Colorado lost its starting tight end from last year, and then lost one of its most promising young players during fall camp this month.
Despite those holes to fill, tight ends coach Gary Bernardi is confident in the group he's got to work with this season.
"The kids work hard and do a good job," he said. "They relate, they communicate, they talk."
While CU's tight ends haven't caught a lot of passes in recent years, it's a group that brings a different dimension to the offense as the Buffs prepare for Friday's opener against Colorado State.
Led by junior Chris Bounds, the Buffaloes' tight ends will once again be counted on to block in the run game, while also potentially getting some targets in the passing game.
"Those guys we use a lot of different sets," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "They also play on all of our special teams, which is a big deal."
As a backup to then-senior George Frazier, Bounds had a great year in 2017, proving himself as a blocker and pass catcher. He caught seven passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns, both against Arizona.
Redshirt freshman Brady Russell is also viewed as a key to the tight end group. He was a walk-on until recently earning a scholarship.
"Brady and Chris do a great job, very fundamentally sound, very knowledgeable about what we're trying to do," Bernardi said. "They ask good questions, and that's important. Hopefully we'll stay healthy."
The Buffs can't afford another injury at tight end after true sophomore Jared Poplawski suffered a season-ending shoulder injury this month. Bernardi said it especially disappointing because of how much progress Poplawski had shown in camp.
"He was smoother than he was Day 1 and 2 when we were practicing," Bernardi said. "He retained some stuff from last year and in those 14 days had improved from Day 1."
Poplawski will have three more years to play, which is a positive, but the injury means junior college transfer Darrion Jones has to get up to speed quicker. With a healthy Poplawski, the Buffs might have been able to redshirt Jones, but now he's one of only three scholarship tight ends.
"He has gotten better from practice one to 20," Bernardi said. "Is he ready to be a full-time guy in prime time? No, but he's improved himself a lot."
True freshman Frank Fillip missed a big chunk of preseason camp with an ankle injury, but has been impressive since his return. The 6-foot-7, 280-pounder from Houston is listed second on the depth chart at left tackle.
"He's got a lot of things that are hard to teach," CU co-offensive coordinator/line coach Klayton Adams said. "He's got great length, he's very athletic. He has an incredible skill set and he's very intelligent."
CU trains a lot of its linemen to play multiple positions, but Adams said Fillip is "definitely a tackle." For now, the Buffs have kept him just at left tackle "to see how fast he can improve."
Adams said redshirt freshman guard/tackle Will Sherman has been impressive with how well he plays at multiple spots on the line. Sherman opens the season second on the depth chart at right tackle, but can also play guard and can play on the right or left side of the line. ...As of Wednesday morning, CU had sold 33,057 tickets for Friday's game against Colorado State. Of those, 9,242 were sold to students.