Even though it was his first preseason camp as a coach with his beloved University of Colorado football program, Darrin Chiaverini noted the passion in his charges almost immediately.
Tasked with molding the Buffaloes' wide receivers into a legitimate force, Chiaverini, himself a former standout receiver at CU, realized effort and attitude were not going to be a problem. In fact, not only have the Buffs' receivers shown up dutifully to put in their work each and every day, but the group's willingness to work in tandem while also pushing one another to new heights has turned what was expected to be a serviceable group into an electrifying strength of CU's offense.
Heading into Saturday's Pac-12 Conference home date against Oregon State (12:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), the Buffs' receiving corps has evolved quickly into one of the most diverse and dangerous units in the league.
"I think it goes back to fall camp and how much work they put in, and how much work they continue to put in," Chiaverini said. "We're real big in our room about controlling the controllables, and that means controlling your attitude and effort. They've committed to that process and they're working hard.
"It's not by accident that they're playing well. It's because they're working hard at practice. We're going to continue to push and work hard, but they've taken the next step."
A year ago Devin Ross' play was marked by inconsistency, with his penchant for ill-timed drops often overshadowing his contributions. Those days seem distant now, as Ross burst out of the gate this season and hasn't slowed since.
He hauled in eight passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in the opener against Colorado State and has caught at least one touchdown pass in every game. With two touchdown receptions in the opening quarter at Michigan, Ross became the first CU player to catch a pair of first-quarter touchdowns 34 years.
Ross ranks third in the Pac-12 in receptions with 25 — the same number he posted all of last season — and also ranks third with 355 receiving yards. Of course, Ross hardly has done it alone. Shay Fields has caught 14 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Bryce Bobo, he of the toe-tapping, one-handed winning catch at Oregon, has added 13 catches for 228 yards. Even Jay MacIntyre and Kabion Ento have made the most of their chances, combining to make 13 receptions for 209 yards with two touchdowns from Ento.
Not bad for a unit that seemingly absorbed a damaging preseason blow with the loss of Juwann Winfree to a season-ending knee injury.
"It doesn't matter who scores or who catches the ball, we're always going to be hyped for him," Fields said. "We just want to go out and make plays. That's just how we feel and what we have to do."
Fields admits he didn't think CU's receivers made much of a mark as blockers last year, but that aspect of the group's game has perhaps been their area of greatest improvement. The Buffs routinely have delivered crushing downfield blocks that have turned short passes into big gains.
"Overall, we just want to make plays for each other and the team," Ross said. "Whenever we have opportunities to block for each other, we're going to do that too. It's a little competition, but we all just want to see each other do great this year."