BOULDER - It wasn't that Kirk Poston believed his first two years in Colorado football were misspent, but entering Year Three he recognized he had to do something to get recognized.

So the sophomore defensive end from Houston got serious about his weight room regimen, brought a little more energy into spring drills and a little more than that into August camp.

In short, he hit the START button.

In the final week of preseason work, CU defensive ends coach Kanavis McGhee, who knows just a little about the position, was comfortable in proclaiming Poston as his most improved player.

Make that "vastly improved," noted McGhee. "He showed some good things and toward the end of camp we made the decision, 'Well, here's your shot to come in and do what needs to be done.

"He's been here three years. It's one of those things of, 'Yeah, you're young, but you've been around here a minute. And although you're young, the leadership needs to come, too."

That can come in time. Right now, Poston is simply playing as if his time has come.

It's no surprise that Poston made his first career start last Saturday against Colorado State and registered the first tackles (five, four solo; a QB sack and a rundown) of his CU career.

All in all, it was a fairly solid start after Poston calmed his nerves and concentrated on his DE duties. "I was definitely nervous, but once I got out there I was OK," he said. "For the most part, I think it went pretty good; I made a couple of plays."

Not surprisingly, McGhee wants more. The 6-2, 256-pound Poston "did OK for it being his first time in that role," McGhee said. "But we're at the stage now where we're looking for high productivity. He made some plays, he left a lot on the field. We'll continue to work to find someone to work opposite Chidera (Uzo-Diribe). It's good to have someone like Chidera to set the tone of what we're looking for."

Uzo-Diribe, a junior, set the bar high. He started on the right side against CSU and produced a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss. That's McGhee's version of productivity, and if it was apparent to him it also will be apparent to every other CU opponent hereafter.

McGhee expects Uzo-Diribe to draw more attention from left tackle/tight end tandems in the weeks to come, which increases the pressure for the CU end opposite Uzo-Diribe to ratchet up his game. So there are no assurances that Poston will make his second career start this Saturday when CU plays its home opener at Folsom Field against Sacramento State (1 p.m.).

"The starter this week is undetermined," McGhee said. "Guys understand every day is a competition; they knew it in spring and fall camp. Everybody's job is up in the air every week - even Chidera's.

"I'm looking for two guys by the end of the week to stand out, to play that position for that week and for the betterment of the defense."

Competing with Poston are sophomore Juda Parker, the presumed starter opposite Uzo-Diribe when camp opened, and freshmen Johnny Stuart and Samson Kafovalu. Neither of the freshmen played in the opener.

CU coach Jon Embree said Poston "played with a mean streak" in August and submitted a better overall camp than Parker. But that hardly means Parker, who played in nine games last fall as a true freshman, is out of the picture.

Poston said he welcomes the weekly competition: "It's how you improve . . . I need to keep playing hard, practicing hard, pay attention to the plays, the formations."

He played in two games (at Stanford, at Arizona State) last season and believed he might have played more - thus, the sense of urgency when the season ended.

"I knew I had to do something," he said. "I worked hard in the weight room and just felt it was my time."

It was - for a week. Whether it continues is up to him.

YOUNG AND GETTING YOUNGER: With free safety Ray Polk definitely out this week with a high ankle sprain, CU's secondary loses its only senior starter. Also, experienced sophomore Greg Henderson is questionable with the same injury. A determination on his status is expected by Thursday.

If both are absent, the Buffs could have a pair of starting freshman corners - Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright - and a starting freshman nickel back - Marques Mosley. The safeties would be juniors Terrel Smith and Parker Orms.

Mosley saw duty in the opener (17 snaps) and made three tackles. His nerves calmed after he "got that first play under my belt" and the speed of the game - believe it or not - seemed a little slower than practice.

"I think it had kind of slowed down for me with the preparation," he said.

Will Sacramento State target the young Buffs? "I guess they can try, but I don't think it's going to work too well," Mosley said. "I see them (Wright, Crawley) improving every day just like I am. I'm pretty sure they can hold it down."

The Buffs' biggest detriment to losing Polk, Mosley added, will be in back-end communications and not having Polk's size (6-1, 205) and speed.

Mosley, of Upland, Calif., attended the same high school (Upland) as Sacramento State defensive back Corey Sims.

WHERE'S THE RUN GAME? CU took its weekly coach's media luncheon off campus - all the way to the Millennium Harvest House - on Tuesday, and Embree fielded questions from the media as well as citizens/Buffs fans.

He knew he would be asked about his ground game, which netted only 58 yards against CSU. He started with the obvious - "We have to be better running the ball" - and said he was "very frustrated" with the lack of productivity.

The reasons for that, he said, are several: backs not making the right cut or read, linemen not being solid at the point of attack, and sub-par communication between both parties.

On a lighter note, Embree noted, "The receivers are involved, too, but we never had runs where the receivers were needed; we didn't get that far down the field."

But seriously folks . . .

"It doesn't matter what conference you're in or what level, if you can't run the ball it's going to be hard to win," Embree said. "I think we've run the ball effectively two times now in, what, 14 games? And that's not good enough. We've got to get it fixed. I've got some good ideas of ways to do that; we'll see how it works Saturday and as we continue to move forward."

IS IT EVER TOO EARLY (OR LATE) TO BE PATIENT? Not for a head coach. Here's Embree's take on patience after losing his second opener in as many seasons: "I know what it's like (for fans). Trust me, it's personal with me about this job, about getting it right. Being in it as a player, around it as an assistant coach, obviously this is a very special place. At the end of the day, 51 percent of the people wanted me hired, 49 percent didn't. The 49 (percent) are going to be the loudest when you lose. I can't control that, I can't do anything about that. All I can do is come to work and keep the players focused, keep them going and keep improving . . . . We have a lot of young players and they can win some games for us. I'm not going to change my expectations; we should expect to go to a bowl every year. That's what it should be like around here. I'm not going to change those standards."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: A fan asked Uzo-Diribe whether he was a snowboarder or a skier. Uzo-Diribe's answer: "I'm a sleeper."

So he's obviously not a winter sports guy - unless it's hoops. He claimed he and receiver Paul Richardson, who's sitting out the season while rehabbing a knee, were the football team's best basketball players and even offered an open invitation to any other twosome interested in challenging them.

After the football season ends, of course.

QUOTE OF THE DAY II: "I told them it's OK to be disappointed, but don't be discouraged. Discouragement leads to failure." - Embree to his players in the wake of the CSU loss.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU