Chidobe Awuzie doesn’t view himself as any better than his Colorado teammates.
Pac-12 coaches view the junior defensive back as a cut above, though.
On Tuesday, Awuzie and receiver Nelson Spruce were named to the All-Pac-12 second team, in a vote done by coaches.
“I feel like we have a lot of great players on defense and I just happen to be the one chosen by the Pac-12,” Awuzie said. “It’s an honor. It’s a high blessing. It’s a culmination of (defensive coordinator Jim) Leavitt and (safeties coach Joe) Tumpkin really coming in and changing the culture of our defense.”
Awuzie is CU’s first defensive player to be selected to the first or second team since the Buffs joined the Pac-12 in 2011. This is the first time CU has had multiple players land among the top two teams.
It’s the second consecutive second-team nod for Spruce, who caught 89 passes for 1,053 yards and four touchdowns this season.
“Obviously, you like that type of recognition,” Spruce said. “First team would have been better. That was my goal coming in. There was some good receivers this year.”
Spruce, who set the Pac-12 career record for receptions (294), finished second in the conference in catches and fourth in yards this year.
Spruce joins former offensive lineman David Bakhtiari as the only Buffs to earn first or second team honors twice. Bakhtiari was a second-team choice in 2011 and 2012.
The only other Buff to land on the top two teams was receiver Paul Richardson, who was CU’s only first-teamer, in 2013.
Tight end Sean Irwin and safety Tedric Thompson, both juniors, received honorable mention.
Awuzie said it was in the back of his mind to skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, but said Tuesday, “I’m definitely coming back. We have a good thing going and I want to see the progress finish and us get to that bowl game and have some success.”
In addition to Awuzie, head coach Mike MacIntyre said he’s expecting the rest of the juniors back, too. The Buffs have several fourth-year juniors who didn’t play much, if at all, but as of now none have indicated they will not return. That could always change, though.
“You hate to say this, but you always have attrition with guys who go through spring and decide they don’t want to come back,” MacIntyre said. “There’s kids that transfer or decide to graduate early.”
Tupou on track for return
MacIntyre is also hoping to have defensive tackle Josh Tupou back next year.
Arguably CU’s best defensive lineman, Tupou was supposed to be a senior this past year but was dismissed from the school and the team over the summer.
“He’s planning on coming back to school in May,” MacIntyre said.
Tupou would be a senior on the 2016 squad if he does return.
Baltazar won’t be a Buff
Aaron Baltazar has a spot in CU’s 2015 media guide, and at one point, the equipment staff had a jersey with his name printed on the back.
The former Boise State running back never arrived, however, and on Tuesday, MacIntyre said, “He won’t be here.”
MacIntyre was asked a follow up question as to whether Baltazar would ever become a Buff and he said, “No.”
Baltazar ran for 234 yards as a true freshman at Boise State in 2013 before a season-ending knee injury. He then transferred to Washington State, but never enrolled in school, and eventually landed at Southwestern College.
Baltazar signed a letter of intent with CU last February and in mid-July the Buffs were hopeful he’d be on the 2015 roster.
MacIntyre said that spring practice will start shortly after national signing day (Feb. 3) and conclude before spring break (March 21-25). … Running back Michael Adkins, linebacker Addison Gillam and defensive lineman Eddy Lopez are all eligible to apply for medical redshirts because they missed most of the season. MacIntyre said that application process doesn’t take place until the final year of each players’ career. … Spruce said he has committed to play in the 91st Annual East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.