The transitional phase for coach Mike MacIntyre and the Colorado Buffaloes has spanned over the past couple seasons with progressively stronger recruiting classes that have resulted in a stockpile of offensive firepower. Now more than ever, this strategy has been evolving for a program that's focused on the future. However, part of the struggle for CU has been recruiting against schools who're consistently ranked in the Top 25 and finding quality players who're willing to buy into Mac's process. The Buffs have been on the losing end of recruiting battles more times than not, but for wide receiver Juwann Winfree, his decision on Colorado was one to reboot has college career.
At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, you wouldn't expect Winfree to be a "once in a generation" athlete coming out of Dwight Morrow HS in Englewood, NJ, but he earned that title by becoming just the second player to receive all-state honors for playing both defensive back and wide receiver. Winfree was highly sought after by more than thirty schools coast-to-coast including Ohio State, Georgia, South Carolina and Nebraska.
After his senior season in 2014, the four-star receiver settled on Maryland as the place to grow his college career, but the decision was short lived. He was suspended indefinitely for violating the team's code of conduct after his freshman season and never returned to play for the Terrapins. Winfree decided to take a step back and transferred to Coffeyville Community College (Coffeyville, KS), known as an established feeder school for producing great NFL talent. The move meant more playing time for the talented receiver along with the potential of returning to a division I school.
Winfree's road back to playing in a "power 5" conference found an unexpected suitor on signing day this year. Colorado had shown interest in the speedy receiving target, but the Buffs were on the outside with Winfree's verbal commitment to Pittsburgh. That was before new offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini was thrown into the mix and convinced Winfree to head west. It wasn't an easy sell by any means, but it's a decision the receiver has no regrets about.
"I have nothing but high expectations for us and I feel we're going to reach all of our goals," Winfree said. "With (Chiaverini) as an offensive coach, we're going to explode in the Pac-12 because the Texas Tech offense is quick and it gets the ball into the playmaker's hands and we have a lot of them."
The addition of Chiaverini to MacIntyre's staff has paid off immensely for the Buffs and his role as co-offensive coordinator could see an adoption of Texas Tech's air raid offense. If Davis Webb stayed at CU, there's no doubt the offense would have been altered toward an air it out attack, considering both Chiaverini and Webb are products of that Red Raider system. Despite not having Webb, Winfree remains upbeat for Cal's new quarterback and CU's potential this season.
"I can't be mad at (Davis) because he's trying to do what's best for him, but he's going to miss out. I know for a fact, we will be producing a lot offense. I wish him the best of luck this year."
A majority of the success for CU this year will depend on one factor-- returning senior quarterback Sefo Liufau.
Liufau was recently named a team captain and made history by becoming the second player in CU history to earn that honor for a third consecutive season. The biggest question isn't his leadership, but rather how effective he can be after breaking his Lisfranc last season. Liufau's recovery has been ahead of schedule so far, but If it's one thing that has been reiterated time and time again by Macintyre, it's the difficulty of coming back from a lisfranc injury.
In lieu of Liufau's absence and through most of spring ball, backup QB Steven Montez led the offense and gave a preview of the future for CU. The two quarterbacks have a great relationship that started when Liufau hosted Montez on his official visit to Boulder. Even as a newcomer, Winfree has noticed the competitive nature between the two, "I feel there will be some competition between Montez and Sefo, but he's the senior and we'll see how it goes."
Winfree has been working hard to develop his chemistry with Liufau since stepping foot on campus in February. "I feel the connection with Sefo has been effective. Once we get the timing and accuracy down, we'll be fine."
This offseason has been a series of adjustments for the wide receiver as he continues to grow and emerge into a new offense. He's projected as the only new starter on offense alongside Shay Fields and Devin Ross, completing the three-receiver set.
YOU KNO WHERE TO FIND ME. #WORK #NEWERA #SKOBUFFS pic.twitter.com/ePVk7qOMEr— Juwann Winfree (@OnlyOne_JW) June 7, 2016
Another rarity for Winfree is that he's the only Buff currently on the roster who's played in a bowl game (2014 Foster Farms). One of the goals for the Buffs this season is a bowl appearance, a feat that hasn't been accomplished in nine seasons (2007 Independence).
Winfree sees the bowl drought ending for his fellow teammates soon by saying, "This year they will know the feeling."
A bold prediction and one that (If it came true) could show progress for the past decade of struggles. Winfree hopes to contribute as much as possible this season and will be exciting to watch.