Troy Walters on CU wide receivers
On Bryce Bobo: "He has had a good spring. He's got a big body. He's athletic. He's got good hands, strong hands. He's pushing (Nelson) Spruce. He's behind Spruce, learning from Spruce, but he's had a good camp, runs good routes. He's physical when the ball is in the air. We're going to count on him to do big things this year."
On Devin Ross: "He's explosive. He can run. He runs good routes. He's versatile. We can put him in the slot or we can put him outside. He's learning more the outside routes this year because he was more of a slot guy last year. He's having a good spring. With the young guys, you just need consistency. You have to understand you've got to be on your game day in and day out. You can't have your ups and downs. He's going to be special this year."
On Lee Walker: "Learning, he's swimming right now. We're throwing a lot at him with academics and adjusting to college life and then coming on the field he's swimming a little bit, but he provides great effort. He's coachable so I think by summertime he's going to make a huge jump and he'll be in the mix for playing time this year."
On Elijah Dunston: "He's really made a jump since last year. We're playing him at X a little bit and he's shown some explosiveness. He's another big body. So he's got to just keep improving and he'll have a chance to play this year, too."
On Keenan Canty: "Keenan Canty is a veteran. He's been there, done that. We just need him to become more consistent and in the scrimmages and the games to make plays."
One of the biggest questions for the Colorado football team during spring drills is who can replace the production lost at wide receiver with the departure of Paul Richardson.
Wide receivers coach Troy Walters had an answer before a single pass was thrown.
"It wouldn't be fair to ask one guy to do what Paul did," Walters said. "He had a special season. He's a special player. We'll have a few guys that can make up for what he accomplished.
"Those guys know that there is plenty of opportunities out there. So there is a lot of competition amongst the receivers. Guys are getting after it. They know that playing time is at stake."
Richardson set single-season school records with 83 receptions for 1,343 yards. He also made seven catches for 50 yards or more, which is another single-season record for the Buffs. Richardson opted to skip his senior season to jump to the NFL, leaving the CU offense hoping several young receivers can combine to replace that production and one of those players can eventually blossom into a player more like Richardson.
Walters started spring ball with veterans he knows he can count on every day. DD Goodson will be a senior in the fall coming off his best year as a Buff after making the transition from running back. Nelson Spruce will be a fourth-year junior who is also coming off his best year, with 55 catches for 650 yards.
Walters has dubbed Spruce "Mr. Dependable" because of his work ethic and consistency. He said he believes Spruce is capable of becoming "an All-Pac-12 and All-American type player."
"Continue to be Mr. Dependable," Walters said when asked what he is emphasizing with Spruce this spring. "Just because you had a great year last year doesn't mean you're going to have great year this year. So he has worked hard and he has shown he has been Mr. Dependable. He hasn't missed a practice and he's really an example to the younger guys. That's the most crucial thing is to show them what it takes to be successful in this league."
Spruce said outside of focusing on improving the small details of his game and constantly working to improve his speed, he is trying to fulfill Walters' request by being a role model for his younger teammates just as Richardson did last year.
"I think we've got a lot of promise," Spruce said. "The thing is just a lack of experience is a big question mark because I think experience goes a long way. They're showing good things. Obviously you want them to keep progressing."
While one player isn't likely to replace Richardson's production, coaches do have to identify who their best options are as a deep threat and which players have the speed to really keep defenses on their heels.
Walters said he believes sophomore Devin Ross is explosive and showed that ability on several occasions in 2013. He said freshman Lee Walker, a midyear enrollee who was in high school in the fall, also has great speed and just needs a greater understanding of the offense.
CU signed another freshman wide receiver in February who won't arrive until this summer. Walters said he knows Shay Fields has great speed as well. But like all freshman, playing time for Fields will depend on his ability to pick up the offense and execute his assignments in it at a high level.
"I like the group, I like the guys," Walters said. "They understand that they got to compete and we're not just going to give jobs away. I think they're hungry and motivated to prove that we can be a good unit even without Paul Richardson."