Practice Report — August 18

The way he sees it, he's gone from the jailhouse to the laugh-house; from the cement block to the leather couch. He's the older brother who's moved out of the house. And to signify the move, cornerback-turned-receiver Vance Washington is sporting a new number. Also inside, news on Lorenzo Sims (pictured) and how the departure of two defensive ends will affect some of CU's young defensive linemen.

Vance Washington showed up at practice Thursday wearing No. 21, rather than the 7 he's worn since he was a freshman in 2002. The number change was further proof that Washington's move from corner to wide receiver may stick. (He can't wear No. 7 on offense, as quarterback Bernard Jackson already has claim to that digit).

Washington said his teammates liked the idea of No. 21, as it echoed another corner/receiver — Deion Sanders, aka Prime Time.

Before anyone gets too excited, Washington's growth as a wide out is still in the infant stages. Having never played the position before (other than a few snaps in high school), he doesn't yet have the soft hands of a regular-down receiver.

What he does have is speed, something the receiver unit will miss without Blake Mackey, out for the year with a knee injury. Head coach Gary Barnett went so far Thursday to put Washington's speed in the same category as former Buff Jeremy Bloom.

"He can flat take the top off the defense," Barnett said. "He'll make or corners better and he has a great feel for the position. I think it's a great move for him and us."

The move came about in recent days. Washington, rehabbing a shoulder injury, was on his way to visit trainer Steve Willard for a rehab session when Willard told him Barnett wanted to see him.

"I was like, ‘Oh, man, I'm in trouble. I'm peaking in his office like a kid," Washington said Thursday.

But instead of a reprimand, Barnett asked Washington if he could catch the ball. Washington, never one to lack for confidence, said he could. Barnett asked if he wanted to try receiver.

Washington replied, "I'll do anything. I've been in so many different roles on the team, I just want to win ballgames."

Barnett worked him out individually during a practice last week. Washington passed the test, and has been running with the receivers ever since.

What was clear Thursday during an 11-on-11 scrimmage situation was that Washington can stretch a defense. He beat Gardner McKay, no slouch in the speed department himself, on one post pattern by a couple of steps and calmly hauled in a James Cox floater. A few plays later, a pass went through Washington's hands and bounced off his helmet.

"We're going to give him some buckets." Barnett joked, when asked if he thought Washington could catch the ball well enough. "He's never worked on it much. But he's so far out in front of everybody, he's liable to catch the ball. He'll get better."

Indeed, Washington is already running better routes than he did last week. He said is experience at corner helps him understand how to get open as a receiver.

" I can see their eyes get real big as they gather on the cushions," he said about the CU defensive backs. "They're doing exactly what they're coached to do. But Coach Watson and Coach Hagan, they tell you the secrets, the tricks of the trade."

It remains to be seen if Washington develops quickly enough at his new position to really make an impact on offense this fall. Washington is also still adjusting to his new unit after playing with a defensive mentality the past three years.

"It's weird going from a corner to a receiver," he said. "(The receivers) are all friendly to each other. On defense you're in jail all the time, in the concrete block all the time. You're in a sweatshop doing pushups and sit-ups all the time. It's a real change. It's fun, though.

His former defensive mates have been curious about life on the other side of the ball.

"They ask me, ‘How is it over on offense?'" Washington said. "I'm like, ‘Oh, it's good. I don't get yelled at. We laugh and joke around in meetings. I even got a positive comment.'"

Barnett pleased with practice
Barnett called Thursday's practice the team's best so far of August camp.

"Everybody knew what they were doing and went after each other. Good tempo, good execution on both sides," he said.

The team went through a 16-play scrimmage late in practice, before working on the two-minute drill to end the go.

During the scrimmage, ones went against ones, twos vs. twos. Using a system where the offense wins with a 4-yard gain or better, the defense wins with 2-yards or fewer by the offense, and 3-yards is a tie, the offense won 8 plays, the defense won 7 and there was one tie.

Edwin Harrison was running without a blue jersey with the No. 2 team at split guard.

First-team wide outs were Dusty Sprague and Evan Judge, but Alvin Barnett and Patrick Williams also ran with the ones on some plays.

Gerett Burl and Terry Washington (corners), and J.J. Billingsley and Tyrone Henderson (safeties) were first team secondary. Washington was in there subbing for Lorenzo Sims (knee).

DE transfers puts pressure on young linemen
Following the first practice without redshirt-freshmen defensive ends Greg Newman and David Veikune, CU defensive line coach Bill Inge said the departure of the duo means some of the younger players have to step up. Among the five true freshmen defensive linemen, Maurice Lucas and Taj Kaynor have been seeing reps primarily at defensive end.

"I think one thing that does is puts a little more pressure on the young kids," Inge said. "They understand that they just have to mature a little faster."

Newman is transferring to Utah, citing a desire to live in a Mormon community, according to a CU press release. Veikune plans to transfer to Fresno City College, and perhaps later back home to Hawaii.

Inge said their departures caught him by surprise. The first year coach said while it was still too early to tell because camp is still ongoing, they would have had the opportunity to compete for the two-deep. Barnett was more to the point.

"It was too early to tell where that position was going to be. They weren't going to be in the two deep, that's for sure," Barnett said. "But that's an area where we have a lot of depth. It's going to give our young guys, our freshmen defensive ends a lot more reps."

Practice Times set
CU's final two-a-day practice takes place Friday. The first go is scheduled for 8-10:05 a.m. and the other from 4-6:10 p.m. The Buffs are scheduled to hold a scrimmage on Saturday for Fan Appreciation Day. The action will start at 4 and end around 5:30 p.m.

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