The Colorado defense gave up 53 plays of 20 yards or more last season, leading coaches to reconsider everything they were doing both during the season and in the months since.

One of the answers they came up with in the winter and began practicing this spring was using more zone coverages in the secondary.

Incorporating more zone contributed to a good month of spring practices on the defensive side of the ball because players were feeling more confident on the field.

Another year of experience under their belts likely contributed to that feeling, too.

"I think playing more zone is being able to have the secondary and everyone in the back half more alert and more aware of everything else that is going on as opposed to just their man that they`re covering," strong safety Anthony Perkins said.

Anthony Perkins, left, of CU, tries to stop a catch by Dezmon Briscoe of KU.Cliff Grassmick / October 17, 2009
Anthony Perkins, left, of CU, tries to stop a catch by Dezmon Briscoe of KU. Cliff Grassmick / October 17, 2009 ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )
"So hopefully, they will be able to help in the run game and eliminate some of those explosion plays.

"I don`t think it`s a big change in philosophy. I think it`s a small change to help us in the run game and help us get our eyes on the quarterback and be able to pick off some more passes."

Free safety Ray Polk played in 10 of 12 games last season, starting the season opener at strong safety and two other games later in the year at free safety. He admits there were times during the season when his head was spinning from the pressure of having to know so much information combined with the fact he was playing on the defensive side of the ball for the first time since his sophomoreyear in high school.


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Polk believes things will get easier this year. They already have. It`s part of growing up and gaining experience. But he also likes that defensive coordinator Ron Collins and first-year secondary coach Ashley Ambrose are being creative and aren`t afraid to try a new approach.

"I think the biggest thing is we want to keep our eyes on the quarterback," Polk said. "We want to know what he`s doing. It`s easier to read where he is going to throw the ball when you`re in zone instead of man when you`re only looking for the man and playing off him.

"With zone, basically what we can do is see our man, but at the same time see where the quarterback is looking and play faster."

Perkins and Polk are a nice combination at the two safety positions because they are both versatile and bring a blend of speed, size and athleticism to the field. Both have some experience now and won`t be overwhelmed by the bright lights and big crowds on games days.

It will be important for the duo to remain healthy because there is not a lot of experienced depth behind them. Sophomore Vince Ewing emerged from spring ball as Perkins` backup. Ewing wasn`t on the field for a single defensive snap in 2009.

Arthur Jaffee is the second-team free safety going into fall camp. Jaffee has bounced between running back and cornerback previously in his career.

"They`ll both come up and hit you in the mouth," Perkins said. "They might not be experienced, but they will hit you."

In a pinch, coaches could move cornerback Jalil Brown to safety and insert a younger player at corner, but the best option would be for Polk and Perkins to be healthy enough to take most of the snaps.

"We`ve got DBs that can play," Polk said. "It`s pretty exciting, too, because if one of us goes down, we can pretty much recover. These guys are learning it pretty fast."