Is it Lionel Harris' Turn?

In February 2003, former CU head coach Gary Barnett told a large audience at the annual Signing Day Luncheon he thought a safety from Manvel, Texas, named Lionel Harris would see the field as a true freshman. Things didn't quite work out that way. But now it appears the fourth-year junior will get his first start as a Buffalo this Saturday vs. Baylor.

Starting strong safety J.J. Billingsley is "doubtful" for the game, according to head coach Dan Hawkins. Billingsley did not practice Wednesday after injuring his knee Tuesday. Meanwhile, starting free safety Ryan Walters is still listed "day to day," recovering from a "stinger" he suffered in last week's loss to Missouri.

Two new faces could be in the starting lineup in the secondary Saturday.

"Me and Ben (Burney) are going to be back there probably," Harris said after Wednesday's practice.

Secondary coach Greg Brown indicated it's Lionel Harris' turn.

"When you get somebody who's injured, the next guy's got to step up and play," Brown said. "It's unfortunate for one guy, but then the next guy's up to bat, it's his turn to go up and show what he can do."

The playing time for Harris has been a long time coming. He redshirted his freshman year in 2003, then played just 36 snaps on defense the following two years, while making contributions as a special teams player.

At the beginning of this season, Harris was back at his special teams spot, and is tied for third on the team with four special teams points. But Harris has also seen action at safety in two games, most notably last week in the loss at Missouri. Harris caught the eye of many CU fans with a couple of big hits against the Tigers, and Brown's eye, too.

"He came in the game last week and showed he's got some physical ability and laid some licks on people," Brown said.

Despite not having the opportunity to inflict the big hits on opponents, Harris has long earned the reputation as a big hitter among his teammates. It's a role the well-mannered Texan likes, and one he wants to expand on, beginning Saturday.

"I take pride in that," Harris said. "I want to go out there and make the big hits, make the crowd get into it and my teammates. Big hits bring everybody up. That's my job."

Harris, at times, wondered if he'd ever get the chance to do his job on game day. But he takes responsibility for not seeing the field more often earlier in his career.

"It was a frustration. But I guess I wasn't working hard enough or going hard enough in practice," Harris said. "But as soon as Coach saw that I was, things started opening up. It was probably my actions that kept me off the field."

Harris said Brown has been talking to him all season about taking on more responsibility in the defensive backfield. That responsibility includes more than head hunting. Harris has been working harder on the mental aspect, too, this season.

"He told me that I have the tools, I just have to show it. I have to let him know that I'm trustworthy, that I know my plays, my checks and everything like that," Harris said. "He's been telling me the whole season."

Dan Hawkins confirmed Wednesday that it's unlikely Billingsley will play Saturday. He indicated Billingsley suffered a similar injury to what gave him problems in the past, only on the other knee. He was on crutches at Wednesday's practice.

In 31 snaps of action in two games at safety this season, Harris has seven tackles and has broken up a pass. Hawkins has taken notice of Harris' play.

"He's a physical player," Hawkins said.

Playing against Baylor's spread offense, communication on defense will be a key. Harris said coaches have been working closely with he and Burney, the sophomore safety. Harris said Brown wants him to take authority when he's on the field, to act like he belongs.

"I'm just coming out here trying to help my team out, trying to get a win under our belt. I'm going to do everything in my power to strive for that," Harris said. "We've just got to play our responsibilities. The coaches laid out a perfect game plan for us so we've just got to invest into it and run it to perfection."

Depth in the Back End?
With Billingsley likely out and Walters' status still up in the air, CU is suddenly thin at safety. CU safeties learn both the free and strong positions, and behind Burney and Harris, in alphabetical order, are sophomore Joel Adams, redshirt freshman Reggie Foster and sophomore Terry Wilson, none of whom have played a down on defense. Senior DB Lorenzo Sims can also slide over and play safety.

Depth Chart Shuffle
Sophomore Maurice Cantrell has moved into the top fullback spot on this week's depth chart. Cantrell moved to fullback in August after playing his first two years at CU at linebacker.

Kordell Stewart Grand Marshall of Homecoming
Former Colorado Buffalo quarterback Kordell Stewart will serve as Honorary Grand Marshall and join popular CU anthropology professor Dennis Van Gerven who is Grand Marshall of Homecoming this weekend.

Homecoming weekend will kick off with a coaches autograph session at the University Memorial Center at 2 p.m. Friday. Fans can catch the women's soccer team take on the Texas A&M Aggies at Prentup Field at 4 p.m., and the annual Homecoming Parade on University Hill will be held at 4:30 p.m.

The Homecoming Parade will feature about 35 floats from CU residence halls, students groups, Greeks and the community at large. Van Gerven and Stewart, the Big Eight Conference's all-time leader in total offense, will lead the parade.

Other Homecoming weekend festivities include:

Friday
2 p.m. Coaches autograph session, CU Bookstore, UMC atrium
4 p.m. CU Soccer vs. Texas A&M, Prentup Field
4:30 p.m. Annual Homecoming Parade, University Hill
5:15 p.m. Pep rally, awards ceremony w/CU coaches, 13th and University
7 p.m. Pearl Street Stampede, CU Marching Band, Courthouse on Pearl

Saturday
11:30 a.m. Alumni pre-game party, Benson Field, CU campus
1:30 p.m. CU Football vs. Baylor, Folsom Field, tickets still available at 303-49-BUFFS

Sunday
1 p.m. CU Soccer vs. Texas, Prentup Field

Tickets Remain
Kickoff for Saturday's game at Folsom between CU and Baylor is at 1:30 p.m. Several thousand tickets remain. Fans can purchase them by calling 303-49-BUFFS.


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