One of the most memorable plays of Colorado’s 2016 football season had Isaiah Oliver weaving through the UCLA defense en route to a 68-yard punt return for touchdown that sealed a 20-10 victory.
The Buffaloes are hoping to see more of that this year.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre said this week that his plan is for Oliver, who is also slated to start at cornerback, to be the Buffs’ punt returner this season.
“Isaiah was hot, so I’m not going to make a change,” MacIntyre said.
Last year, Oliver averaged 11.7 yards on his 14 returns, the best average by a Buff with 10 or more returns since Jeremy Bloom’s 12.0 average in 2003. Oliver did most of his damage in that game against UCLA (five returns for 124 yards), but it was enough to earn the trust of coaches.
Receiver Jay MacIntyre — coach MacIntyre’s son — was the primary punt returner until he struggled against Arizona State in Week 7, with two fumbles on returns. He got a concussion on the second fumble and he didn’t return another punt the rest of the year.
Jay MacIntyre had a solid season before the ASU game, though, averaging 8.9 yards on his 17 returns.
Coach MacIntyre said his son will be in the mix to return punts, along with others.
“You need about three guys that you trust can catch it,” MacIntyre said.
There will be plenty of competition in camp for kick return duties.
Last year, Anthony Julmisse handled almost all of the returns, averaging 22.6 yards on 17 chances. Starting running back Phillip Lindsay was often deep with Julmisse, but was mainly a blocker.
Arrested on Thursday night and suspended from the team, Julmisse’s status is in doubt. Even if the sophomore is reinstated, he could become a starter at cornerback and MacIntyre said he would prefer not to have a starter returning kickoffs.
A senior, Lindsay led the team with 36 returns for 849 yards in 2014 and has 44 career returns. His days of lining up on the return team are likely over, though.
“We’re not going to put him back there,” coach MacIntyre said. “We mainly had him blocking, but I don’t think I’m going to have him back there at all. I think we have enough other guys to do it. We just trusted him so much going into last year.”
Several players, including freshmen and other young skill players, will compete for return duties.
Coach MacIntyre said he’s excited about sophomore tackle Isaac Miller. “He’s a very excellent pass protector,” he said. … MacIntyre said he’s also eager to see junior college defensive linemen Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba, and added sophomore Frank Umu should be a factor on the defensive line. Umu is in “great shape” going into camp. … MacIntyre said true freshmen outside linebacker Dante Sparaco is “physically ready to play” and is understanding the playbook more as time goes on. … Starting Saturday, the Buffs will practice four days in a row before taking a day off Wednesday.