The Colorado football team has its Sept. 1 season opener against rival Colorado State in sight.

"(The clock) is ticking real fast to me," head coach Mike MacIntyre said on Friday.

Going into Monday, the Buffaloes are nearly halfway through preseason camp, with 13 practices down and 16 to go before facing the Rams.

So far, this has been a solid camp for the Buffs. That's the word from those inside the gates, anyway, as all but one practice — a scaled-back scrimmage on Aug. 5 — has been closed to the fans and media.

Despite the very limited access, there does appear to be several positives for the Buffs as they look to build upon last year's Pac-12 South championship.

Nearing the mid-point of camp, here are a few things we've learned about the Buffs:

1. The defense may not be that bad. After losing eight starters, 10 major contributors and three assistant coaches from last year, the general feeling is that CU won't be as good on defense. And, maybe they won't.

But, in the open scrimmage they looked good and coaches, as well as offensive players, have praised the defense often.

"Defensively, we won't be quite as salty early as we were last year, but we've got some really good players," MacIntyre said. "It'll take them a while. Those other guys (last year) could correct themselves in the middle of a drive. That's going to be a little bit harder (this year). They'll get that after the first few games."


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2. The receivers are really good. We knew going into camp that CU could have one of the best groups of receivers in the country. On a daily basis, however, that group continues to shine.

Reports from inside the gates are that the stars — seniors Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields and Devin Ross — are acting like stars, while senior Kabion Ento, junior Juwann Winfree and freshmen KD Nixon and Laviska Shenault continue to flash their talent.

3. Lindsay's got some help. Senior Phillip Lindsay is one of the best all-around running backs in the Pac-12, if not the country. One of the question marks coming into the season is whether the Buffs can find a suitable backup.

So far, it appears they have a few options.

Senior Michael Adkins II hasn't been fully healthy since the second game of the 2015 season, but he's looking like his old self. If he can stay healthy, he could give the Buffs one of the best tailback duos in the conference.

Sophomore Beau Bisharat is having a good camp, too, while Donovan Lee is making plays. True freshman Alex Fontenot — likely to redshirt — is flashing at times, too.

Junior Kyle Evans, second among tailbacks in rushing last year, is nearing a return from an offseason hip injury.

Camp stars

Several players have been mentioned for their performances in camp, but these are some of the players getting talked about the most:

1. Cornerback Isaiah Oliver: The junior appears poised for a breakout season. He might be the best overall player on this team and seems to be proving it on a daily basis.

2. Quarterback Steven Montez: The starting quarterback always gets talked about a lot, but nearly every day, players and coaches have mentioned about how impressed they've been with his progress.

3. Linebacker Rick Gamboa: Defensive players and coaches have said he's like a coach on the field because of his intelligence. Even the offensive coaching staff comes to Gamboa for advice at times.

4. Cornerback Trey Udoffia: The battle for the No. 2 corner spot is one of the top battles in camp. Nobody has been praised more than Udoffia, who has followed up a great spring with a great fall camp.

5. Starting offensive line: The projected starting group of Jeromy Irwin, Gerrad Kough, Jonathan Huckins, Tim Lynott and Aaron Haigler has had a good camp, so far living up to the hype that they're the best O-line group CU's had in several years.

6. Defensive end/outside linebacker Timothy Coleman: The senior is having his best camp at CU and appears to be in line for a big season as a pass-rush specialist.

7. Receiver KD Nixon: He's a 5-foot-8 true freshman that brings a unique set of skills to the offense. Based on the chatter about him, it would be a surprise if he's not on the field this year.

8. Safety Evan Worthington: Back from a one-year suspension, Worthington is making plays at safety and Buff back and proving he will be a key part of the defense.

9. Veteran receivers: It's hard to pick just one, because Bobo, Fields, Ross, Ento and Winfree have all made big plays. Just about every day, at least one of those five players is stepping up.

10. Defensive end Leo Jackson III: Defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat said Jackson has separated himself from a solid group of linemen. Montez said Jackson is probably in his face more than any other defender.

What's next?

A few notable events in the next couple of weeks:

Friday: Camp scrimmage No. 3 (closed to the public)

Aug. 25: Annual Kickoff Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. at Balch Fieldhouse

Aug. 26: Practice is open to CU students only (scheduled from 10:05 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.)

Aug. 28: First day of fall semester for players and all students

Sept. 1: Season opener vs. Colorado State at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver

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