Like most veteran players on the Colorado football team, tight end Chris Bounds is feeling a lot more at home this spring than he has in the past.
That comes with experience, but for Bounds, it also comes from realizing he doesn't need to lean on other players anymore.
"It definitely adds confidence," he said. "Coming into last year, I was the only guy."
Last year put some pressure on Bounds, as he no longer had Sean Irwin, who graduated after the 2016 season. He also didn't have George Frazier around as much. While Frazier was still on the team in 2017 and played a big role at tight end, he split his time on defense.
Now, both are gone, and Bounds, as a junior, is the most experienced tight end on the team.
"I lost the two guys that were guiding me," Bounds said.
No worries, though, as Bounds said he is ready to be that lead dog among the tight ends.
"I feel a lot more comfortable out there," he said. "It's a lot easier to get out there and get those plays in. I know the whole offense, and it's great. I love it."
CU doesn't have a big group of tight ends, but led by Bounds, it is a more dynamic group than it has been in the past several years.
Bounds, sophomore Jared Poplawski and junior college transfer Darrion Jones are all big, athletic tight ends with the ability to do multiple things on the field. The Buffs also like their two walk-ons, sophomore Derek Coleman and redshirt freshman Brady Russell, and senior Eddy Lopez can be an asset as a blocker in short-yardage situations.
"I'm excited about our tight ends and what they've been doing and how they're doing," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Jones comes to CU after a stellar two seasons at Los Angeles Harbor College, where he caught 55 passes for 973 yards and eight touchdowns in 17 games. He is one of the most intriguing newcomers on the team because of the size and speed he brings to the offense, but he still needs to learn the CU offense.
Bounds already knows the offense, and is eager to see how much more he can bring to the table.
Last year, Bounds flashed his ability to make plays as a receiver, finishing with seven catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns - and 41 of his yards - came in a 45-42 loss to Arizona, making him the first CU tight end with multiple touchdowns in a game in 12 years.
"That was the first game my brother ever came to see, and it was a lot of fun," Bounds said. "Having two in the same game was awesome."
It may not be 12 years before it happens again at CU, as Bounds and the rest of the tight ends seem to be capable weapons in the passing game.
"I'm glad that we're able to get some guys over here that can move around more for the offensive coordinator," Bounds said, referring to co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini, who will call plays. "If he can move us around and have us be more of a part of the offense and help the team, that's great. We love that."
So far in spring, Bounds said he's seeing some different looks from the tight ends.
"We're moving around already," he said. "You'll see us at practice splitting out a little bit more than what we used to. We're still doing the same blocking and we're still really solid blockers. We're just doing a little bit more (splitting out) and I love that."