It would be easy to think that Colorado's tight ends feel a bit slighted in the passing game.

After all, even quarterback Sefo Liufau had more receiving yards than any tight end at CU a year ago.

Considering the exceptional talent at wide receiver this year, the tight ends may not be putting up many stats this year, either.

"I don't think we care as much a lot of people think we care," sophomore Chris Bounds said.

Despite the lack of statistics (three catches for 20 yards as a group last year), the tight end is very much a part of CU's offense, and that's what matters to Bounds and others.

"We just want to help the team as much as we can and if that's blocking, catching or running routes to clear out for other receivers, that's what we're going to do," said Bounds, who caught one pass for eight yards last year. "We're out here to make the team better and we're out here to win games."

Aside from senior George Frazier, who is a two-year team captain that also plays on defense, the tight end group is one that the casual CU fan doesn't know much about.

It's a group that includes Bounds, junior Dylan Keeney, junior Eddy Lopez (who moved over from the defensive line this summer) and true freshman Jared Poplawski. The Buffs also have three walk-ons in the group, two of which have moved over from defense since the start of preseason camp.


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"As a group, we're jelling pretty well together," Bounds said. "We're getting pushed really hard by (tight ends coach Gary Bernardi) and everybody is coming together and they're really learning their position pretty well.

"As hard as tight end is here, and as much as we have to know, they're really picking it up pretty quick."

While they aren't often catching passes, CU's tight ends are asked to do a lot. They will line up as tight ends, full backs or flexed out as receivers and whoever is on the field is often depended on to help someone else gain some yards with the ball.

"The biggest thing is people don't notice it because they don't catch a lot of balls, but they're in there and they're doing a lot of different things," Bernardi. "That's what people don't really see."

Head coach Mike MacIntyre said tight ends were used in 40 percent of CU's offensive plays last year and called their role "critical" in the CU run game and in short-yardage situations.

"Their ability to be flexible playing the backfield, playing on the line and flex out is a huge part of our offense," MacIntyre said. "They also all help on special teams and do a great job there."

MacIntyre said the variety of ways CU aligns its tight ends makes life more difficult for an opponent preparing to face the Buffs.

While Keeney has been out with a back injury during camp, Frazier and Bounds have been the veterans of the group. Bounds is aiming to fill the role that Sean Irwin played the past several years as a key blocker.

"I feel like I'm able to step into Irwin's shoes pretty well," Bounds said. "He taught me a lot and Bernardi has obviously helped me with that. Sean was one of the best role models and he was one of the best to teach blocking to me. He's been a great influence for being able to take over his spot."

Bernardi has been pleased with Bounds and Frazier and also said Lopez is "a lot better" than he was at the beginning of camp.

Poplawski, who was originally committed to play for his home town Arizona State Sun Devils before switching to CU, may be the most versatile player in the group. As a freshman, his time might come later, but Bernardi loves the potential.

"I saw him practice a lot of times (in high school) and I really liked his work ethic and I thought he had a chance to get bigger," Bernardi said. "He can do a lot of things."

As a group, CU's tight ends are capable of doing a lot of things - and yes, that includes catching the ball - and Bernardi is eager to see how they perform this season.

"Have they all gotten better? Yes," he said. "Are they good enough to compete and win? We'll have to see, but they've gotten better.

"There's only two guys that have really proven it in the game. You can be great out here (in practice), but it's in the stadium where it counts."

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