Experience Abundant in CU Secondary

Colorado is set to begin its first practice with Dan Hawkins and his staff on Monday. Inside, the BSN continues its preview of all the positions, looking at the secondary.

The Buffs return several veterans in the secondary. Three full-time defensive back starters — all seniors — return from last year's squad in cornerbacks Gerett Burl and Lorenzo Sims, and safety J.J. Billingsley. Fellow senior safety Tyrone Henderson is also very experienced with several starts under his belt.

Under new defensive coordinator Ron Collins, the secondary will use some different terminology. The last two seasons, CU's safeties mirrored each other, and could pull both duties typically assigned to a strong and free safety. This year, one safety will be called "rover," the other "free safety" — the same terms used by Collins' defenses at Boise State in recent seasons.

Heading into spring ball, Billingsley, a ballhawk, and sophomore Ryan Walters, probably the secondary's fiercest hitter, will man the rover spot. Henderson and junior Lionel Harris will vie for a spot atop the depth chart at free safety, along with a pair of sophomore walk-ons, Joel Adams and Baylor transfer Matt Yegge.

Senior Dominique Brooks will miss spring ball still rehabbing from knee surgery (Jan. 10). It's still to be determined if Brooks will be healthy enough to play in 2006, or if he'll take a redshirt year available to him.

While there are only four players with experience at two safety positions going into spring, there's a logjam at cornerback .

Burl developed into a solid cover corner in 2005, and plays the run better than his 160-pound frame would predict. When completely healthy, Sims — who was hampered with a knee injury all last season — may be the team's most savvy corner. Senior Terry Washington brings the best combination of strength and speed to the position, and could flourish under Brown after languishing under former coach Craig Bray.

Sophomore Ben Burney was unheralded out of high school, and was one of the surprises of the freshman class last year, playing his way onto the field as a rookie. Fellow sophomore Gardner McKay will get his chance to prove he's the fastest defensive back on the field when the team runs a post-spring timing day in early May. His biggest competition will be junior Terrence Wheatley, who is 100 percent after three surgeries appear to have his wrist repaired well enough to play. Wheatley was among the three fastest players on the team prior to the 2004 injury.

Wheatley sat out the 2005 season recovering from surgery. He dropped to 160 pounds last summer, but is weighing between 180 and 185 pounds now, and says he thinks he's even faster than before the injury. His wrist has limited mobility after the third surgery fused bones together, and he is learning to play with it.

Sophomore Terry Wilson failed to get on the field his first two seasons under Bray, and, like the rest of his teammates, the former high school quarterback goes into spring ball with a clean slate and the opportunity to impress his new mentors. Senior Vance Washington, a special teams standout when he's been healthy (shoulder), is back at corner after playing both corner and wide receiver last season.

The Roster
Gerett Burl, Sr., 5-10, 160*
@Career stats: 24 games, 98 tackles, 2 TFL, 24 PBU, 2 INT.

Ben Burney, So., 5-11, 190
Career stats: 7 games, 1 INT.

Gardner McKay, So., 5-11, 160
Career stats: 9 games, 5 tackles, 1 PBU.

Lorenzo Sims, Sr., 5-11, 185
Career stats: 36 games, 112 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 29 PBU, 6 INT.

Terry Washington, Sr., 5-10, 195
Career stats: 10 games, 13 tackles, 3 PBU.

Vance Washington, Sr., 5-10, 185
Career stats (non-special teams/offense): 1 game, 1 tackle

Terrence Wheatley, Jr., 5-10, 175
Career stats: 18 games, 57 tackles, 8 PBU, 4 INT.

Terry Wilson, So., 5-11, 200
Career stats: Has not played.

J.J. Billingsley, Sr., 5-11, 185
Career stats: 39 games, 255 tackles, 22 TFL, 3 Sacks, 8 PBU, 4 INT

Ryan Walters, So., 5-11, 200
Career stats: 9 games, 16 tackles.

&Justin Weller, So., 5-11, 205
Career stats: Has not played.

&Joel Adams, So., 5-11, 185
Career stats: Has not played.

Dominique Brooks, Sr., 6-1, 180
Career stats: 96 tackles, 4 TFL, 9 PBU, 2 INT.

Lionel Harris, Jr., 6-0, 190
Career stats: 5 games, 2 tackles, 1 INT.

Tyrone Henderson, Sr., 5-10, 180
Career stats: 23 games, 146 tackles, 3 TFL, 7 PBU.

&Matt Yegge, So., 6-3, 200
Career stats: Has not played.

Players lost: Tom Hubbard.

*Vitals for all players are per CU SID as of March 6.
@ Career stats do not include bowl game appearances.
& Walk-on.

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