Sophomore B.J. Beatty is pushing senior, two-year starter Brad Jones at outside linebacker. Beatty's always been one of those guys with a motor that doesn't stop. And he's been coachable since he walked on campus in 2006. Now Beatty is starting to catch up with the mental part of the outside ‘backer's role in CU's defense, he's improved some in pass coverage, and he's been one of the biggest surprises of the spring.
Erick Faatagi has been healthy and eligible all spring — though he's missed some practice time because of a class conflict – for the first time since he's been a Buffalo. Heading into his senior year, the mauler has all the tools to win a starting spot at guard. But coaches weren't pleased with his performance last Saturday in CU's scrum, and redshirt-freshman Matt Bahr is right in the mix.
While Cody Hawkins appears to have a secure hold on retaining his starting spot at quarterback, senior Nick Nelson and redshirt freshman Matt Ballenger are going at it for the backup spot. Conventional wisdom says that unless Ballenger can really distinguish himself ahead of Nelson, a tie will go to the veteran.
Jeff Smart is perhaps the quickest linebacker this spring, and he plays like his name. He's a guy that tends to be in the right place at the right time, and though a tad undersized, the junior is physical at the point of attack. Coaches love that. Michael Sipili is perhaps the most physical of all the linebackers, but after missing last fall and the early part of this spring, the sophomore trails Smart in being precise with his assignments. Both players will play plenty in 2008.
There's no getting around it, the Buffs will be inexperienced at cornerback next fall. There's a group of five players fighting for starting duties, including senior Gardner McKay, junior Chapelle Brown, sophomores Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith and redshirt freshman Anthony Wright. If you had McKay's quickness, C. Brown's moxie, J. Brown's strength, Wright's toughness and Smith's size, you'd have a first-team all-Big 12 player.
2. Can The Defense Slow The Offense
Typically, the defense is ahead of the offense in spring ball. This has been an a-typical spring in that regard. Using a no-huddle, shotgun scheme almost exclusively, the CU offense has put up more than 600 yards in each of the first two spring scrimmages. They've scored 14 touchdowns, too.
You've got to believe the offense's new look has led to much of its success the past few Saturdays. And several linebackers missed the team's first scrimmage in April, leaving the ranks thin. But the defense needs to slow their counterparts and create some turnovers in the spring game to end on a positive note.
Senior Daniel Dykes has turned into the secondary's vocal leader this spring. He's staying upbeat.
"As a defense, I just want to do things right (in the spring game)," Dykes said. "We've been getting better, and I want us to be physical, to tackle well and to get a couple turnovers.
"(The young players are) coming along nicely. They're learning the system. There are guys in the ones and twos that haven't played much, and they're quick learners. We're installing stuff that I'd never learned before, and guys are picking it up."
3. Can Kickers Find Consistency?
Jameson Davis and Aric Goodman both have good, strong legs. And both have competed well throughout spring practices. But both have been inconsistent in field goal and point after attempts in the team's scrimmages. Saturday's conditions should be perfect – sunny, temperatures in the 70s.
4. Can J-Fly Find The End Zone?
Sophomore receiver Josh Smith will touch the ball a lot Saturday, as he has all spring. Until Darrell Scott wears a CU uniform in the fall, Smith is the fastest player on the CU offense, and coaches want to take advantage of that.
He's in the receiver rotation, running reverses and catching punts and kickoffs. But Smith has yet to break through and score in previous scrimmages. (He didn't get into the end zone last season, either.) That trend is bound to change, maybe, beginning with the spring game.
(Speaking of Scott, he's expected to attend the spring game. He'll be the kid on the sidelines that everyone in the stands is gawking at.)
5. How Many Fans In the Stands?
Former coach Bill McCartney challenged Buffalo Nation to get 50,000 fans at Saturday's spring game. The most to ever watch a CU spring game was in 1989, when 13,654 came. That was the year former CU quarterback Sal Aunese was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer.
Here is Saturday's schedule:
10:30 a.m. Healthy Kids Day. Kids in 8th grade and under can meet their favorite student-athletes and participate in skill/fitness stations on Folsom Field. The first 500 kids who complete all required activities will receive a free CU t-shirt and lunch from Outback Steakhouse. All Healthy Kids Day Activities are free.
11 a.m. – noon. Autograph Session. CU football players and other student-athletes will be on hand to sign autographs at Folsom.
11:30: Pregame Party in Balch. CU-Boulder Chancellor Bud Peterson, CU Athletics and the CU Alumni Association in Boulder are hosting this pregame party. The first 1,000 attendees will receive a free hot dog, soda, chips, and cookie. Gather with other Buff supporters for entertainment, food, raffles, door prizes, school spirit, an autograph session with former Buffs and much more in Balch Fieldhouse.
Noon. Open House: The Byron White Stadium Club will host an Open House and Select-A-Seat event for new club seat purchases. If someone purchases Club Seats for the 2008 Season they will receive a commemorative 2007 Independence Bowl Game football autographed by Coach Hawkins. Everyone is welcome to head up to the club seats on the East side of Folsom Field to check out the amenities and views.
1 p.m. Spring Game.