Although several of his players spent all or part of the spring on the sidelines with injuries, Colorado safeties coach ShaDon Brown always focused on the bright side.

"I don't ever see an injury as a negative," Brown said this week. "We have the mentality of next man up and that's what we're trying to do."

It's a good thing for CU that spring practices come to a close on Friday, however, because they're running out of safeties.

Senior Evan Worthington spent the final two thirds of spring on the sidelines with a concussion. Senior Jaisen Sanchez has continued a career-long battle to stay healthy, dealing with more knee issues. Newcomers Aaron Maddox (shoulder) and Ray Robinson (knee) missed the entire spring.

Brown takes comfort, however, in the fact that those who played got better, and that reinforcements are on the way.

"You never want to see any of your guys hurt," Brown said. "Right now we've got four guys out. I expect all will be back in the fall, but it gives us a chance to play some other guys (in spring) and get more reps and gives a chance for other guys to step up.

"This spring has allowed those guys to see that, 'Hey I'm one play away from being the guy.' It always helps when they get to actually do it, so those injuries are not as bad as they may seem."

The Buffs will actually come out of spring feeling good about their projected starters — Worthington and fellow senior Nick Fisher — and their depth.


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Arguably one of the top safeties in the Pac-12, Worthington is the one player in the group that probably didn't need the practice time this spring. He finished third on the team with 86 tackles last year and big things are expected in the fall.

Fisher, who played a career-high 315 snaps last season, was able to step into more of a leadership role. Fisher said he was more comfortable than ever this spring, adding, "I feel like I know the playbook pretty well and I have a good relationship with the guys."

Colorado safety Evan Worthington finished third on the team with 86 tackles last year
Colorado safety Evan Worthington finished third on the team with 86 tackles last year (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Injuries also provided more of an opportunity to senior Kyle Trego and redshirt freshman Isaiah Lewis.

Trego has played just 30 defensive snaps in two seasons with the Buffs, but got a chance to play with the first team defense at times this spring. He had an interception and two tackles in Saturday's spring showcase.

"I've seen him understand the playbook a lot better," Brown said. "Over the last couple of years, I think he's just been running around. He's always been a tough, physical kid, but he's just been running around making plays, versus now in the pass game being able to see things before it happens and communicate and understand the whole scheme. That's where I've seen him take a step forward this spring."

Lewis redshirted last season and is still developing his game, but Brown said Lewis "has probably made the biggest strides in knowledge and knowing what to do.

"He's starting to feel a lot more comfortable."

Sophomore Derrion Rakestraw is in the early stages of getting comfortable at safety — his third position since arriving at CU a year and a half ago. Originally a receiver, he moved to cornerback last season. When injuries hit at safety this spring, he moved there.

"The goal is always to give the kids the best chance to get on the field the fastest," Brown said. "We felt like with our injury situation at safety that we could move him back there this spring and get him four or five practices under his belt to let him see how he develops there."

Walk-ons Daniel Talley and Lucas Cooper, both upperclassmen, have received more reps this spring, as well. Both were on the field with the second team defense in the spring showcase.

While it's not ideal to tangle with so many injuries, the Buffs believe it might just pay off down the road at safety.

"It's allowed other people to get more reps," Trego said. "Especially in spring all, that's the time you want to get the reps, get everyone in and knowing the play. There's a lot more guys getting in the rotation."

Brown, however, can't wait until to get a full rotation of players. Adding true freshman Hasaan Hypolite to the mix this summer, the Buffs could have nine scholarship safeties, plus Cooper and Talley, vying for playing time.

"I've got a lot of guys I'll get back in the fall and that excites me about having a full deck of cards to work with," Brown said.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33