BOULDER - One of the most intriguing storylines every year at Colorado fall camp is the on-field development of the newest crop of Buffaloes; players who could very well could be counted on to contribute from the moment they step on the field for the first time on August 29.
The Buffs are the Pac-12 Conference's youngest team based on the number of underclassmen in fall camp. When a team is as young as Colorado is expected to be, impactful play from the collection of new freshmen and junior college talent becomes paramount. Although head coach Mike MacIntyre wasn’t blessed with a highly-ranked recruiting class last spring, he does believe he has a group that has already displayed the gift of determination, resolve and heart and all of those other factors that stopwatches and charts just can’t measure.
“The freshmen are really picking things up well and working hard,” said MacIntyre. “We’ll see how they get through this grind the rest of this week. We’ll know more as the week goes on and we have some scrimmage-type stuff.”
Last year’s team featured eight true freshmen who saw significant action and with a roster that is 66 percent underclassmen, it’s likely that a solid amount of newcomers will once again play significant roles in the Buffs’ fortunes.
“You always want to be a junior/senior laden team and then refurbish every year,” MacIntyre said. “That’s what you want to get to but, right now we’re the 10th youngest team in the country. You don’t have to take that as a negative. You can take it as a positive.
“We’re mostly a sophomore-laden team and we have a lot of those guys (and our freshmen) playing a lot. So, we’ll continue to get better.”
MacIntyre and his staff have spent a good part of 14 fall practices conditioning and preparing their young athletes for the possibility of contributing in big-time college football just a few months removed from the high school and junior college levels.
“(The biggest advice I can give them is to) keep pushing and keep coming out to play every day and so far they have done that,” MacIntyre said.
So far, MacIntyre has been very excited about what he has seen from sophomore quarterback Jordan Gehrke. Due to attrition, Gehrke, who transferred from Scottsdale Community College and then redshirted last season, is the second-most experienced signal caller on the roster and therefore a likely candidate to see his first action at the BCS level in 2014.
“Jordan has done really well,” MacIntyre said. “He’s doing just like he did in the spring and has improved. He has a good grasp of the offense. He’s showing his athleticism and making some plays. He’s a good leader and has a great attitude. So, I’m excited about what I see out of Jordan.”
TEAM HOPES TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE ON PUNT RETURNS
The Buffs not only returned the fewest punts of any team in the Pac-12 in 2013, their nine overall returns were among the least of any team in the entire country. MacIntyre says his team plans to be more aggressive in that department this year but it was actually some very uncontrollable circumstances that played a big factor in the lack of opportunities a year ago.
“We’d like to see more returns but, some of those games in that wind and a couple of the games early, like Oregon State where it was raining sideways, we didn’t have that many really good days where we got to field long, good punts,” said MacIntyre. “Now also college football has changed some. They either do the rugby punt or they punt it extremely high or they pin you. It used to be in the old days that they would just punt it as far as they can. That doesn’t happen anymore if you watch. So, there’s a lot more urgency in that. A lot of times when we try to block it we’re probably going to fair catch it. Yes, we’d like to see some more returns but at the same time I’d like to see more blocked punts.”