Buffs' TE Battle Heats UP

After losing 26 seniors from 2001 to graduation, the University of Colorado football team has several holes to fill this spring season, with maybe one of the most notable coming at the tight end position.

While Daniel Graham--last season's recipient of the John Mackey Award and unanimous All-America --prepares to become a first-round pick in the National Football League's upcoming draft, the CU coaching staff is looking to find a suitable replacement at the end position for its 2002 campaign.

Drawing the difficult task of following Graham's team-high 51 receptions for 753 yards and six-touchdown season falls upon junior Quinn Sypniewski and senior Beau Williams. With both players listed at the No. 1 spot on the spring depth chart, head coach Gary Barnett has witnessed a hard-fought clash for the starting job during the past two weeks.

"It's going to be a close battle to see who starts," Barnett stated after CU's Monday practice. "Beau has been playing really well, probably a little better than Quinn at this point in time. But certainly, both guys are very talented and are looking to be our starter. Right now, it's a pretty even battle."

Playing in Graham's shadow during CU's Big 12 Championship run, both players got their fair share of field time, as each started two contests apiece, while also participating in all 13 games. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Sypniewski had four catches on the year, with two coming in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon, while Williams, the smaller of the duo at 6-foot-3, 240-pounds, did not a catch pass but now brings knowledge and senior leadership to a young Buff squad.

"Both of us are going really hard out here," Sypniewski commented. "We are good friends on and off the field, but we are always pushing each other. Not many people can say they learned from the best tight end in the country (Graham) last season, so we feel very fortunate to have the opportunities we have now."

"Both these guys have really been doing some good things," tight ends coach John Wristen stated. "Beau has been running great routes and Quinn has really improved catching the ball. They both have been blocking really well, too.

"Certainly, not many players like Dan Graham come around and he's somebody who you'll never be able to replace," Wristen continued. "But I am really excited about (Sypniewski and Williams) and what they're going to do for us."

Barnett said the Buffs held a "very spirited, competitive practice," Monday and it was "just what we needed after Saturday's scrimmage. I thought Saturday afternoon was not very intense...especially on the defense where we played lackluster."

As injuries continue to mount on the offensive line, with Derek Stemrich (dislocated patella) being the most recent, Barnett said he will probably be unable to experiment and "move some guys around" like he wanted to try doing.

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