In-state tight end target visits this week

Colorado football coaches have landed three of the best prospects the state has to offer in the 2009 recruiting cycle, but they could be close to adding several more in-state products in the next few weeks. Several of those players plan official visits this weekend, including a coveted tight end. Get inside for more.

DaVaughn Thornton, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound playmaker from Denver East High School recently received a scholarship offer from the Buffs and plans to be in Boulder this weekend on what will be one of the most important recruiting weekend of the 2009 cycle for the CU program.

Thornton made an unofficial trip to Boulder in early October and watched the Buffs play Texas at Folsom Field.

"I like it," he said. "It's a real nice campus with all the mountains in the background."

The Colorado program will lose three senior tight ends at the conclusion of next season in Riar Geer, Patrick Devenny and Devin Shanahan, leaving just three on the roster in Ryan Deehan, Ryan Wallace and Luke Walters, assuming Walters is able to come back from injury.

Those numbers make obvious the need for tight ends in this recruiting class. The program is expected to take at least two in this recruiting cycle. It's possible Jarrod Darden, a 6-5 wide receiver from Texas, could become a tight end during his time in the program.

"They are one of my favorites right now along with Cal and Arizona State," Thornton said.

Thornton said neither Cal of ASU has offered him a scholarship at this point. Coaches at both programs have asked him to make an official visit without a scholarship offer. He is planning those visits for later this month.

Thornton said he holds scholarship offers from CU, Colorado State, Wyoming and San Diego State. He said New Mexico coaches have told him to count on an offer from them.

Thornton said he has grown up in Colorado, but doesn't consider himself a fan of the state's flagship program. He said he only began paying close attention to the Buffs in the past year.

"I like their philosophy," Thornton said. "I think I can play in their system. They're one of the few teams in the Big 12 that use the tight end."

Thornton said CU coaches just began evaluating his high school transcripts to determine his eligibility at CU. He said he plans to take college entrance exams as many times as possible to get the best score he can. He reports a 3.5 grade-point average and doesn't figure to be a high-risk prospect academically.

Thornton said CU has been recruiting him all year and he first heard from the program during his junior season. He said he and tight ends coach Kent Riddle have a solid relationship. Riddle serves as the primary recruiting contact for Thornton and his Denver East teammate place-kicker/punter Zach Grossnickle, who is also visiting this weekend.

Thornton had this to say about Grossnickle's kicking ability.

"He's real good," he said. "In practices he would try 60-yarders and make one out of 10, but, still, it's 60 yards."

In regard to Grossnickle's kickoff and punting performance, Thornton said, "He was probably our best defensive player."

The opportunity to play early in his career in Boulder is one draw to CU among others for Thornton.

"(Riddle) said I can play right away definitely, but I don't have to force myself to play right away," Thornton said. "I can redshirt. He said there is plenty of time to play at the tight end position.

The Thornton family has deep roots in the Big 12 Conference. His older brother played basketball at Texas Tech and his parents both attended Oklahoma State.

At Denver East, Thornton has played tight end, catching about 40 balls for more than 800 yards as a senior, as well as linebacker and defensive end. East head coach is former CU linebacker Ron Woolfork (1991-93). Thornton said Woolfork has good things to say about Colorado, but doesn't push him to be a Buff.

"Of course he says it's a great opportunity to play Division I football, BCS football," Thornton said. "Of course he's vouching for them. That's where he went. It's his alma mater. He would love for me to go there."

Thornton said he could have a decision as early as next week or as late as national signing day (Feb. 4).

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