Trey Udoffia knew it was coming.
In a secondary that endured a major offseason makeover, Udoffia still had an experienced safety behind him and a talented fellow cornerback opposite him when he took the field for first time with the Colorado Buffaloes earlier this month.
To no one’s surprise, even Udoffia, the Rams attempted to pick on Udoffia out of the gate. To perhaps the pleasant surprise of Buffs fans, Udoffia weathered the early storm and has more than held his own ever since. Expected to make his fifth start this week as a redshirt freshman as the Buffs visit pass-happy UCLA at the Rose Bowl, Udoffia already is showing the sort of ability to shake off a bad play and move on to the next one with the expertise of a veteran.
“I think maybe it’s that I’ve been playing football from a young age, just knowing it’s the same game,” Udoffia said. “The first play of that (CSU) game I was in on the hit and I was like, ‘That was it?’ I was expecting a lot more. I slowly got into my groove and once I was in, that was it.”
Cornerback was one of the positions of greatest concern entering the season for a CU defense that lost eight starters from last year’s 10-4 squad. With exactly zero playing time to his credit, Udoffia was asked to assume one of the roles left behind by graduated corners Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon, both of whom now are on NFL rosters.
With Isaiah Oliver — arguably one of the top No. 3 corners in the nation a year ago — manning the opposite side of the field, Udoffia has settled in comfortably on the heels of a redshirt season on the sideline.
“Any time you’re a novice at what you do…it takes reps and it takes opportunities to get better,” CU defensive backs coach ShaDon Brown said. “I think each and every day he’s working to be improving. He’s done that in each game. People have tried to attack him and he knows that. When you’re the young guy and you’ve got a really talented, best corner in America, on the other side, they’re going to go after you. And he has stepped up to the plate.
“They’re going to catch some balls. But I think overall as a redshirt freshman playing in the Pac-12, he’s played pretty well so far.”
Through four games, Udoffia has logged 13 tackles (12 solo) and has been credited with five pass breakups, a total that puts him a share of the team lead with Oliver. Perhaps more important than any numbers, however, is how Udoffia has brought an air of confidence to the position as a first-year player. He may come up on the wrong end of a few plays, as he did last week when Washington’s Quentin Pounds hauled in a juggling 43-yard touchdown reception despite having Udoffia in his lap, but so far Udoffia has displayed a knack for being able to shake off such plays to compete again on the next one.
“My confidence is definitely going up every week,” Udoffia said. “I didn’t really see it as pressure. I saw it more as a motivational sort of thing. A lot of people were like, ‘It’s a whole new secondary, it’s not going to be any good.’ As a defense we truly believe this is a defensive school. We really stand our ground when it comes to defense and we take pride in what we do. I didn’t really take anything as pressure.”