It took a long time — and a season-ending injury to an important starter — for the Colorado football team to give Jaleel Awini a chance to play offense.

It didn't take long, however, to realize he might actually be able to help the Buffaloes on that side of the ball.

The quarterback-turned-linebacker is back on offense as the Buffs head into spring practices this week. What exactly Awini will do for the Buffs is not known, however.

"We'll see," co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. "We have to look at what he can do. We have to see if there are packages we can build around him."

A 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior, Awini began his college career as a quarterback at Air Force from 2012-13. He also played a bit of receiver for the Falcons.

In 2014, he transferred to CU and sat out the season, aiming to compete for the quarterback job last spring. Realizing that the Buffs were set on Sefo Liufau as the starter, Awini moved to outside linebacker.

Last season, Awini led the Buffs in special teams points and had 21 tackles in 139 snaps on defense.

When Liufau went down with a foot injury during a Week 11 game against USC, though, the Buffs needed help. Junior backup Jordan Gehrke was also hobbled, so head coach Mike MacIntyre turned to Awini as an emergency quarterback.

In the finale at Utah, CU got into an emergency situation. Liufau's replacement, Cade Apsay, was out with a concussion, and the offense was struggling. Awini played one possession in the fourth quarter, running four times for 20 yards and guiding the Buffs to a touchdown.


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"(After the season) coach Mac came up to me and he said I did a good job and he saw great things I could do for the offense," Awini said. "He just thought I could add an extra wrinkle and something the offense needed."

With Liufau not expected to return from his injury until the summer, at the earliest, Awini goes into the spring as a potential weapon on offense, and he couldn't be more excited.

"I don't think I'm much of a defensive player, to be honest," he said. "I think offense is where my home is, so I was excited."

Liufau or Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb are the favorites to win the starting quarterback job, while Steven Montez, Apsay and Gehrke are more traditional quarterbacks who will battle this spring.

Awini, however, could be used in a variety of ways.

"I do see myself lining up at quarterback, a little wide receiver, maybe even coming into the backfield as a running back a couple of times, having two quarterbacks in the backfield at the same time," he said. "I think the coaches think I'm weapon with the ball in my hands."

Awini flashed his running ability against Utah, and word is that he can catch the ball, too. The Buffs didn't let him throw the ball against Utah, but Awini said, "I've been working on that a lot. I feel like the coaches and everybody are going to see that I've improved on my accuracy. I'm excited to show that off this spring as well."

The former Rangeview High School star even joked that he can kick a little bit and might be an option as an emergency kicker.

"Hey, if it comes down to it, I'm your man," he said.

For now, Awini is eager to see how he and the rest of the Buffs mesh together on offense, as they try to improve on that side of the ball.

"I think we have a lot of talent on offense, a lot of people coming back and a lot of people just want to make a name for themselves," he said. "There's going to be a lot of competition, which is going to make everybody better. I think we're going to add the right wrinkles to make this offense a lot better than last year."

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