Barnett: We Want to be in Reliant Stadium Dec. 3

Colorado coach Gary Barnett fielded questions from the media on the team's annual media day Wednesday. Inside, Part I of Barnett's press conference, where he talks about the general outlook of the team, including its goal of playing in the Big 12 Championship in December.

Gary Barnett
Opening Comments:

(Mike Bohn began the press conference by announcing that former Colorado quarterback Charles "CJ" Johnson had just been hired as promotions manager for the athletic department. When Barnett took the podium, he poked fun at his former player, and another former player.)

The real reason CJ was hired was that he was Darian Hagan's personal psychologist for three years. Since I've hired Hagan as a receivers coach, I've had to bring CJ back to continue to work with Darian.

In General
We're seven practices into fall camp, so I'll tell you where we are at in a number of different issues. I really feel good about probably 15 or 16 guys on offense, probably 15 or 16 guys on defense. And our four specialists. We consider our holder and our snapper as well as our punter and placekicker as specialist.

I feel really good about where we are in those particular spots in those numbers. I don‚t know how many great players we have but I know we have a good player at every one of those positions.

We don‚t have a lot of depth but that‚s not unusual in college football today with the numbers the way they are, you're forced to play a lot of young kids; forced to practice a lot. That's sort of where we are.

Our entire second offensive line has four of the five are true freshmen. The nightmarish part about that is we work ones against twos, so our second offensive line is going against our first defense right now. Most of them are having headaches and nightmares at night, thinking about what they have to do the next day. We‚re just a little bit thin on the offensive line and we‚re especially thin now at the wide receiver spot with Blake Mackey (injured.) But I do think we have a good core of about four guys at that position and hopefully we can find a fifth guy that can pick up the slack and help us with Blake being out of there.

On Summer Workouts
We've had a great, great summer. I can‚t remember seeing a team in better condition than when we reported for fall camp. That‚s a real credit to (strength and conditioning coach) Greg Finnegan and his staff, who really turned it up. I felt like at the end of spring I thought we were a little bit behind and I told our team that. I felt like we were behind in some of our team development, some of our chemistry and we had to make it up somewhere. Greg put it on himself to make up that difference in the summer. He did a great, great job of really working this team harder than any team we've worked, creating the kind of bonds and chemistry that you need going into camp.

We're in an unusually long camp. We had four and a half weeks before we started (on Aug. 3). That's probably a good week earlier than we normally go. Some of it has to do with the change in the NCAA that allows us to give Sundays off to the players and still have the same number of practice days.

On Bringing the Freshmen in for Summer School
This is the first year that we've been able to bring in our freshmen for summer school before school actually starts. I think we were all looking at it as an experiment, not sure which way it would go. I think overall we've been really pleased with the way it‚s turned out.

The kids have come in and have had to take two classes. They have learned how to go to school; they have learned how to use the academic support system. Our older guys have done a great job of bringing them along, not so much in school but in football. So they are much more prepared for the start of the season and the school year than they ever have been before.

Normally you walk in as a freshman and you're overwhelmed. You've got schoolwork like you haven't seen before, you've got practice like you've never seen before, you're away from home. You've got all these issues. Now, they've tackled all these issues. So once school starts in the fall, they're less likely to be distracted. All of our freshmen but two were in summer school. Our academic people did a great job of transitioning them.

On Camp So Far
We've had a much easier start of camp. I think what it did was allow us to be better sooner, and more physical sooner than we ever have been before. Our first four practices, especially practices three and four were as physical as any practices I've had any time in camp. So much so that I think it took away some of the enthusiasm we had in the first day of pads (Aug. 8). There wasn't any difference in the fifth day and the fourth and third.

Our guys really spent themselves the first five days of practice and then on the sixth day, with Alex Ligon going down, it cost us in the afternoon. We didn't have a great focused practice. But rather than say anything about it I just let it go. I think they needed that to transition themselves away from what looked to be a really bad injury to Alex. (Tests were negative and Ligon is OK).

I think they handled it pretty well. They took (Tuesday) night and went bowling. Today we're giving the players off for the most part and we'll pick it back up tomorrow with two-a-days.

I can tell you right now of what I've seen in camp, John Torp and Mason Crosby are picking up right where they left off. They're having an outstanding camp.

On the Offense
I know I had a lot of questions from you and a lot of people over the summer about how our running game is going to be. I think at the end of spring, Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis both had good springs. I don't know if they had great springs, but they had good springs.

But it's a night and day difference with those two guys compared to where they are now. I really feel good about those two guys. Hugh, in particular, has been outstanding. He's just been amazing actually in camp so far, and Byron has had a good six or seven practices, as well.

I think the other area that has really solidified itself is the offensive line. We don‚t have a lot of guys. We've got six or seven, maybe an eighth guy we can count on. But nobody has any more than that. That's juts about what you have in college football. The rest of them are really young guys that you hope you never have to get to.

Jack Tipton has come back and greatly improved. Mark Fenton is a tremendously improved players. I really like where we are in the offensive line.

Our two tight ends have had great camps so far.

Blake Mackey is hurt in the receiver spot. I like our other four guys. We've got to find a fifth guys.

Our quarterbacks have had a good race for No. 2. There's no question Joel (Klatt) is our No. 1, hands down. And unless there is an injury, he will be our starting quarterback. Joel, like all the seniors, has done a great job over the summer. There was a point in time early on where we had to assess where we were. We talked, I made some suggestions, they creatively came up with a way to handle the summer, and they did a great job with it.

We're really close-knit. Just what you want in a senior class. They've done a really good job.

On the Defense
Defensively, Alex's injury – there's a little bit of a question mark about when he's going to be back. But we have three experienced defensive ends that we can play and three experienced defensive tackles. Again, that's about right. We feel good about that.

There are two spots we have a lot of depth at on defense. One is our linebackers. I don‚t see any drop off between the first and second strings. Brian Iwuh will be our Buff linebacker on the outside and he continues to be a force out there for us. Our receivers all know where he is when they line up. They better know where he is because he is going to find them.

At the safety position we have tremendous competition going on with J.J. Billingsley back in the mix. Even though Dominique Brooks has missed a couple days with finger surgery, we have tremendous competition going on. Ryan Walters, Tom Hubbard and Tyrone Henderson will compete for time, and even Lionel Harris has thrown himself into the mix. He's not quite up with those others yet, but he's made a good showing so far. It's really strong position for us right now.

Corners, we're a little suspect because of losing Terrence Wheatley for the year. He'll have wrist surgery, I think this weekend. And with Vance Washington out (shoulder). Between Vance Washington, Terrence Wheatley and Blake Mackey, that's three of our four fastest (returning) players on our team. Not having that speed available to us is going to make us adjust in some areas.

There's a chance we'll get Vance, we'll just have to wait and see how his shoulder comes along. Terry Washington has stepped up. He's a guy that I think we're going to be able to count on. Gerett Burl has been impressive in camp. Lorenzo Sims has been impressive in camp. We've got to find a fourth corner, maybe a fifth corner. Between Stephone Robinson and Gardner McKay, one of those guys is going to have to be our fourth corner.

We've had great energy in practice so far. When ones go against ones, it's as good as it can be. What we have to do as coaches, because we have so much time in camp, we've gotta make sure that we get to the game healthy and still be ready to play. With our numbers the way they are, it's going to be an art more than a science.

Other than that things have been going well. Things within the department are rolling along. The kids feel really good about where we are, but they all know where we want to go: We want to be in Reliant Stadium on December 3rd (for the Big 12 Championship game).


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