Making the adjusting to Division I football this spring, Colorado's Davion Taylor went through some typical growing pains.
"It started off kind of rough," he said.
With CU's season opener against Colorado State coming up Aug. 31, however, Taylor is feeling quite a bit more comfortable and has his eyes on winning the starting job at the "Buff" back position.
"It's going much better," Taylor, a transfer from Coahoma (Miss.) Community College, said this week. "I'm learning the plays and I can react quicker. Things are going really well."
The Buff, which is a safety/outside linebacker hybrid position, suits Taylor's talents, he said, and it's similar to what he was asked to do at Coahoma the past two years.
"Similar plays, just different calls," said Taylor, who is a junior. "I like it because I can use all my abilities. I get to rush, I get to cover and I get to just do everything that I can do."
CU may add some wrinkles to its defense this year, but in recent years the Buff has been on the field a lot. Last year, CU used the Buff back more often than not, with Ryan Moeller playing well in that role.
Moeller's graduation leaves a hole to fill, and it's likely to be Taylor stepping in.
At 6-foot-2 and nearly 220 pounds, he's a bit bigger than Moeller, and he's faster. Taylor was a sprinter on the CU track team in the spring, clocking a season-best 10.51 seconds in the 100-meter dash and finishing sixth at the Pac-12 championships. He had the eight best 100 meter times on the team this spring and his 10.51 was the fastest by a Buff in five years.
Taylor said he got down to around 212 pounds in the spring, but is back up to 218 this week. He's hoping to be around 220 by the opener. Whether he gains those extra pounds or not, he said he feels comfortable playing at his current weight.
So far, the Buffs have liked what Taylor brings to the field. Because of his unique skill set and position, Taylor will often work with three different position coaches — line coach Kwahn Drake, coordinator/outside linebackers coach D.J. Eliot and safeties coach ShaDon Brown.
"He's a great personality, so he's easy to go to different coaches and work and be locked in," Brown said.
Taylor's all-around ability gives the Buffs some options on how they'll use him on game days.
"He's really fast when we bring him off the edge," Brown said. "He's also a guy that's fast enough and athletic enough to cover (receivers in the passing game). We're doing some different things with him to utilize his skill sets.
"When you have a multi-talented kid, you have to be creative as a coach and not to handicap those guys in terms of their abilities."
Taylor said his toughest adjustment so far has been in learning pass rush moves "because the linemen on this level are so much better than on the JUCO level."
No matter what he's asked to do on the field, however, Taylor said he's excited to get going with the season.
"I just get to make plays and help us bring a victory," he said.
New Tasmanian Devil?
During the past few years, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre routinely referred to running back Phillip Lindsay as the "Tasmanian Devil," because of his aggressive, energetic style of play.
Lindsay has moved onto the NFL, but on Thursday, MacIntyre used that term to describe another player: redshirt freshman linebacker Jon Van Diest.
"He's kind of a Tasmanian devil," MacIntyre said. "He's kind of that high energy, high motor, high effort guy. He's kind of that guy on defense."
Still battling back from a November ACL tear in his left knee, Van Diest has looked good in camp as he pushes for playing time at a position loaded with talent.
"As he keeps playing and keeps getting better and better on his knee and gets back to feeling really, really comfortable, I think he's going to be an excellent, excellent player, and he's going to help us this year," MacIntyre said. "He's been pretty impressive to me."
The Buffs practiced in spiders (lightweight pads) on Thursday and worked on situations in the kicking game, MacIntyre said. ... Thursday was the 19th practice of fall, and with a game next week, MacIntyre said, "I definitely feel like they want to play against someone else and hit somebody else." ... On Friday night, the Buffs will practice at Folsom Field, doing "kind of a mock scrimmage" in preparation for the opener against CSU the following Friday night. The practice is closed to the public.