What's The Deal With Coach Bray?

Those who have watched Colorado's fall practices over the past six days may have noticed at least one thing distinctly different from last year's camp: a quieter Craig Bray. What's the deal? Has the second-year CU coach undergone a change in coaching philosophy? Come under the influence of Boulder's Buddhist population? Has he thrown up his hands and given up on his unit? Hardly.

When Bray joined the Colorado staff last July, he barely had time to learn his defensive backs' names before fall camp started in August. Bray brought with him a different system of playing in the secondary than the Buffs were used to.

He quickly began teaching his cornerbacks and safeties about identifying the clues the opposing offenses were giving them in order to get into the best position to defend. Watch the tight end. Watch the running back, who shifts out into the slot. Watch the receiver's first step.

All last August, Bray could be heard shouting above the noise of practice.

"Read your keys, Simsy!"

"Where are you supposed to be, Tyrone?!"

"Know what the tight end is doing, Tommy!"

"Look at me when I'm talking to you, Chris Russell! How do I know you're listening to me if you're not looking at me!"

This fall, Bray hasn't been as loud, his prodding quite as urgent. Here's a sampling of Tuesday's verbiage:

"Nice read, Gardner. That's a nice read."

"That's the way to come up on the ball, Ryan."

"There you go, Lionel!"

Here's why Bray's having a quieter camp.

"Last year this time, I couldn't get them lined up right," Bray said about his players. "Now they know. We're miles ahead. Mentally, they're night and day (compared to last year)."

That's good news for a unit that gave up 260.2 yards per game through the air, and was ranked the 11th worst pass defense in the Big 12 and 105th in the country in 2004.

"I'm really, really excited, really pleased with the progress," Bray said after Tuesday's practice. "We're probably farther ahead right now than when we started playing (games) in the fall last year. It's not even close.

"We're not where I want us to be, but we're miles ahead."

The "not where I want" part includes concerns about depth at cornerback. While junior starters Lorenzo Sims and Gerett Burl are back and having good camps, Bray has been giving special attention to some newcomers. He's trying to get juco transfer Terry Washington ready for action.

"Terry Washington is a guy we're counting on," Bray said. "He had a good day today; he's starting to learn."

Washington played the past two seasons at Garden City Community College, and could push Burl for his starting spot as he continues to grasp Bray's concepts.

Two freshmen have caught Bray's attention, as well.

"Gardner McKay is showing himself as a possible guy, as is Ben Burney," he said.

"But they're freshmen," he cautions.

Sophomore Stephone Robinson has "improved a lot. He's competing for a No. 2 spot," Bray said.

As for the two safety positions, a particular problem spot in 2004, Bray, as straight a shooter as there is on the CU staff, is nearly giddy.

"It's the best situation a guy can have," he said. "I've got four or five guys that are all competing to start. All of them (including J.J. Billingsley, Dominique Brooks, Tyrone Henderson and Tom Hubbard), have experience (except) Ryan Walters. And he's a good player.

"I wish our whole football team had the depth we have at safety. Nobody's as solid in the two deep as I am."


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