Throughout his career at Colorado, quarterback Sefo Liufau has always been able to rely upon Nelson Spruce.
If the Buffaloes needed a first down or a big play, Liufau could look in Spruce's direction and know he would catch the ball.
As Liufau enters his senior season, though, Spruce is gone, taking his CU and Pac-12-record 294 catches to the NFL's Los Angeles Rams.
While Spruce is no longer here, the Buffs might actually be deeper at receiver this season.
"We have quite a few weapons that can go do some things," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Many of those weapons are juniors looking to explode this season.
Three returning juniors — Shay Fields, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo — have a combined 178 career catches, but potential for much more. The junior class also includes junior college transfers Kabion Ento and Juwann Winfree.
If the Buffs relied solely on the juniors, they might be in good shape. But, they've also got intriguing options with senior Jaleel Awini, sophomores Jay MacIntyre and Lee Walker and a talented group of freshmen eager to prove they belong.
Before the start of preseason camp in August, BuffZone.com will take a look at each position group for the Buffaloes. In this installment, we take a look at the wide receivers.
Position: Wide receivers
Returnees: Jaleel Awini (Sr., 6-2, 220); Bryce Bobo (Jr., 6-2, 195); Shay Fields (Jr., 5-11, 180); Justin Jan (Fr., 6-3, 205); Jay MacIntyre (So., 5-10, 185); Devin Ross (Jr., 5-9, 180); Lee Walker (So., 6-0, 175); Xavier Cochrane (So., 5-9, 170; walk-on); Danny Galloway (Jr., 6-0, 205; walk-on); Sean Grundman (Jr., 6-2, 195; walk-on); Joey Hall (Jr., 5-9, 165; walk-on); Robert Orban (Jr., 6-6, 195; walk-on).
Additions: Kabion Ento (Jr., 6-3, 175); Johnny Huntley III (Fr., 6-3, 205); Tony Julmisse (Fr., 6-1, 190); Derrion Rakestraw (Fr., 6-2, 175); Juwann Winfree (Jr., 6-3, 205); David Bagby (Sr., 6-0, 180; walk-on); Kevin Dement (So., 5-11, 180; walk-on).
Losses: Nelson Spruce (graduated); Colin Johnson (graduated; walk-on); Peter Lynch (left team; walk-on).
2015 recap: Spruce was the focal point of the passing game, as usual. He didn't quite match his record-breaking numbers from 2014 (106 catches for 1,198 yards), but did haul in 89 passes for 1,053 yards and four touchdowns. Spruce was the only player in CU history with 85-plus catches in a season, and just the third with multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Fields was on his way to a huge season and, in fact, had better numbers than Spruce through the first seven games. He injured his ankle late in game No. 7, though, and was never the same. Still, he's caught 92 passes already during his career and has the ability to stretch the field. At times, Bobo and Ross put up big plays, but neither one was consistent. Ross, especially, struggled with drops, several of which were costly. MacIntyre and Walker combined for 10 catches as freshmen.
2016 outlook: With Spruce gone, it will be interesting to see who, if anyone, emerges as the go-to receiver for the Buffs. It's possible that the Buffs wind up with several players posting similar numbers. More than likely, it'll be four or five receivers catching the bulk of the passes, with a couple others catching a pass here and there. Expect the juniors to be targeted heavily. Fields and Winfree both have the ability to be the lead receiver. Fields has good speed and has a rapport with quarterback Sefo Liufau. Winfree is a much bigger target with all-around ability to be a go-to player. Playing in the slot, Ross could see a big increase in his production from last year (25 catches, 324 yards, 2 TD) if he can hold onto the ball. Bobo and Ento could battle for the No. 4 spot. To this point in his career, Bobo has been perhaps CU's best receiver after the catch, showing the ability to gain a few extra yards that others won't get. Ento needs to sharpen his route-running, but has exceptional athleticism. Awini is an interesting player here. He's played linebacker and quarterback during his college career and with his size, he could be a good target in short-yardage situations (he may also be used as a runner at times). MacIntyre and Walker will fight for more playing time, as will the incoming freshmen, who bring with them great size and athleticism.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.