There are a few ways to look at the results the Colorado defense produced on the football field this spring.

Some fans and observers will be tempted to see the gaudy scrimmage statistics from CU quarterbacks and think the Buffs won't be any better in 2013 than they were in 2012 when they allowed 46 points, 226 yards rushing and nearly 500 total yards of offense per game.

Then there is the view CU defensive coaches take into the summer.

Every defender on the team earned a juice box, orange slices and an atta boy this spring because things were designed to give players a chance to prove themselves. Far fewer of them will be getting the reps they did over the past five weeks when practices start up again in August.

"Now we're really going to narrow it down come fall camp," defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. "We're going to sit down and really evaluate again and look at personnel and see if we need to move a couple guys maybe at a couple positions. We've got to talk about spread teams and how we're going to line up to that.

"We're going to go. We're going to hit the ground running from the first practice."

CU fans -- and members of the offense for that matter -- who might have been excited by more big plays and scoring this spring, should temper those feelings somewhat by considering that the defense almost couldn't have been more simplified.


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Practice repetitions were split evenly among all defensive players through the first eight or nine practices just as they were on offense and coaches purposely kept things simple to judge as accurately as possible who can play at this level and who has the most ground to make up. There was also an intense focus on teaching fundamentals and proper tackling.

Baer was asked how much of the defense his players have left to learn when August arrives.

"A lot," he said with eyebrows raised. "It's no joke."

Baer, who also serves as the linebackers coach, believes the Buffs can play at a much higher level once the best 11 guys are on the field together gaining a better understanding of the full defense.

But that doesn't mean Baer wasn't impressed by some of what he saw in his first spring at CU. When asked for a few spring standouts he mentioned defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, linebackers Woodson Greer and Addison Gillam, a true freshman.

Baer on Uzo-Diribe: "He's done a nice job. He certainly seems like a real good guy and a good leader. He plays hard. I notice him a lot. He's got a great first step."

Baer on Greer: "I think Woodson Greer has done a really nice job at getting better at a lot of things. Now he's still got a long way to go. We play him at outside backer and I'm forcing him to play inside. He's got to learn both. I think he's got some ability. I think he's got some toughness. He really seems to be trying hard."

Baer on Gillam: "Addison Gillam is just going to be a tremendous talent some day. I don't want to put any pressure on him. Maybe that's the wrong word. He's a young guy that can really run, very athletic, smart. He shows up in January and goes to spring ball in March. That's hard."

Colorado's first two seasons in the Pac-12 Conference have been brutal by any defensive measuring stick. There have been at least a few highlights on the offensive side. CU isn't going to become more competitive within the conference until it can begin to force more turnovers and punts from opponents. It's a challenge Baer was well aware of when he decided to follow Mike MacIntyre to Boulder after working at San Jose State.

It might not be exactly accurate to say the foundation was established for future defensive success this spring, but the hole for that foundation to be poured is definitely completed and the Buffs are ready to start building.

"I can honestly say I think we got better every day, except for one practice and that was the first practice we had when we came back from spring break," Baer said. "...We've got a long way to go, but I've seen some progress. We're improving on some things."

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