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Colorado Spring Game Primer: What to Look For

A list of players to watch on Sunday as we get our first taste of Buff football in the new year.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Spring Game is just around the corner (Sunday at 2 PM, to be exact), and it seems like this month of practice has just flown by. All of the rumblings that have come out of the practice bubble by Boulder Creek have been somewhat expected positives: older players are doing well, the new defense is energizing the players, and the JuCo transfers are competing for playing time. The first time that the public can watch the players full-on play is this Sunday, so here's some players to look for out there as they put the cap on spring ball.

New Blood

All in all, seven players joined the Buffs for the spring semester. Dillon Middlemiss enrolled early from high school, Grant Watanabe and Isaac Miller joined the Buffs from their greyshirt years, and Jordan Carrell, Leo Jackson, Blake Robbins, and Afolabi Laguda enlisted from their junior colleges. Middlemiss (number 60, taking after his mentor Matt McChesney) will most likely redshirt, though not to put on weight, as he has been reported at 6'6 and a hair under 300 already. One of the more excited 2015 recruits, look for him near the end of Sunday's skirmish to make some noise. Watanabe (number 45) has been held out all spring thanks to a lingering foot injury and may not participate with the Buffs until fall practices. Grant was a highly rated recruit in the 2014 class, and his talent at LB may be sorely needed, so his extended absence is a bit worrisome. Miller (number 76) is a more developmental prospect at tackle, as he needs to grow into his body a bit. All indications look towards a very successful career at CU for Miller, who is another in a long line of Colorado talent at O-line. Now to the instant-impact additions. Carrell (92) should see playing time early and often in the spring game, as well as during the regular season. He has made a name for himself as a disruptive interior presence, and is a perfect fit for the 3-technique DT/DE that this defense looks to incorporate. Another transfer practicing at that spot is Leo Jackson, who wasn't necessarily supposed to be a mid-year transfer. After delaying his enrollment, Jackson (52) joins the Buffs during spring practice at 6'3, 285, an immediate upgrade in size for this roster. Both he and Carrell have been getting some first-team snaps during practice supposedly, and the spring game is a good audition for both of them. There has been less chatter about Blake Robbins (58) than any other newcomer. There may be an injury there, or maybe he has gotten lost in the fray of young DE's, but Robbins has not been singled out as of yet. He could use the spring game to change all of that. Finally, Afolabi Laguda (8) has put his mark on the secondary position, practicing at almost every position. He is a really well put together young man at 6'1 and 200 lbs., and he has become one of my favorite Buffs after this interview. Very well-spoken and looks the part. He will be fun to watch on Sunday.

Returning Playmakers

One of the most exciting additions to this team has been here before. Samson Kafovalu (93) is back with the Buffs, hopefully with a vengeance. After leaving the team for personal reasons last year, Kafovalu has finished his semester off, and he came back with 30 more pounds in tow. Also working out at the 3-technique, Samson hopes to show off some of his relentlessness and effort that made him a fan favorite two years ago. In the same class (though he has used another year of eligibility), Kenneth Crawley (2) really improved last year, and people have said he has kept improving this spring. After gaining weight, he was able to run with any receiver in the PAC-12. Now, he has to take the next step: he needs to play the ball. Crawley was close in 2013, but he never intercepted a pass and flipped the field. That has to change this year if CU's record is to be improved. Look for him to play the ball during the spring game and come up with a play or two. Another senior on the short list of senior that has drawn rave reviews is Stephane Nembot, the RT out of Cameroon. Nembot's light finally turned on near the end of last year, and he blossomed into an all-Pac 12 caliber player. The word is that he has been more vocal this year, and has stepped up into a leader. Look for Nembot (77) to direct the traffic around the OL on Sunday.

The New Upperclassmen

The time has come for Coach Mac and his inaugural class. Both are entering their 3rd year in the program, historically a break-through year for new coaches. Sefo Liufau and company are entering their second spring game at CU, and there has been some positive chatter around them. Liufau (13) has been said to have more zip on his left-side passes, Phillip Lindsay (23) is running as hard as usual, and Tedric Thompson (9) has made a full recovery on the field and looks to be as devastating as ever from the safety position. This class has grown up before our eyes, and it should be fun to watch them run the spring game. Unfortunately, it looks like Michael Adkins will be injured for the spring game, so his contributions won't be there, but there are plenty of soon-to-be juniors and redshirt sophomores to watch. Also keep an eye on Chidobie Awuzie (4) and where he lines up in the back four for the Buffs. He could move back to nickel back, stick at safety, or even go to one of the outside corner spots. On the offensive side of the ball, with Bryce Bobo and Elijah Dunston injured, look for Devin Ross (2) to get a lot of playing time. P-Rich once said Ross was as fast as he was, and it should be fun to see that speed on the field. Ross could make a big difference in the slot, or he could be used as utility type, lining up in the backfield. Lindgren could have a field day moving a speedster like Ross around the field.