Colorado football coach Jon Embree sent a message to his receiving corps early in fall camp when he declared sophomore Paul Richardson the only wideout on whom he could rely.
Senior Toney Clemons heard the challenge loud and clear.
"You don't like to take it personally, but as a competitor you definitely want to take it to heart," Clemons said. "And I have."
Clemons entered fall camp atop the CU depth chart at the X receiver position after finishing second on the squad in receptions last year. But he's also been plagued in the preseason by inconsistency and dropped passes that he knows he needs to clean up if he's to contribute the way the Buffs need him to this fall.
"We've got to figure out how we can get him more consistent," Embree said Monday. "He's hard on himself. I don't know what it is, but it's something we've just got to keep working on with him."
Few football players see more faces and places in their college careers than Toney Clemons will have by the time he's done.
A transfer from Michigan who played there under Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez, the Colorado senior wide receiver is on his fourth college head coach this season. And when league play rolls around, he'll become the first player to compete in the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences.
"It's been a roller coaster," Clemons said.
A top-10 receiver recruit nationally out of high school who caught 12 passes in two seasons at Michigan, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder got the chance to prove his value last season as a big, strong possession receiver with a knack for keeping the chains moving.
He played in all 12 games and started eight, catching 43 passes for 482 yards and three touchdowns. Twenty of those receptions came on third or fourth down, with 16 of those going for first downs. He also had a hand in CU's longest play from scrimmage last year, a 73-yard touchdown catch from Tyler Hansen against Hawaii.
Indications in camp are that Clemons is still in line to be a starter if the season started tomorrow.
But Monday's practice showed glimpses of both the good and bad he's dealt with this fall. While he caught a 25-yard touchdown pass down the sideline and made a couple of other solid grabs in traffic, he also had a drop on a short route where he was open.
Catching the ball has been one thing. But receivers coach Bobby Kennedy said he wants more from all of his players as far as going full speed on every play.
"We're getting there," Kennedy said. "These are the dog days right now, but the great ones try to push through it and compete every play."
In a senior like Clemons, Kennedy said he's also looking for someone who can execute at "a dominant level" to set himself apart from other guys who might have the same physical tools.
Clemons said a hamstring injury that limited his practice time in the spring didn't help as far as getting into a rhythm. But he also doesn't cut himself any slack.
Aside from just making plays with the ball, Clemons said he's trying to get better at little details when the ball isn't in his hands -- things like blocking away from the ball in the run game and finishing routes.
"That's been my main focus," Clemons said.
Clemons said he's enjoyed the experiences he's had. But all of the twists and turns and lack of continuity in his career have also been frustrating at times -- something he's now trying to use as fuel for motivation to close out his career on a high note.
"I need to have a good year and Colorado needs to have a good year," Clemons said.