Rocky Mountain Showdown

What: Colorado vs. Colorado State

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver

TV/Radio: ESPN / 850 AM

As he watches his freshmen teammates at practice, Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver has flashbacks to a year ago.

"I see myself in them as I was last year, not really knowing what to do or what it's like," Oliver said. "Just get on special teams and make as many plays as you can and then when your time comes on defense, just be ready and see what you can do."

That approach worked well for Oliver and now, as a true sophomore, he's somewhat of a veteran in a group of cornerbacks expecting big things this season.

Oliver teams with seniors Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon to form a tough trio of corners that aim to keep the Buffs near the top of the Pac-12 in pass defense.

"(Competition) is making us all a lot better, just knowing that the next guy right behind you or right in front of you can play just as well or better than you can," Oliver said. "It really ups your game in practice and how you perform. I feel like when we all come together on game day it's going to be a really cool secondary."

As a true freshman last year, Oliver played sparingly the first 11 games, and then was on the field for 106 plays over the last two games combined.


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"Coming off last year with the experience that I now have helped a lot, knowing the defense and knowing what to do and what it feels like out there," he said.

Oliver spent his spring participating for the CU track team, placing seventh at the Pac-12 championships in the decathlon.

"The track (experience) probably has given him more confidence," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "Football wise he's a little bit stronger, a little bit quicker and has more knowledge of what's going on."

Oliver said he generally comes back to football a little more confident after a track season, and he turned that confidence into a good August.

"He has a lot of ability," CU cornerbacks coach Charles Clark said. "He can do a lot of things. He's a longer guy, like Ahkello, so that's always good on some of the deep ball stuff. He just has to continue to grow. I look for him to be special."

Going into the season, Oliver and Witherspoon are listed as co-starters at one corner spot, although there are sure to be a lot of plays where Oliver, Witherspoon and Awuzie are on the field together.

Depth chart released

CU announced it's Week 1 depth chart on Saturday. There weren't a lot of surprises, but the Buffs have identified their starting five offensive linemen.

As expected, Jeromy Irwin will start at left tackle, Gerrad Kough at left guard, Alex Kelley at center and Tim Lynott at right guard. Sam Kronshage won a three-way battle for the job at right tackle. Aaron Haigler will be the backup there, while senior Shane Callahan is the backup at left tackle.

A couple other position battles remain unsettled, according to the depth chart. Junior Addison Gillam and sophomore Rick Gamboa are co-starters at mike linebacker; Oliver and Witherspoon are co-starters at corner; and Steven Montez and Jordan Gehrke are listed as co-No. 2s at quarterback.

One name that stood out was true freshman Tony Julmisse.

Cornerback Isaiah Oliver leaps for an interception down field during the University of Colorado spring game on April 9.
Cornerback Isaiah Oliver leaps for an interception down field during the University of Colorado spring game on April 9. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Signed in February as a receiver, Julmisse has also played cornerback during practices this month. On the depth chart, he is listed as a second-teamer at cornerback, but was not listed as a receiver. It's possible he will still be included on the offense, however.

"When you have a real good athlete that's able to play both, it's tough, but we found a way to get it done and get him practicing on both sides," Clark said.

Julmisse is also listed second at kickoff return, behind junior running back Phillip Lindsay.

New field

The Buffs held their first practice on brand-new Franklin Field on Saturday, saying goodbye to the lower practice fields that have been home to CU practices for years.

"It went well," MacIntyre said. "It's beautiful, the grass is awesome. We're excited about that. It's really nice out there, and it's a good location."

The field is adjacent to the new indoor practice facility, and throughout the season both will get used frequently.

"We definitely will use both of them in the same practice a lot," MacIntyre said.

Notable

Previous depth charts have indicated Chris Graham as the kickoff specialist, but that designation is not on this depth chart. That could mean that Diego Gonzalez will handle field goal and kickoff duties. ... Sophomore Jay MacIntyre is the top punt returner. ... Senior receiver Jaleel Awini has been sidelined with a back injury and is on the injury list on the depth chart, making it possible he won't play against Colorado State in Friday's opener.

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.