With Oregon driving deep in Colorado territory last October, Ahkello Witherspoon stepped in front of a Ducks' pass and picked it off to end the threat.

Plays like that put Witherspoon's talent on display. At times, however, the Colorado cornerback loses his focus and finds himself out of position, giving up a big play.

As he prepares for his senior season, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Witherspoon is striving to be more consistent and a better contributor to the Buffs' pass defense.

"That's been the point of emphasis my whole career here," he said of being consistent. "It's just taken experience and time to understand the level of mental focus you need to play at this level on a daily basis. I really think I'm over that hump in terms of just playing every single play like it's your last.

"I'm so excited (for this season). It's different being excited to go play and different being excited to go make plays. That's where I'm at as a player. I've never felt like that. I think that's just confidence and experience all coming together."

The Buffs don't have a lot of depth at corner, but with Witherspoon, senior Chidobe Awuzie and sophomore Isaiah Oliver, they have three talented veterans. Freshmen Ronnie Blackmon and Trey Udoffia are trying to make an impact, too.

"We feed off of each other," Witherspoon said. "We try to make plays as a group. It's really just competition as a team. It's not even who is behind you, who is in front of you. We just come out here and compete as a squad."


For the Buffs to take the next step defensively, they'll look to players such as Witherspoon to make more plays and be more consistent. Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre believes Witherspoon can do that.

"Ahkello just needs to keep growing and he has," MacIntyre said. "He's an excellent player and his competitive level has kept increasing every year he's been here. I'm looking forward to him having a good year. I think he can be a dominant, dominant player out there."

Heat is on

The Buffs have been practicing in the mornings, ending around noon, and Tuesday was the hottest practice yet. The heat was welcomed by MacIntyre.

"I hope it stays hot like this. We need it to," he said. "When you get hot, it makes you miserable and you have to fight through it mentally. That's what I want them to do, to fight through that mental part of it and not give into it. I thought they fought through it today."

Back to action

Redshirt freshman running back Dino Gordon has returned to practice this week. He had been suspended all summer because of an off-the-field incident in the spring. He also missed the first few practices last week because he had yet to complete the requirements he needed for reinstatement.

While Gordon can practice, he will be suspended for at least one game. Gordon has more requirements to fulfill before the Buffs determine how many games he will miss.

Hitting time

Tuesday was the first practice in full pads, allowing the Buffs to practice live goal-line situations. Being in full pads will also give coaches a chance to better evaluate players, especially those who have been injured. Players such as left tackle Jeromy Irwin and Addison Gillam had not had a full-contact practices in nearly a year.

"It's more physicality," MacIntyre said. "We'll see how strong some of the guys are, how physical they are. You'll get to see more of the physicality of finishing (tackles and plays)."


MacIntyre said he hopes to have a starting offensive line set by about 10 days before the opener on Sept. 2 against Colorado State. He may not announce the starting group that early, however. ... Awuzie made some big plays in practice on Tuesday. "That's Chido," MacIntyre said. "I'm so used to it now it's just common. If he doesn't make one, I get on him." ... Receiver Shay Fields left Saturday's practice with a minor tweak of his ankle, but has been a full participant in both practices this week.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.