Devin Ross saw the ball in the air, knew it had touchdown written all over it and he began thinking about the celebration that was moments away.
That celebration never happened, as the ball slipped through Ross’ hands, and two plays later the Colorado football team settled for a field goal in an eventual 35-31 loss at UCLA.
Last season, Ross emerged as a solid weapon at wide receiver, as he caught 25 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. However, more attention has been given to the passes he didn’t catch – such as two in the end zone against UCLA.
“I still have all the UCLA drops in my head and that just motivates me more,” said Ross, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior. “During the offseason that’s all I’ve been focusing on is hands, and blocking downfield.”
CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said Ross had fundamental issues with his eyes and failing to focus on securing the ball. Ross agreed, saying he sometimes got ahead of himself, thinking too soon about what he was going to do after the catch.
“When I look back on all the passes I dropped last year, which was like seven throughout the season, every one it was my eyes,” Ross said.
Nelson Spruce, who recently finished his career as CU’s all-time leading receiver, gave Ross one last bit of advice before departing.
“He said, ‘Just catch it,’ ” Ross sad. “You can’t get yards without catching the ball, and that’s what I have to do.
“I can’t let my team down anymore. We should have won the UCLA game and if I would have caught at least one of those touchdown passes, we would have won.”
Ross said he’s a big fan of former Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard, who has similar size and caught 86 passes for 1,288 yards last season for the Sooners, and hopes to become just as reliable for CU’s quarterbacks.
“It’s very important to me because I want my quarterbacks to be able to trust me throughout the whole game,” Ross said. “I’m expecting a breakout year from myself and from my team, and if I want that, I have to do the little things in between.”
If Ross can gain consistency in catching passes thrown his way, he can be a major weapon for the Buffs.
“He’s a very good athlete and we need him to make some of those plays he didn’t make last year and he knows that better than anybody,” MacIntyre said. “He’s at least caught the ball well out here the last couple of days and hopefully he’ll keep progressing.”
Senior linebacker Kenneth Olugbode will not participate in practices until after spring break later this month. He currently has a boot on his left leg after an ankle injury suffered in offseason workouts.
With Olugbode out, the Buffs are down to two healthy scholarship inside linebackers — senior Ryan Severson and sophomore Rick Gamboa. Junior Addison Gillam will miss the entire spring as he recovers from a knee injury.
“It seems like every spring you have a lack of depth somewhere,” MacIntyre said. “It is hindering us a little bit, but we have some walk-on guys that are stepping in there and doing things and doing well.”
Earlier this week, it was incorrectly reported that defensive end Derek McCartney would be donating marrow as part of the Be The Match program that matches donors with patients who have blood cancer.
McCartney is actually donating peripheral blood stem cells, a process that Bethematch.org describes as “a nonsurgical procedure to collect blood-forming cells for bone marrow transplants.”
Be The Match is a program that started more than 25 years ago. MacIntyre got involved with the program during his time at San Jose State and has continued his involvement at CU, helping to find donor matches. McCartney was the latest to be identified as a match. He missed practices this week because of the donation process.
After using the new indoor facility on Wednesday, the Buffs practiced outside on Friday. MacIntyre said the new outdoor fields should be ready in time for fall camp in August. … MacIntyre said CU’s redshirt freshmen offensive and defensive linemen look better and stronger than last year, but he won’t be able to really judge them until the Buffs put the pads on next week.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.