Last week, when the Colorado football team announced its captains for the upcoming season, the list of seven players included three receivers.
"I would think that's probably the first time in school history," co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said. "I don't remember three receivers being team captains in one year. It says a lot."
Chiaverini was a captain during his senior season at CU in 1998, but in the 19 seasons from 1999-2017, only five total receivers were named captains, and there's never been as many as two in a season until now.
Leading up to fall camp, which begins Aug. 1, Buffzone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffs. In this installment, we take a look at the receivers, a position group that didn't have a great season in 2017, but, led by senior captains Kabion Ento, Jay MacIntyre and Juwann Winfree, is determined to be better this year.
"We didn't live up to expectations last year and that's all of us," Chiaverini said. "I told the players that. We're all in this together. I didn't do a good enough job and we didn't do a good enough job as a group. We have a lot to prove. I'm excited to see those guys work."
It's a group that must replace three of the most productive receivers in school history. Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields and Devin Ross were the top three receivers last year, combining for 151 catches for 1,824 yards and 11 touchdowns. All three rank among the top eight in CU history for career catches.
There will be new faces leading the way this year, and it starts with Winfree. The former Maryland and junior college transfer played well in a backup role last year, has NFL-caliber skills and has emerged as a leader this offseason.
"I haven't always been a vocal guy," Winfree said. "I kind of stayed back and handled my business, but it's team effort. There's a lot of people who look up to me and I have to use my position the best I can, and that's being a leader.
"I observed a lot of things and last year was the only time I played on a losing college team my whole career so far. This is my final chance for the team to put everything together, get back on to the winning scale and back to where we need to be."
Winfree and sophomore Laviska Shenault are exceptional athletes who may not take long this season to make their mark in the Pac-12. Shenault showed big-play explosiveness in his limited playing time last year and is already one of the strongest players on the entire team.
Ento, who redshirted last year to play a more prominent role this year, has speed, size and leaping ability to be a force, as well.
MacIntyre, meanwhile, comes into the year as the most experienced of the group, with 66 catches for 870 yards and four touchdowns in his career.
Throw in explosive sophomore slot KD Nixon, Texas Tech transfer Tony Brown, and a quartet of talented freshmen and it's a group that certainly has no shortage of weapons.
"It's a talented group, but they have a lot to prove," Chiaverini said. "It's a collective unit and as a unit offensively, we weren't good enough (last year) and we've got to do a better job. As wideouts, having three captains that are talented and under classmen that are talented, now they have to go out there and prove it every day."
The veterans may wind up leading this team, but during fall camp the youngsters will get a chance to prove themselves.
Redshirt freshman Maurice Bell had a great spring and classmate Jaylon Jackson looks good after recovering from a broken ankle that wiped out his 2017 season and spring ball.
True freshmen Daniel Arias, Dimitri Stanley and Dylan Thomas bring exceptional talent to the table, as well, but Chiaverini said, "We have to see how fast they pick up the offense and, when they retain the information, can they take it to the practice field and execute?"
Walk-ons Erik Lawson and Curtis Chiaverini provide some added depth, as they, too, continue to get better.
The receiving corps is blessed with talent and leadership, and coach Chiaverini can't wait to see who steps up in fall camp.
"Even though some of them have a little inexperience overall in college football, they work hard and I want to see them compete in camp," he said. "They have to go out there and earn it."
Returners (2017 statistics)
Kabion Ento, Sr., 6-3, 190 (redshirted in 2017; 8 catches, 174 yards, 2 TD in 2016)
Jay MacIntyre, Sr., 5-10, 185 (28 catches, 396 yards, 2 TD)
K.D. Nixon, So., 5-8, 185 (2 catches, 17 yards)
Laviska Shenault, So., 6-2, 220 (7 catches, 168 yards)
Juwann Winfree, Sr., 6-3, 215 (21 catches, 325 yards, 2 TD)
Erik Lawson, So., 6-4, 205 (walk-on)
Daniel Arias, Fr., 6-4, 200 (true freshman)
Maurice Bell, Fr., 6-0, 180 (redshirted)
Tony Brown, Jr., 6-1, 190 (redshirted in 2017; transfer from Texas Tech)
Jaylon Jackson, Fr., 5-10, 180 (redshirted)
Dimitri Stanley, Fr., 5-11, 170 (true freshman)
Dylan Thomas, Fr., 6-2, 185 (true freshman
Curtis Chiaverini, Fr., 6-1, 195 (walk-on; redshirted)
Bryce Bobo (graduated; 62 catches, 693 yards, 5 TD)
Shay Fields (graduated; 46 catches, 623 yards, 4 TD)
Johnny Huntley III (transferred to Liberty)
Devin Ross (graduated; 43 catches, 508 yards, 2 TD)
Lee Walker (transferred)
Xavier Cochrane (walk-on; graduated)
Kevin Dement (walk-on; graduated)
2017 recap: Going into the season, CU's receiving corps was rated as one of the best in the country. The senior trio of Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields and Devin Ross all put up solid numbers, but didn't live up to the expectations. It was a rough year for the entire receiving group, including several critical dropped passes. Statistically, Bobo had the best year of his career. Slot Jay MacIntyre was steady, as usual, despite playing with an injured foot. When given a chance, Juwann Winfree and Laviska Shenault displayed big-play ability.
2018 outlook: While the Buffs will miss the experience of Bobo, Fields and Ross, the receiving corps may actually be better than it's been in a long time. Winfree and Shenault put in a lot of work in the weight room and on the field to improve their craft, and they've both got the ability to one day play in the NFL. Winfree's more experienced and could turn a lot of heads around the Pac-12. Kabion Ento flashed his talent in 2016 and was arguably CU's best receiver during the 2017 offseason before redshirting. Jay MacIntyre is a go-to target who often turns his catches into first downs. KD Nixon is explosive with the ball in his hands and may actually be used to run the ball out of the backfield at times. Tony Brown is another player who has flashed his talent - as a freshman and sophomore at Texas Tech - and he will push for a bigger role with the Buffs. As good as that group can be, the future looks good, too, as the Buffs will have five highly-touted freshmen receivers in the mix this fall, as well. One of the most intriguing freshmen is Daniel Arias, who, at 6-4, 200, looks like he could step on the field and contribute immediately.