Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Given the choice, Gary Bernardi would have continued coaching Colorado’s offensive linemen this season.
That choice was not given to him, but Bernardi has grown to enjoy his new role as the Buffaloes’ tight ends and fullbacks coach.
“It’s a good opportunity to meet different kids and get to know other kids better,” he said. “They’re good kids to work with.”
A longtime offensive line coach, Bernardi was “anxious” to coach an experienced and mature line group this year. Head coach Mike MacIntyre decided to make a switch, however, moving Klayton Adams from tight ends/running backs to offensive line and Bernardi to his new role.
“These kids (at tight end) are good, too,” Bernardi said. “I really like working with them. When you’re hands on and working with them, it all works out.”
It’s been an adjustment for the players, too, but senior Sean Irwin said players enjoy working with Bernardi.
“It’s a lot different, but he’s a great coach,” Irwin said. “Coach Bernardi looks at every little detail and makes sure that your craft is really good. Coach Adams is more of just making sure that you’re doing the right things. I’m pretty much getting the best of both worlds with both the coaches.”
CU believes that Irwin, who caught 15 passes for 248 yards last year, has a chance to be one of the best tight ends in the Pac-12.
“Some guys are just receivers or some guys are just blockers,” MacIntyre said. “(Irwin) really can do both, and he’s been doing a lot of good things for us and I’m excited about his senior year.”
Bernardi is also excited about fullback/tight end George Frazier, a junior who has shown flashes of excellence the past two years.
“He does a lot of things,” Bernardi said. “Guys get older and experienced and they mature, and I think he’s matured a little bit and gotten better in the offseason.”
Sophomore Dylan Keeney and freshman Chris Bounds are the other two tight ends on scholarship, while junior walk-ons Brian Boatman and Chris Hill are in the mix, too. Bernardi said all of them have done well this spring and seem to learn from Irwin and Frazier.
Bernardi is learning, too. While he does have a lot of experience coaching tight ends during his career, it’s been a while.
“I did it before, but that was 15-17 years ago and offenses have changed dramatically,” he said. “That part has been a lot different. You have to work and do more things from a split, slot type of configuration than an attached configuration. There’s more personnel groupings going in and out.”
Ultimately, though, coaching is coaching, and Bernardi said he’s enjoying it.
“So far, I have no complaints,” he said.
On the mend
Postponing Monday’s practice due to “mounting injuries” raised some eyebrows, but MacIntyre said on Tuesday it was really just a much-needed extra day of rest for a few players who were sick or banged up.
“That helped us get some more guys back out,” he said of pushing practice back a day. “You have to have as many guys as you can out there, because spring is about improving and getting everybody better.”
MacIntyre confirmed that the only major injury to this point is the torn ACL suffered by safety Jaisen Sanchez last week.
The Buffs are thin at linebacker, especially, and in the secondary. That will impact Saturday’s spring game. Instead of splitting into two teams, the Buffs will just scrimmage offense vs. defense. They’ll also split the time between drills and scrimmaging, similar to what they did last spring.
Bernardi became a grandfather late last week. His daughter, Briana, and son-in-law, Andy LaRussa, welcomed a baby girl to the world on Friday. LaRussa is an assistant coach at UNLV and former assistant at CU in 2012-13. … Walk-on JT Bale has had an “excellent spring” at long snapper, MacIntyre said. … Macintyre added that kickers Chris Graham and Diego Gonzalez have both done well this spring. … Linebacker Kenneth Olugbode, who missed the first half of spring with an ankle injury, was in pads for the second time on Tuesday and was able to hit for the first time this spring.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.