Offensive line coach Gary Bernardi and third-year sophomore Jeromy Irwin made a deal before fall camp started at Colorado.
Irwin agreed to make smart decisions and do his best to stay healthy over the next month in preparation for the season and Bernardi agreed to help Irwin catch up in whatever areas he might be behind other teammates after missing all but seven practices because of injuries since head coach Mike MacIntyre was hired.
So far, so good.
Irwin was impressive enough in the seven practices he participated in during spring 2013 that coaches have considered him a possible starter heading toward this season. He missed all of last season after breaking the same foot several times last summer. Bernardi was asked how important it is to keep Irwin healthy this month.
"I think it's vital," Bernardi said. "Last year when we got kind of decimated and it started with other guys leaving, we were very, very thin. This year we have a lot more bodies. If he is the kind of player that he has the potential to be, then it's going to help a lot."
Irwin is just happy to be back on the field actually participating in practices. His involvement over much of the past 18 months has been confined to cheering for his teammates and limited participation in the film room.
"The competition is very real out here and it makes everybody better," Irwin said. "I'm just trying to compete for a starting job."
Bernardi has much more depth at his disposal to start this season than he had in his first camp in Boulder last August. That depth includes Irwin and a pair of transfers in Shane Callahan and Sully Wiefels, each of whom could make an immediate impact this season.
"I think there is a lot of competition," Bernardi said.
Wiefels is a junior college transfer who is eligible to play right away and has started camp practicing at guard and tackle. Callahan is awaiting word on a waiver request with the NCAA that would allow him to play right away after two years at Auburn.
Bernardi said Callahan was well-coached at Auburn and would be competing for immediate playing time if not a starting spot if the NCAA grants him a waiver. He also cautioned that both transfers have some catching up to do in terms of learning the offense.
Bernardi said he could see Callahan also playing guard if he is ruled eligible and that is where the offense needs him. Bernardi also mentioned redshirt freshman Sam Kronshage as a player who might also be ready to contribute.
"It just creates more competition inside and outside and that's what you want," Bernardi said.
Colorado has a young and inexperienced group of defensive ends for the most part this season and the depth of the group took a hit on the first day of camp Saturday when redshirt freshman Markeis Reed and junior Tyler Henington suffered injuries.
Coach Mike MacIntyre said Henington hurt his ankle and should be able to return next week, but Reed might need surgery if it is determined he has a sports hernia. MacIntyre said the worst case scenario on Reed would mean he misses a month.
The only other defensive ends on the roster right now who have logged playing time are Jimmie Gilbert and De'Jon Wilson. Derek McCartney had a great spring but will be playing in his first college game when he gets on the field for the first time this season.
Senior Juda Parker is the most experienced player at defensive end on the roster, but he was moved inside to tackle in the spring. It's possible he could be called on to play end this season if players don't develop there as expected or if injuries become a bigger problem.
Former CU wide receiver Patrick Williams returned to the program two years ago to work as an assistant recruiting coordinator. Williams is now transitioning into the coaching profession as a graduate assistant for MacIntyre this season.
Williams, who played professionally at Green Bay for several years, will help Troy Walters coach wide receivers.
"I love having him out there," MacIntyre said. "He was a really good receiver here. He played in the pros for awhile. He gets along really well with Troy. So all of our receivers are getting coached by former pro players."