Something To Prove

By his own admission, Stephone Robinson lost some confidence as the 2006 season ran its course. Some mistakes at punt returner and scant playing time at wide receiver led to a down year for the former Mullen High School player. He's working to get his game back to the level at which he knows he can play.

Stephone Robinson returned 15 punts for 5.1 yard average, and caught two passes for one yard in 2006. That was well off what he did as a sophomore in 2005, when Big 12 coaches voted him second-team all-conference.

In Saturday's scrimmage, Robinson had a catch that topped his entire 2006 output.

On a third and 8, Robinson cut across the right side of the field, dove and cradled a pass from Cody Hawkins. The play moved the chains, something at which the Buffs were woeful last fall.

"I was right where Cody wanted me to be," Robinson said after Monday afternoon's practice. "We watched it on film. He checked the left side of the field, and he just needed to come back and put the ball right where he thought I should be, and I was there."

Also on Saturday, Robinson and Chase McBride were the only two returners working with the first team punt return unit. Robinson has the opportunity to earn the first team job there, but will likely be backup kick returner. Kiesau said he's in the mix to play at receiver, as well. The coach is still looking for a little more effort though.

"Stephone's doing well, but we've just got to get him to run hard every down," Kiesau said. "He's definitely in the mix with the other guys."

Kiesau said, like all the veteran receivers, Robinson has benefited from a group of young receivers who have entered the program.

"It's great with this competition thing, we get some of these younger guys to come in here and they push these older guys. It creates a level of competition that we need," he said. "I think Stephone's feeling that — ‘Hey, I better start making plays.'"

Robinson said he spent the summer working on the little things he had neglected last season, in order to regain some of his lost confidence. The senior just wants another chance to contribute.

"It's going to be a chance to bounce back and show people that I can play," he said. "I lost a little confidence there toward the end (of 2006). But I'm still capable of making big plays. It'll be exciting to get out there."

• Kiesau worked with the mechanics of another veteran wide receiver in the spring. Junior Patrick Williams was catching the ball outside the core of his body, and it often made for awkward catches. Williams spent the summer getting used to catching the ball closer to the center of his body, rather than to the side, and the progress is paying off. He's now catching that way with a defender in his face.

Kiesau noted Williams' confidence has grown, as well.

"His body language is much more positive," the coach said. "Last year, when the ball was in the air, you sort of held your breath, whereas now he's going right at the ball and attacking the ball."

• Former Buff tight end and illusionist Tennyson McCarty stopped by practice on Monday afternoon. After practice, Coach Hawkins gathered the team for his usual post practice talk, then handed it over to McCarty who conducted a card trick that had the players hooting and hollering. But the biggest cheer came a few minutes later when McCarty performed a trick that ended with the announcement that Tuesday's practice had been cancelled.

Hawkins said afterward the team had been working hard. He likes their conditioning, but he wants to give their legs a rest.

"You've got to be smart. You've got to temper it just a little bit," he said. "They're in very good shape; that's not an issue. It's a long season, so we need to make sure they're fresh when the first game starts."

They'll have a short walk through after breakfast Tuesday, lift weights, then it's off to play paint ball.

• The team will get back to practice Wednesday with a two-a-day scheduled. The second practice will be from 8-10 p.m. Hawkins said it's to begin to get used to some of the logistics that will happen when CU hosts Florida State on Sept. 15. That game will kick off at 8 p.m.

• Several players were on sand duty Monday afternoon. Josh Smith got dinged up (neck) during practice and finished on the wheelbarrow brigade. Others included Markques Simas (shoulder), Lagrone Shields, Brad Jones and Riar Geer.

Meanwhile, Brandon Nicolas, Jason Brace and Tyson DeVree were back in pads.

Keenan Stevens, Erick Faatagi and Alvin Barnett practiced in shells. Bernard Jackson practiced in the morning but missed the afternoon session because of an independent study class.

• For a guy who hasn't practiced much this fall, wide out Alvin Barnett was moving well Monday afternoon. He was in shells (most of the team was in full pads), but participated in most of the drills. He caught a nice sideline ball toward the end of practice.

• Both Cody Hawkins and Nick Nelson continue to take reps with the first team. No word yet on when the starter will be named, though they won't make it public until after Saturday's scrimmage.

• Freshman tailback Brian Lockridge has made an impression on teammates and coaches in his short time in Boulder. He's one of those Energizer Bunny guys who has an abundance of energy. Hawkins said Lockridge reminds him of Abraham Wright a little in that sense.

"He's got an unbelievable spirit," Hawkins said.

Look for Lockridge to contribute on special teams this season.

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