions in terms of the teams and the talent level, or do you not feel that way at all?
COACH BARNETT: Well, I think it goes in cycles. When this conference was first started, the dominant three teams in this conference were probably Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State. You know, I think it cycles in and cycles out. I think last year if you looked at the north, all of those teams were extremely young. It still came down to really a tie, and us winning on the tie breaker, so it is probably extremely balanced as well.
I think all those teams in the north, all of us, we are a year older, so I don't know, I think there could be an imbalance maybe in resources, but I don't think there is an imbalance anywhere else.
Q. For all three players, can you all discuss having survived and even thrived in the chaos that was off-field last year, that situation, how you got through it as a team and as an individual.
JOEL KLATT: I would say the first thing that we did is just stuck together. We are such a close-knit football team, especially with everything that went on. We just stuck together and decided to fight our way through, put our head down, and started working hard way back two springs ago. I think that that has carried on all the way through. Last year's seniors taught this team how to work hard, how to not worry about what's going on around them, just focus on internal issues. So all we did was continue to work hard all the way through last fall, and hopefully now all the seniors this year will continue that tradition of really working hard, keeping your head down, and just not focusing on what people write or say about you.
BRIAN IWUH: As a team I believe that we, just as Joel said, we work hard and dedicated ourselves to proving everyone wrong. I just tried to ignore everything that was going on, the media, the TV shows, whatever, when they were talking negatively about our program. I just ignored it and worked hard and played, put football first before everything.
JOE KLOPFENSTEIN: Yeah, these guys said it all, just working hard. When it came down to the football side of it, we really just concentrated on that and tried to not let the outside events and media and everything that was happening get to us and just sort of put that on the back burner and let that take care of itself and just focus on football.
Q. Fox Sports Net, players, offense and defense, what things are you working on, one or two things you are working on to improve from last season's performances?
JOEL KLATT: I would say offensively one of the biggest things that we have to get better at is, especially from my standpoint, is our efficiency in the passing game. We really worked on that this spring. Coach Barnett put a strong emphasis on throwing the ball. We worked extremely hard in the passing game.
One of the things that we did that I think is going to be a very big advantage for us is the wide receivers now meet with the quarterbacks in meetings, and so we are able to be on the same page much more than we were in years past.
Another area I think we need to work hard on, and this obviously can only take place this fall, is scoring in the red zone. We tended to come up short last year. We need to punch those drives into the end zone and get those points that we need to hopefully pull away from teams and not just linger around in field goal contests.
BRIAN IWUH: As far as defensively, I think that we, as a defense, we need to focus more on preparing and knowing our opponent, and third-down plays we were in the game too long. I think that if we are prepared and know our opponent better, we will be prepared to make plays and make third-down stops and get the defense off of the field.
JOE KLOPFENSTEIN: One thing that comes to mind was we had way too many drops last season. As far as tight ends and receivers, we have been working this off-season catching a lot more balls and just concentrating on eliminating that number, which is way too high. So that's about it.
Q. Gary, you boys played a hard non-conference schedule. (Inaudible) is this good for college football to see these other schools with a watered-down schedule?
COACH BARNETT: I can't speak for anybody else. I don't think I can speak for college football from that standpoint. I know our tradition, it has been to play those kinds of teams.
It's funny, I met with our seniors and asked each one of them, what is it -- or we put our kids up in front of recruits, I would say "What is it that you most admire about Colorado?" Or "What's one of the things that made you come here?" And almost every one of them talks about the schedule and the teams they get to play and places they get to go. These guys will play at USC, UCLA, Florida State, played Washington as well as other teams, Georgia. It is part of the tradition, you come to Colorado, you get to play those great teams.
We feel like it sort of contributes to our team rather than hurts us.
Q. (Inaudible question about Lawrence Vickers)?
COACH BARNETT: What we did with Lawrence is I asked him to get down about 230, 225-230, so that if our two young guys aren't able to carry us at the running back position, then he is. He is an ideal fullback. He is an NFL fullback, and you don't like to take a guy out of a position that he maybe is good or may be the best in your conference at playing, so I am a little bit reluctant to move him there.
I want to give those two or three young guys a chance to prove that they are tailbacks. We are a better team when we have a legitimate tailback and Lawrence in there at fullback. We are a better football team. Lawrence is ready to take over and be a tailback if he needs to, or be a solo back. He gives us a lot of flexibility. We can take our tailback and move him out as a third wide receiver.
Hugh Charles, for example, is a fast player under the tailback position, and he is a real threat as a receiver, so to be able to keep Lawrence in the backfield, move Hugh out, and you have a real speed guy on the outside. Lawrence gives us a lot of flexibility. I don't know where he is going to end up. He hopefully will be at the fullback spot all year. It also has hurt him a little bit that we move him back and forth. I think his best chance in his future lies in being an NFL fullback.
Q. Randy Riggs from Austin. For Joel, could you follow up a little bit talking about improvement in the efficiency of the passing game? Were you talking just about completion percentage or what exactly do you mean by that?
JOEL KLATT: I think a lot of things go into efficiency. Obviously, completion percentage needs to increase from last year. I think that yards after catch need to increase. Also, throwing for touchdowns. We need to have the ability to strike for touchdowns over 25, 30 yards so that we don't get into the games where all of a sudden we are beating our heads against the wall trying to run the football in the end zone.
I think efficiency is all those things, being able to score in the pass game, having high percentage passing, as well as the big play where you are having to catch. Those three areas are areas we tried to work on this spring. All of those areas got better, I feel like.