No Worries Yet About CU's Quarterback

Just scan down Colorado's depth chart and it's easy to see the areas head coach Gary Barnett feels great about and not so great about. CU's defense will contend for the tag of ‘best defense in recent years,' but the offense could be downright offensive at times with very little experience at the quarterback and line positions.

The Buffs will rely heavily on that defense to offset an offense that is sure to start slow with sophomore quarterback Joel Klatt at the reins behind an offensive line with just one starter returning in Marwan Hage.

"I kind of sleep more on the defensive side of the ball, because if I rolled over on the offensive side I don't know if I'd sleep very well," said Barnett during Thursday's afternoon session of Big 12 media days. "You look at the players returning to our defense and you think we have the chance to be as good a defense as we've had in a long time.

"It gives the other side a chance to grow a little bit and buys some time. We've got good depth all around. I don't think I've seen as much depth on the defensive line since I've been here."

Free safety Medford Moorer is looking forward to the challenge this defense faces.

"We have a lot of depth on defense," said Moorer, a first-team All-Big 12 defender that ranked second on the team in tackles last fall with 107. "We're on top of our game, as far as players playing a lot. Each year you try to get better. We have a lot of young kids that have gotten better and better each year. The offense will carry itself. We need to play with all of our hearts."

But it was the offense and Klatt that received the most attention from the media attending Thursday's event, as Barnett faced numerous questions about the state of the quarterback position heading into this season. Klatt has yet to take any snaps in a game, as Robert Hodge and Craig Ochs saw all the action last fall. In fact, Klatt spent two seasons playing minor league baseball in the San Diego Padres organization before opting for a return to football.

While he hasn't been afforded much work on the field for the Buffs, Klatt does have some of the other intangibles Barnett looks for.

"That's probably the least of my concerns, as far as the areas we have the least experience with," Barnett said. "None of those kids have played, so you don't really know what to expect. But I have a lot of confidence in Joel Klatt to lead this club. He kind of took over the position this spring. He came out of spring ahead and has carried himself well this summer.

"He played two years with the San Diego Padres organization. He's the only one of the quarterbacks that shaves. His maturity alone gives him an edge. Just being a professional athlete and 21 years old and the character he has. He exudes confidence and leadership. The kids followed him a year ago when they didn't know who he was. He will have no problem handling that position from a leadership standpoint."

Klatt already has the support of the unquestioned leader of the CU offense, Hage, who made the trip to Kansas City along with Barnett and free safety Medford Moorer.

"Whoever coach puts in there is going to be capable and we'll support him," said Hage. "He will make some mistakes along the way, but we need to stick by him."

The offensive line is another area of concern, as Hage will likely be the focal point of many defensive game plans. Senior guard Karl Allis is the only other player with much playing experience. The other three starters are likely Mark Fenton (center), and sophomore tackles Clint O'Neal and Gary Moore.

Hage has taken ownership of the group, spending an hour and a half after practice during the spring to coach up the group.

"We have a lot of stuff to do in the offensive line," Hage said. "We're friends and hang out all the time. We watch a lot of tape and work on our footwork a lot. We spend time together twice a week during the summer, just us, working on whatever we need to.

"Talent-wise, we have more than we have in a few years. This line hung together all summer trying to gel together. It starts off the field. We need to put it all together this fall."

Team notes

Visiting the site of the Big 12 Championship game with his players on the way to Big 12 Media Days has become an annual tradition for Barnett, who has hit Houston and Dallas in past years. CU went on to make consecutive trips to the event as Big 12 North champs.

Asked if he took Hage and Moorer to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City this year, he replied, "Yes, we did stop by. The field is in very good shape."

The Buff running backfield will likely be a two-man show this fall with Bobby Purify and Brian Calhoun, two role players in the past that will step out from behind the shadows of past starters.

"Bobby has either been the guy behind Chris Brown or Cortlen Johnson," Barnett said. "He's been a really steady performer that hasn't really ever been in the spotlight. We'll have to see how he does in that role. He's a really talented bigger back that's experienced."

"Brian's more of a speed back, a very competitive player. He was a world-class long jumper in high school that's a tremendous athlete. He's more of a Cortlen Johnson-type, as far as his size."

(CN would like to thank The Nest Bar & Grill in Johnston for sponsoring our coverage from Kansas City. CN & The Nest would like to invite you to join us on Wednesday, August 27th for our 2003 preseason tailgate party. Stay tuned to CN and 1460-KXNO for more details)

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