Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
DENVER – For the Colorado football team to turn the corner and get back on the winning track, leadership within the team will play a big role.
It appears that leaders are beginning to emerge this offseason.
On Thursday, during CU’s signing day celebration at the Sheraton Denver Downtown, head coach Mike MacIntyre identified several players that are stepping up this offseason, including senior offensive tackle Josh Kaiser.
“He’s a phenomenal leader,” MacIntyre said of the lone senior in the offensive line group. “Watching him lead these guys, watching him encouraging other guys, watching him in drills run his drill and then go over and make sure the other guy is running his drill right.”
The Buffs (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12 last year) lost a great leader in running back Phillip Lindsay, who has graduated, but could actually get stronger in that department.
MacIntrye said that the team might have “just relied on Phillip” last year, but added, “Now they’re all stepping up and doing their pieces and that’s exciting to see.”
Like MacIntyre, co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Klayton Adams praised Kaiser’s effort. A backup for much of his career, Kaiser was one of CU’s most improved linemen last year and made five starts. He played 418 snaps on offense last year and will be CU’s most experience lineman in spring drills, which begin Feb. 23.
“He’s a very selfless leader and he has had to do it the hard way,” Adams said. “I really appreciate him as a leader. I’m very excited about the switch that has turned with him in terms of giving back to the group and that’s what a great leader does. He’s going to out-work everybody, but he’s going to bring those guys with him.
“I’m so excited about the progress that he’s made.”
In addition to Kaiser, MacIntyre said he has seen great leadership this offseason from quarterback Steven Montez, safeties Evan Worthington and Nick Fisher, linebacker Rick Gamboa and receivers Jay MacIntyre and Juwann Winfree.
“You keep seeing more and more guys stepping up,” he said.
Running backs coach Darian Hagan said transfer Travon McMillian, who is expected to arrive in the summer, is a “natural leader.”
Athletic director Rick George said he’s excited about all three new hires to the coaching staff: Ashley Ambrose (cornerbacks), Kwahn Drake (defensive line) and Kurt Roper (quarterbacks).
“I like really what all three of them can do for us,” George said. “I like all the hires.”
George said he likes the experience and expertise that Roper brings to the table on offense and the dynamic Ambrose brings to the secondary. He also said he likes the “energy and enthusiasm” of Drake.
George added that he likes the ties that Ambrose and Drake have to New Orleans, which has been a good area for CU recruiting in the past.
New signee Dimitri Stanley, who played defensive back and receiver at Cherry Creek High School, is projected as a receiver at CU, but MacIntyre said the Buffs will play him at both spots to see where he fits best. “He might even play both ways,” MacIntyre said. … Speaking of new signee Frank Fillip, a 6-foot-7, 275-pound offensive lineman, MacIntyre said, “You look for physical and mental maturity and that’s what this guy has.” … MacIntyre said that physically freshman cornerback L.J. Wallace is a bit like a thicker version of former Buff Ahkello Witherspoon, now with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.