Last offseason, Devin Ross devoted his time to becoming a receiver that Colorado's quarterbacks and coaches could rely on in key situations.

This season, he became so reliable that he produced one of the top seasons in CU history for a receiver.

"It was big for me," the junior said. "That's what I wanted in the spring. Ever since last season, I've just been wanting to be a playmaker and I'm glad I got an opportunity to show my coaches and everybody that watches CU's games what I can really do all the time."

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Ross, who has started every game for the Valero Alamo Bowl-bound Buffaloes (10-3), finished his season with 66 catches for 765 yard and five touchdowns.

CU does not count bowl statistics in season and career totals, so Ross's numbers will stand for this year. His 66 catches are the seventh-most ever in a single season for a CU receiver, and his yardage total ranks 13th.

"He's had a really good year and made a lot of plays and done a lot of really good things," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "I'm excited with Devin's improvement and hopefully he has an excellent bowl game.

"He'll keep improving another year and he'll have a really good senior year."

Ross had an interesting season in that his role evolved mid-year.

Four games in, he had 25 catches for 355 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 14.2 yards per catch. At that point, he and fellow junior Shay Fields were lighting up teams with big plays.


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"After the first few games, teams started playing differently, playing deeper to take away the deep routes," Ross said. "I became more of an underneath receiver. That was fine with me. I wanted to do whatever it took to help the team."

During the last nine games, he caught 41 passes for 410 yards (10.0 per catch). On the year, 32 of his catches went for first downs.

"We just changed our game plan accordingly and it just worked out for us, for the most part," said Ross, who had 31 career catches coming into the season and was plagued by costly drops during the 2015 season.

Whether it was senior Sefo Liufau or freshman Steven Montez at quarterback, Ross became a receiver they could rely on to make a catch when the Buffs needed it most.

With a year to go, and seeing his name among the elite receivers in CU history, Ross is aiming for more next fall.

"I just have high standards for myself," he said. "Especially for next season, I have a lot to live up to. I just have to have a big offseason for myself and get back for the team and help them out as much as possible.

"Next year is going to be even better."

There's still one game to go this season, however, and considering he hasn't scored a touchdown since Sept. 24, Ross would like to change that before turning the page to his senior campaign.

"At least two or three (touchdowns) in the bowl game," he said with a smile. "I need to get back on track."

Three more Buffs headed to Shrine Game

Three CU defensive players accepted invites to the East-West Shrine Game on Monday, giving the Buffs four players headed to that all-star game.

Linebacker Kenneth Olugbode and defensive backs Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon accepted invites on Monday. Previously, defensive tackle Josh Tupou accepted an invitation.

The 92nd East-West Shrine Game takes place Jan. 21 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. This is the first time since 2003 that CU has had as  many as four players in the Shrine Game.

Gilbert earns All-America honor

On Monday, Buffs senior outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert was named to the Associated Press All-America third team.

Gilbert is the first CU player to earn AP All-America honors since 2011, when guard Ryan Miller was a third-team selection. His is the first CU defender to make the list since linebacker Jordon Dizon was a first-teamer in 2007.

Gilbert had 10 sacks this season and finished second in the country with six forced fumbles — one shy of the school record.

Liufau to Senior Bowl

Buffs quarterback Sefo Liufau has accepted an invitation to play in the Reese's Senior Bowl on Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala.

Liufau, who threw for 2,171 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 496 yards and seven scores, will be the first CU quarterback to ever play in the Senior Bowl.

Last month, CU cornerback Chidobe Awuzie accepted an invite from the Senior Bowl.

Awuzie and Liufau will be the first Buffs to play in the game since Nick Kasa after the 2012 season. It's the first time since after the 2010 season that multiple Buffs took part.

Notable

Fields became just the fifth player in CU history to record two 50-catch seasons in his career, joining Nelson Spruce, Rae Carruth, Charles E. Johnson and Scotty McKnight. Spruce is the only player with three 50-catch seasons. ... Fields ranks sixth in CU history with 144 catches. ... Ross has 97 career catches, leaving him just three shy of becoming the 15th player in CU history with 100.

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