CU football: Freshman Oliver sets sights on big role for Buffs in 2016

Young Kwak / Associated Press
Colorado freshman cornerback Isaiah Oliver, left, defends as Washington State receiver Dom Williams makes a catch last Saturday. Oliver played 64 snaps against the Cougars, with six tackles, three third-down stops and two pass breakups.

CU at Utah

When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. MST.

Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City.

TV: Pac-12 Networks.

Radio: 850 AM/94.1 FM.

For now, Isaiah Oliver is content with accepting his role and waiting for his turn.

The freshman has big things in mind for the rest of his career at Colorado, though.

A 6-foot-1, 185-pound cornerback from Goodyear, Ariz., Oliver is one of several talented true freshmen on the Colorado football roster this season, and he plans on playing a huge role in 2016.

“Definitely,” he said. “That’s the mindset to go into the (offseason), go into spring ball and fall camp, and I expect to be starting by the start of next year.”

Bold? Probably, but that’s a good thing, as far as Oliver is concerned.

“Corners are definitely born with confidence,” he said. “Every good corner you’ll find will have confidence, just because you’re put out one-on-one with a receiver in an open space where the receiver has most of the advantage throughout the entire game. You have to step up to his level and play your game, play your technique and win the battle.”

Oliver appears to have the skills to win a lot of those battles in the coming years.

So far this year, his playing time has been limited, but only because the Buffs are so experienced at cornerback. Senior Kenneth Crawley is a four-year starter, while juniors Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon are also regular starters.

Finding playing time in this secondary is difficult, but when given a chance Oliver has been impressive. He’s played 174 snaps this year, with 15 tackles and five pass breakups. Only Awuzie, Crawley and safety Tedric Thompson have more pass breakups than Oliver, and they’ve all played at least 789 snaps.

Oliver had his best game on Saturday against Washington State, the nation’s No. 1 passing offense. He played 64 snaps, with six tackles, three third-down stops and two pass breakups. One of those breakups led to a tipped pass that Thompson intercepted.

“Isaiah is a good player and he’s going to be a really good corner,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He has length, he has speed, he’s tough.”

Oliver would love to be playing more than he has to this point, but he’s not complaining. Instead, he has tried to take advantage of having so many veteran players around him.

“They’re able to explain things to me in a different way than the coaches can,” he said.

While their advice has helped, it was clear from early in fall camp that Oliver wasn’t going to redshirt. He’s too talented, and CU has used his talents to fill roles on special teams and as a backup in the secondary. It’s a role he has embraced this fall.

“I’m learning a lot,” he said. “I feel like ever since I got here, I got into fall camp and I’ve been able to catch onto things very quickly.”

He admits the speed of the college game has been a big adjustment for him, and that he’s still figuring that out.

“(In high school), receivers obviously aren’t as fast, the quarterback doesn’t get the ball out as quickly,” he said. “Once I’m able to slow that down, then I feel like I’ll be able to get right in there.”

So far, he’s off to a good start, but he is eager to see what he can do next year.

Crawley will graduate after this year, which leaves a starting spot up for grabs. Having had a chance to experience the college game this year, Oliver has no doubt that after a full offseason of work he can fill that spot.

“I think that’s a great benefit for all freshmen that are able to get in a couple of games throughout the year,” he said. “They already have their first-year jitters out of the way, they have their confidence level up. So next year when they’re sophomores they’re able to play at a very high level.”

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