Colorado's young cornerbacks have garnered a lot of attention and senior safety Ray Polk is being looked upon as a leader.
Meanwhile, junior Terrel Smith has quietly gone about his work and could wind up being a huge factor in the Buffs' secondary this season, as well.
"He just continues to do nothing but impress and make progress," CU defensive coordinator Greg Brown said. "He's a good player for us and hopefully we'll look for a big year for him on the field."
Smith, who is from Paterson, N.J., came to CU with little fanfare. Buffs coaches found him while recruiting running back Tony Jones. They liked him enough to offer a scholarship, which most schools didn't do, so Smith accepted.
As a freshman in 2010, Smith wound up starting the final six games and finished among the team leaders in tackles. He started six games in 2011, as well.
This year, he may land a starting job at strong safety. He is battling with Polk, junior Parker Orms and freshman Marques Mosley for one of the two spots.
"I've been running with the (starters) and I'm feeling good about this year," he said. "I'm so happy this camp and I feel better than ever in any camp I've been in the last two years. When the season kicks off, I'll be out there grinding out every play and making more plays than I did last year."
Always known as a big hitter, Smith is making an impression in other ways during fall camp.
"He's become much more of a complete player," Brown said. "He's always been a good tackler, but his intelligence is what impresses you now about the guy. He's worked hard and it shows."
Smith said he has learned a lot the past two years from Anthony Perkins, who graduated and is currently with the Denver Broncos.
"I learned a lot from him because he was so smart," Smith said. "In the offseason, I got in the playbook, I got in the film room and I know what I'm doing and I'm moving guys around like he was doing here."
If Smith can continue on his current path, he's got a lot more to give the Buffs. Considering where he came from, he's a little amazed at what he's done so far, though.
"No one thought I'd be playing and doing what I'm doing out there," he said. "People thought I might have been home already and messed up and failed school. But I'm doing great in school and great out here most of all."
The Sept. 1 opener against Colorado State is less than two weeks away, but head coach Jon Embree isn't quite ready to focus on the Rams.
"Probably later in the week," he said. "We're still in camp. There's still some stuff I want to get done, some things that I want to look at and evaluate in our systems."
Embree continues to be pleased with practices and the work the team is getting done. Practice hasn't been perfect, though. On Monday, the Buffs were practicing end-of-game situations when a player picked off a pass and began to run instead of falling down and protecting the ball.
"There's some little things like that that we have to keep emphasizing and getting on, but it was a real crisp practice and a little more energy," he said.
Embree said sophomore defensive lineman Juda Parker has done well, thanks to some help from junior Chidera Uzo-Diribe. Embree also said he thinks the emergence of some younger linemen has pushed Parker. ... The Buffs aren't scaling down the hitting in practice, as they remained aggressive on Monday. "You get too cautious that way, then when it's time to hit you don't know how to," Embree said.
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