Camp Preview — Defensive Backs

The Buffs lost no defensvie backs off of last season's team. Despite the fact the unit will be more experienced, the DBs head into fall camp with some question marks. Inside, a look at the Colorado secondary.

31 Gerett Burl, Jr., 5-9, 160
6 Gardner McKay, Fr., 6-0, 160
10 Corey Reid, R-Fr., 5-9, 180
1 Stephone Robinson, So., 5-9, 185
22 Lorenzo Sims, Jr., 5-11, 185
10 Terry Washington, Jr., 5-11, 190
7 Vance Washington, Jr., 5-10, 185
20 Terry Wilson, R-Fr., 5-11, 200

J.J. Billingsley, Jr., 5-11, 185
18 Dominique Brooks, Jr., 6-1, 200
8 Reggie Foster, Fr., 5-11, 195
25 Lionel Harris, So., 5-11, 190
3 Tyrone Henderson, Jr., 5-10, 175
9 Tom Hubbard, Sr., 6-5, 220
2 Charlie Sherman, R-Fr., 6-1, 190
15 Ryan Walters, R-Fr., 5-11, 195

If the Colorado Buffaloes are to make it back to the Big 12 Championship game and have an opportunity to win it, the CU secondary needs to play better than it has the past two seasons.

In that span, the Buffs have given up over 6,400 yards through the air. That's more yards than in any two-year period in CU history. In fact, 2003 and 2004 are the only seasons in program history the Buffs have allowed over 3,000 passing yards.

Sure, as the college offensive game has evolved, more and more of CU's opponents run offenses designed to rack up yards through the air. But anyone who's watched Colorado the past two seasons knows word has been out: You can pass the ball on the Buffs.

If you're looking for an explanation, it's important to point out that prior to this past spring, Colorado defensive backs had four coaches in two years. The positive news is that the current group of returning DBs has been under the same tutor, Craig Bray, for a year.

Bray was hired last summer and began teaching his methods to the secondary last August. The results were an improvement over the year before, but after a full spring under Bray, the defensive backs should now be well versed in the veteran coach's philosophy.

Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who coached the secondary in spring 2004, thinks Bray's presence will begin to pay off more obviously this fall.

"The secondary, I coached them last spring and Craig (Bray) wasn't even here," Hankwitz told BSN. "That's his strength, his forte. I hadn't coached it since 1990, so I couldn't give it the detail it needed. But he was here this spring after an entire fall, so the players can build on all those things and hopefully be improved in their awareness and their details. I felt really good about that."

At cornerback, Lorenzo Sims has proven himself to be a playmaker. His five interceptions in 2004 was the most by a Buffalo since 2001 (Michael Lewis). Sims played with a toe injury last year, something that hasn't completely healed heading into camp. If he's healthy and ready to play, Sims is solid as a starter at one corner.

At the other corner, junior Gerett Burl will have a battle on his hands with Juco transfer Terry Washington to retain his starting position. Burl is a gutsy, yet undersized corner. Washington will be one of the fastest players on the team as soon as he puts on a uniform, and is regarded as a physical player, as well.

Vance Washington also returns at the corner position. But it remains to be seen if Washington, who's been sidelined often with shoulder injuries, can remain healthy enough to compete at the position. Also in the mix for a spot on the two-deep are Stephone Robinson, the converted wide receiver, and Gardner McKay, a speedy true freshman who has been impressive in summer workouts, but who needs to add some weight to his frame.

Terrence Wheatley is out for the season, and likely done with football, with an unfortunate wrist injury.

There are just as many questions at safety. Senior Tom Hubbard returns, but he missed most of spring with a knee sprain. J.J. Billingsley will likely be cleared to play in the coming days after being suspended for the spring for academic reasons. Yet Billingsley, arguably the secondary's best player, missed most of 2004 with a knee injury. He hasn't played on a regular basis since 2003.

Dominique Brooks was fourth on the team in tackles in '04 (72), and begins August camp No. 1 at strong safety. CU's safeties under Bray have been interchangeable, and Brooks should get competition from junior Tyrone Henderson.

Former quarterback Ryan Walters looked great at times in the spring, and it will be hard to keep him off the field as the season progresses. Charlie Sherman, Reggie Foster and Lionel Harris will also compete at safety.

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