As Dante Wigley began kicking the tires on prospective schools last year for a place to continue his football career, all the appropriate boxes with Colorado started getting checked off.

CU's return to prominence with a 10-win season and an appearance in the Alamo Bowl certainly was notable. And for any player harboring big dreams, the fact the Buffaloes were about to send three defensive backs to NFL rosters certainly was a head-turner.

Then Wigley visited and his mom simply loved the place. Done deal.

As the Buffaloes attempt to regroup Saturday in a homecoming date against Cal (noon, Pac-12 Network), they do so with Wigley playing a larger, more assertive role at cornerback on a defense still trying to establish an identity.

"In the recruiting process I looked at all the DBs, and how (CU's) DBs were going to go to the NFL," Wigley said. "I went to the Utah game (last year) and they were literally lights-out. I was like, 'Man, I've got to be in that secondary next year.' That definitely was a contribution, and the fact that (Mike MacIntyre) is a guru of DBs.

"I've never come this far from home, and when I came here on my official with my mom she loved it. She's a real big influence on my life. I thought about it a lot and had other options, but I decided to come out here."


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Wigley, a native of Carrollton, Ga., spent his true freshman season of 2015 as a redshirt at Georgia Tech before leaving the program and transferring to Holmes Community College in Goodman, Miss. Wigley arrived at CU at the semester break last year and participated in spring workouts with the Buffs, though he was promised no specific role at a cornerback spot that already included Isaiah Oliver, Trey Udoffia, and Anthony Julmisse.

Patience and perseverance have served Wigley well. Julmisse was dismissed from the team earlier this year for off-the-field issues, while recent injuries to Udoffia and Oliver have thrust Wigley into the spotlight.

"He's a hard worker and he cares about how he plays," said CU defensive backs coach ShaDon Brown, who recruited Wigley out of high school when he was coaching at Wofford. "He has just continued to work, and when his opportunity showed up for him, he made plays. That's the way it works. I always tell them, 'Don't count your plays, make your plays count.' And when he's gotten in there, he's been able to produce for us."

After taking the field for just 21 plays through the first four games, Wigley stepped in for an injured Udoffia at UCLA on Sept. 30 and has been a regular in the secondary since. He notched his first career start the following week against Arizona and recorded a season-best five tackles in a win at Oregon State. He was credited with three pass breakups in last week's shutout loss at Washington State — the first three pass breakups of his career — and with Oliver's status still uncertain, Wigley's services could be even more integral for the Buffs' chances of victory this week against a Cal team that comes to Folsom Field having averaged 419 yards the past two weeks.

"I feel very comfortable going into this week," Wigley said. "I know last week I felt great out there. The more playing time I get, the more comfortable and confident I get on the field. I'm seeing a lot more out there, playing a little bit faster. I feel really good."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07