Sanders Wants To Make Impact

Joe Sanders is taking part in his final spring in a CU uniform. He's moved from linebacker to tight end in hopes of playing a significant role on his team in his final fall.

Kent Riddle stops the drill he's running. He pulls one of his tight ends aside and explains, "work on your hips and keeping your shoulders down." The tight end listens, nods his head then runs back to the end of the line.

But this isn't a young player receiving instructions. In fact, this player has been on the team longer than any of his teammates taking part in the drill. Still, it's Joe Sanders' first practice as a tight end since spring 2004.

Sanders was recruited to Colorado the year before as a tight end out of Hillsboro High in Nashville. He injured his shoulder in a high school all-star that year, had shoulder surgery in the summer and missed that first fall of practices.

Two practices in to the spring 2004, Sanders was moved from tight end to linebacker. That fall, things looked bright for Sanders. His interception return for a touchdown helped nudge the Buffs past Washington State in a nationally televised game in the non-conference portion of CU's scheduled.

But since that highlight reel moment, Sanders has played mostly special teams. With junior Brad Jones firmly entrenched in the starting outside linebacker spot in front of him, Sanders decided he wanted to move back to a position he says he's more comfortable with to play his final year in Boulder.

"I feel like I have a real chance to make a serious impact on the team at a tight end/h-back position," Sanders said. "My first two days I've been rolling in there pretty consistent."

Riddle likes Sanders' athleticism, his toughness, and said his new pupil has good speed and good hands. Now he has to catch up on the terminology, the details of route running and blocking technique.

"He's doing fine in that area, but it's just the other guys have a year's experience on him there," Riddle said. "He's working his butt off to catch up, I'll give him that. It's just you can't expect him to be as good as Riar (Geer) is today."

Geer led the Buffs in receptions a year ago. Also playing tight end this spring are senior Tyson DeVree, sophomore Patrick Devenny and redshirt-freshmen Nate Solder and Devin Shanahan.

Riddle said he expects Sanders to make an impact at the position in the fall.

That's what Sanders is counting on doing.

"I'm a lot more comfortable. I'm a lot more confident," Sanders said. "I'm looking forward to the future."

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