5 Questions: Spring Ball

Colorado begins its spring practices this afternoon. Coming off last year's 2-10 season, there's an urgency in and around the program to make significant improvements. Inside, five questions about spring ball, which will culminate with the April 14 spring game.

1) How will the demanding offseason affect things on the field?

They're bigger, they're stronger, and they're probably a little tougher after enduring a rigorous winter workout regimen under strength coach Jeff Pitman. Now let's see what that means when the pads are on.

2) Can the offense make real progress with just six healthy offensive linemen?
With only six fully healthy offensive linemen in spring ball — a seventh, Erick Faatagi, could be available on a limited basis — CU coaches have their work cut out for them. How do you run in-practice scrimmages with just one offensive line unit? Problem is, this may affect not only the offense, but the defense. Can CU's second and third team defense's get enough reps?

3) How does the quarterback competition shake out?
This is THE competition to watch this spring. Bernard Jackson, who started 11 games a year ago, is the known commodity. Redshirt-freshman Cody Hawkins will finally get his chance to compete for first-team responsibilities this spring. Juco transfer Nick Nelson could very well end up ahead of both, when all is said and done.

One thing is certain, the Buffs need someone under center who can jumpstart what was a lackluster 2006 unit.

4) Colorado needs to get better on special teams. What are they doing to accomplish that?
I'm not talking about the departure of Mason Crosby. While we won't be holding our breath to see any 65-yarders this fall, senior Kevin Eberhart should prove to be a solid college placekicker. And punter Matt DiLallo can only get better with experience.

The problem is coverage. The Buffs were average — sometimes below — on punt and kick coverage. Also, there were no big run-backs. Getting better here needs to be an emphasis over the next several weeks.

5) How will some of the young players step into bigger roles?
The Buffs lose two full-time starters on offense — guard Brian Daniels and center Mark Fenton. On defense, starting ends Walter Boye-Doe and Abraham Wright have moved on, as has inside linebacker Thaddaeus Washington and defensive backs J.J. Billingsley, Lorenzo Sims and Terry Washington.

Their departure opens the door for several players to emerge. Sophomore Devin Head will see plenty of action at guard this spring. Redshirt-freshmen Wes Palazzi and Keenan Stevens will also get lots of reps at guard and center.

Look for defensive backs Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith to make things interesting in the defensive backfield. Both redshirted last fall, and both have had strong offseasons. Gardener McKay battled some nagging injuries during what was a disappointing sophomore campaign. Can he rebound?

Sophomore Michael Sipili is expected to take over Washington's role at linebacker after spelling him often last year. Creating depth at linebacker will be a priority this spring. Junior Marcus Burton didn't play as much as expected last year, but should be a factor this spring. Redshirt-freshman B.J. Beatty and true freshman Josh Hartigan will compete for a back up role at outside linebacker, as well.

Replacing Wright and Boye-Doe will be a challenge. Senior Alonzo Barrett and junior Maurice Lucas have the most experience at defensive end, but redshirt-freshman Marquez Herrod and Juco transfer Drew Hudgins will push for No. 1 status.

A trio of youngsters — sophomores Jason Brace and Taj Kaynor, and redshirt-freshman Eric Lawson — will try and prove they're ready to take on more responsibility on the defensive line, as well.

BuffStampede Top Stories