During the first couple weeks of preseason camp, Colorado safeties coach ShaDon Brown has seen a change in senior Kyle Trego.
"Kids are different when they're seniors," Brown said. "They know the end of the road is coming and so they're locked in a little bit more and I've seen that maturity out of him."
That's good for Trego and it's great for the Buffaloes, who are striving to develop depth at safety and cornerback as the Aug. 31 season opener against Colorado State approaches.
Three reliable members of last year's secondary - cornerback Isaiah Oliver and safeties Afolabi Laguda and Ryan Moeller - are no longer here, but so far, Brown and cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose like what they see.
At safety, the Buffs have a talented starting duo with seniors Nick Fisher and Evan Worthington. They have a combined 16 starts and 70 games played, and it shows.
"When they're out on the field, the other nine guys have a calming effect," Brown said. "They also can eliminate problems when they see things before the snap, in terms of checks and communication. They're doing a good job leading."
Among the rest, Trego is the most experienced, but has just 30 career snaps played.
"I thought he was probably the most improved safety in the spring," Brown said. "We're mixing and matching him playing the Buff role as well as playing high safety. He's got a lot on his plate from a mental standpoint, but I think he's more focused."
Junior college transfer Aaron Maddox is playing safety and nickel and has impressed Brown his speed and ball skills. Sophomore Derrion Rakestraw, a former receiver and cornerback, is "starting to come along" at safety.
After a slow start to camp, redshirt freshman Isaiah Lewis is improving, too. He's been working with the second and third units.
"I think sometimes as a player, they think going with the three group on the second field means a demotion, but I tell them it's just like Triple-A baseball," Brown said. "Sometimes a guy goes from the major league to Triple-A to work on development and you bring him back."
True freshman Hasaan Hypolite is flashing at times during practice, as well.
"I think the depth is coming along," Brown said, adding that pairing veterans with youth is helping. "It's critical any time you have a couple of older guys and you have an abundance of young guys, you need to mix and match them with an older guy so they at least hear the right things when they're on the grass."
Competition is wide open at cornerback, where the Buffs are loaded with talent and potential.
Sophomore Trey Udoffia and junior Dante Wigley both started seven games last year and have been good in camp so far.
"The guy that's really most consistent is Trey," Ambrose said. "He just has a really good feel for it and has been in the system. Dante is doing a really good job; he's really starting to elevate his game even more now."
Junior college transfers Delrick Abrams Jr. and Mekhi Blackmon and redshirt freshman Chris Miller are battling for starting roles, too. None of them have played a game for the Buffs, but Miller has the most experience in CU's defense and he's got excellent talent and athleticism.
The 6-foot-3 Abrams spent the spring "figuring things out," Ambrose said, and in camp he has impressed coaches and teammates.
"He feels more comfortable about it now," Ambrose said. "It's hard on offensive guys when you have a guy with that kind of length that can run, and he's physical. I think he brings good leadership to that room, as well, because really he's like the oldest."
Blackmon has just 160 pounds on his 6-foot frame, and didn't arrive until late in the summer, but he continues to play well enough to get into the mix.
"He's smart," Ambrose said. "He gets it and he has made a lot of plays, as well, breaking on the ball."
Perhaps nobody on the team is better at breaking on the ball than sophomore Ronnie Blackmon, who has had a great camp at nickel.
"Out of all the guys we have, that kid has the best instincts on this team," Ambrose said. "He's athletic; just a very talented player. He's gifted and he sees things and he reads routes and breaks and he goes from point A to point B really quick."
With six talented players battling for playing time, Ambrose feels confident about the Buffs' corners.
"These guys are competing against each other and that's what you want," he said. "You want these guys to bring the best out of each other. I think these guys are only going to get better."