Yesterday, the Colorado Buffaloes concluded their spring with a spirited, 42-play (2011's game was 105 plays) spring game in front of an estimated 7,150 fans (seems a bit high) at Folsom Field. With 16 total players unable to participate due to injury or personal reasons and only two early enrollees from the class of 2012, Jon Embree was forced to make due with a limited roster. In fact, four of the days five touchdowns were scored by current or former walk-ons. In each half, the team gave it's skill players some work in 7-on-7 drills before moving to a full on scrimmage.
Connor Wood impressed in his first playing time in front of Buffaloes fans and Josh Ford stole the show for the second year in a row with 142 yards a year after going over 160. Below are some thoughts from the game.
*** You can view highlights of the game on the Buffs video player on the right-hand sidebar***
Josh Ford lived up to his reputation as "Mr. Spring" with a fantastic performance for the second year in a row. Ford, working with the second and third team offenses, finished with 141 total yards and several long runs, including touchdown runs of 43 and 36 yards that each included several broken tackles. Ford was rarely, if ever, brought down on first contact and he showed an impressive burst once he got until the open field. Now, before we go about anointing Ford as the next big thing, it needs to be remembered that Ford had a great day at last summers spring game and saw very little playing time in the regular season.
Tony Jones, who from all reports has had a great spring, took nearly all of the snaps with the first team. He ran well and showed some great potential at the spot, but only finished with 23 yards on four carries, still good enough for a 5.8 yard average. Jon Embree said after the scrimmage that Jones was "very good" this spring and "separated himself from the other guys. The young guys will have to come in and catch him." Justin Gorman also showed some nifty moves with a nice cutback on a 12-yard touchdown run.
Ah, yes, the quarterback position. Yesterday was our first chance to get a true glimpse at who is likely to be the future at the spot and Connor Wood didn't disappoint. He finished the day 7 of 10 for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns (he also had some very good looking passes in the 7-on-7 portion of the scrimmage). His throws displayed a touch and his arm seemed to be able to make the throws. He doesn't throw the tightest spirals but you can tell that he has a quarterback pedigree. Connor also displayed some better than expected wheels a few times. All that being said, Wood was going against a severely limited defense and he still managed to make some poor decisions. With the loss of Paul Richardson and the youth of the rest of the receiving core, Wood is going to have to play well above his experience for this team to be successful. We won't know if that happens until well into the 2012 but today was about as good of a start as we could have asked for.
Not too much to say about the other quarterbacks except that the return of Nick Hirschman and the arrival of Shane Dillon will be welcomed. John Schrock continued to show some potential, but only finished 3-8 for 28 yards in the scrimmage portion of the day. Stevie Joe Dorman has a long way to go before he becomes a viable option for this team.
The wide receivers stepped up and provided a slight bit of relief after news of Paul Richardson's season-ending injury ruined our week on Tuesday. Running with the first team were Tyler McCulloch, Nelson Spruce, and Dustin Ebner ran with the first team while Keenan Canty, DeVaughn Thornton, and Jarrod Darden made up the second team. McCulloch, Darden, Spruce, and Ebner all impressed to various degrees. Both McCulloch and Darden were able to use their height to make some great tough catches and Spruce proved the rumor mill to be correct, he will make plays this year. The highlight for the unit was Darden's 43-yard touchdown reception over Hunter Harrison on a Connor Wood pass.
After seeing him in action yesterday, I am more and more excited about seeing Nick Kasa at the tight end spot. He still has a lot of growing and learning to do at the position, but I believe he will continue to see plenty of action with the first team next year, even with the influx of freshmen coming in at the spot. Kyle Slavin continues to impress in some spots and disappoint in others. This is a position where we could absolutely some new guys earn plenty of playing time.
With the defense so limited, Jered Bell, Nate Bonsu, Parker Orms, Ray Polk, Greg Henderson, and Doug Rippy were all out, there really isn't very much to say about the defense that we saw yesterday. All the injuries left the Buffaloes with only 28 healthy bodies to try and match-up against three separate offensive units. Guys who's names I wasn't even familiar with like defensive back Shaw Gifford and Harrison Hunter and defensive linemen like Thor Eaton got plenty of playing time and were involved in plays good and bad (but mostly bad).
With Henderson out, Sherrard Harrington and Josh Moten ran with the first team defense at the corner spots. Each played pretty well, with Harrington just missing an interception of Connor Wood and Moten breaking up two passes. Between these two and Henderson and the arrival of Yuri Wright and Kenneth Crawley, fall practice should see some heated competition for the starting roles.
Sophomore linebacker Woodson Greer was the only one who really stood out yesterday, recording two unassisted tackles, one of which was a great hit on D.D. Goodson behind the line of scrimmage. Said Embree, "You could hear him playing, which is always a good sign for a defensive player, he was physical and hitting."
Now we sit and wait until reinforcements arrive and fall practice begins, eagerly awaiting the start of the 2012 season when the team takes the field against Colorado State on September 2nd.