Colorado co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren is eager to see what the Buffaloes' talented group of receivers can do this season, but his smile widened when asked about to specifically talk about junior Juwann Winfree.
"We're fired up about Juwann," Lindgren said. "I'm really excited about him. I was excited about him last year before he got hurt."
It's been more than a year since Winfree arrived in Boulder as a junior college transfer, and nearly a year since his much-anticipated debut was put on hold.
Now fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered on Aug. 18 of last year, Winfree is eager to prove how good he can be.
"I'm very anxious," Winfree said after practice on Thursday. "I think when I get out there (for the season opener on Sept. 1 vs. Colorado State), I might have a little bit of butterflies because it's been two years. I just really can't wait. I'm excited. I don't know what's to come, but I'm going to give it my all and I'm just ready to make a contribution."
Seniors Devin Ross (66 catches, 765 yards, 5 touchdowns), Shay Fields (52, 845, 9) and Bryce Bobo (41, 523, 2) are all back after great seasons in 2016, but the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Winfree isn't expected to have any trouble fitting into that group.
As a true freshman at Maryland in 2014, Winfree caught 11 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Terrapins reach the Foster Farms Bowl.
He was expected to take on a bigger role in 2015, but was dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules. Winfree wound up at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, where he caught 55 passes for 837 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015.
A year ago, many within the CU program felt he was the Buffs' best receiver before the knee injury.
"He's a big guy that is still explosive," Lindgren said. "He has the ability to get some run after the catch. He gives you a big target to throw to. Sometimes those big guys are going to catch it and then they're going to get tackled, and I think Juwann is explosive for a big guy to where you can hit him on some underneath stuff and he has the opportunity to hit some big plays."
Winfree could be particularly valuable in the red zone, where the Buffs had just 10 touchdown passes last year — ranking eighth in the Pac-12. Only four touchdown passes came from inside the 10-yard line.
"Him and (senior) Kabion Ento bring an element of just more size and athleticism down there that allows you to do some different things and prevents people from saying, 'We're going to load it up,'" Lindgren said.
Winfree doesn't care where he gets the ball, as long as he has an opportunity to help the Buffs win games.
"It's all about competing," he said. "I love to compete. They're going to put me wherever they feel I'm needed most at and I'm going to contribute the best that I can. I feel that we all bring something different to the table."
After going through the first serious injury of his career, Winfree said he's just glad to be on the field again.
"It feels great," he said. "Being away from the sport has made me appreciate the game even more and just made me work even harder than I already was."
Sophomore Steven Montez said he and the other quarterbacks often gets texts from Winfree, hoping one of them will throw him passes or work with him on his routes. All that extra work has paid off early in preseason camp, where Winfree, who is a strong route runner, is once again shining.
"He loves getting extra work," Montez said. "He's been preparing for this since last year. It's no surprise that Juwann is doing extremely well just because of the work he's put in in the offseason."
Winfree credits CU's trainers and strength and conditioning staff for getting him back to normal and he said, "People are actually telling that I look a little quicker than I was last year."
Finally healthy, Winfree can't wait to make his mark among CU's exceptional group of receivers.
"Wherever they feel they need me, I'm going to go in and do my best," he said.