During high school, Nelson Spruce proved to be an exceptional play-maker as a receiver and as a punt returner.
Colorado is hoping he can repeat that success as a Buffalo.
CU's leading receiver in 2012, Spruce has been tabbed as the Buffs' main punt returner going into the season.
"I feel like it's a big job," said Spruce, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore. "You need someone safe back there."
At Westlake (Calif.) High School, Spruce returned 23 punts for 462 yards (20.1 yards per return) and two touchdowns.
"I punt returned all through high school," he said. "I feel pretty comfortable. There's a lot of plays to be made on special teams, especially as a returner. I'm excited for the opportunity."
CU has struggled in the return game in recent seasons. The Buffs ranked 11th in the Pac-12 and 96th nationally with just 5.6 yards per punt return last year. That was actually a big jump from the 4.3 yards per return they averaged in 2011. That season, CU had just 56 yards on punt returns the entire season.
Spruce led the team with 44 catches for 446 yards a year ago. He also had one punt return for minus-2 yards. Kenneth Crawley handled most of the punt return duties in 2012.
For now, that job belongs to Spruce.
"First thing first is to make sure you get the ball into the offense's hands," he said. "I feel like I can do that well. After that, it's up to the whole scheme of the thing to make a play. But, I'm glad to be back there.
"Starting out, I want to definitely make sure I'm the catch-the-ball type, but as the season progresses and I feel more comfortable back there, we'll see what happens. Obviously you always want to be able to break one off."
The Buffs' longest punt return in the last two years was a 24-yarder by Crawley last season. CU has not had a punt return for touchdown since Oct. 22, 2005, when Stephone Robinson took one back 81 yards for a score against Kansas.