Greg Henderson won't turn 20 until after the season, yet Colorado is already counting on him to be a leader this season.

That's how young the Buffaloes are in the secondary.

"They told me I'm a veteran and my leadership is going to help us go far and to a bowl game," said Henderson, a true sophomore cornerback. "I've just got to step up and be a leader on this team."

Henderson started 12 of CU's 13 games at left corner last season. He played 823 snaps on defense -- the most on the team in 2011 and the most of any freshman in program history.

His experience is already showing up as the Buffs completed Day 3 of fall camp on Wednesday.

"I know the plays like the back of my hand," he said. "I just know what to do and to fly around and play fast.


Henderson's vault in confidence has been evident to defensive coordinator Greg Brown.

"We've got some new, young freshmen in here who are very talented kids coming out of high school," Brown said, "but, man, it's a brand-new ball game. They're out there and there's a little bit of doubt, you can see, in their minds, whereas Greg Henderson is saying, 'I've been there, done that at this level. I know what I'm doing.'"

CU's 2012 recruiting class was highlighted by cornerbacks Yuri Wright and Kenneth Crawley. Wright was one of the most sought-after corners in the country last year and Crawley wasn't far behind. Three other defensive backs -- Jeffrey Hall, Marques Mosley and John Walker -- were part of the 2012 class, as well.


Henderson hasn't shied away from the competition.

"I knew we needed all the help we could get and I was just happy to get some more corners to come in because we're trying to compete this year," he said. "It's going to be a lot of youth, but it's going to pay off in the long run. I've just got to be a leader and make my voice heard on the field."

While Henderson seems secure, the freshmen are just starting to get their feet wet.

Colorado’s Greg Henderson jogs out on to the field Wednesday.
Colorado's Greg Henderson jogs out on to the field Wednesday. ( JEREMY PAPASSO )
All of them are learning as much as they can right now, as opposed to focusing on particular starting jobs.

"Right now, the way it is, all corners have to play left and right," Brown said. "Until you become the starter, you have to know both sides and get comfortable with the footwork. Once you're the starter, then you reserve the right to stay on one side."

Brown pointed out that past CU star corners, such as Cha'pelle Brown, Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith, took two or three years to really become significant players for the Buffs. With a lack of experience and depth, however, Brown acknowledged the Buffs probably need some of the youngsters to be ready quicker.

Arms race

The Buffs have six quarterbacks in camp and haven't figured out who will start this season. It's likely a three-man race between Nick Hirschman, Jordan Webb and Connor Wood.

"The quarterback competition is starting to come around a little bit, too, so that's good," head coach Jon Embree said Wednesday. "It's starting to take shape. They've been friendly, but now it's, 'I want this job.' They're competing like that, so that's good to see."

Embree said it is way too early for any of them to be separating themselves from the others. He said each quarterback has had only 15-20 plays with the first team offense.


Senior lineman Ryan Dannewitz started 11 games last season, including the final 10 at right tackle. This fall, he's listed as a backup at a variety of positions on the line.

"He's our sixth guy," Embree said. "He's real valuable. He can play all the positions, so he's a key guy that you need to have around as these other guys continue to develop."


Wednesday was CU's first practice in shells and Embree said it was a "spirited" practice. "They finally get to hit each other," he said. ... Receiver Paul Richardson, who is recovering from a knee injury, has been doing a lot of work on the side, but nothing with the team. ... Cornerback Sherrard Harrington (ankle) could be back to practice in a few days, Embree said. ... There were no new injuries reported Wednesday. ... Several players are auditioning for punt return duties. Embree listed Henderson, Mosley, Crawley, Keenan Canty, Gerald Thomas, Donta Abron and Terrence Crowder among those competing.

Follow Brian on Twitter: