Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado wasn’t exactly sure what it was getting last year when Evan Worthington returned to the football team.
Dismissed from the team a year earlier, Worthington returned in January of 2017 and he and the Buffaloes hoped he could make an impact.
Now, Worthington is not only one of the team’s best players, but he’s one of the leaders for a team looking to rebound from a disappointing season and get back to a bowl game.
“I have to approach it like I have to let these young guys know where to go, what to do and all that stuff,” said Worthington, a senior safety for the Buffs. “Even people that are on the field starting, I have to let them know we have to set the tempo at a high pace right now, get everybody in the right position.”
On Wednesday, Worthington and the Buffs (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12 last year) went through their fourth practice of spring drills, and he’s picking up where he left off last season.
One of the most impactful players on the defense last season, Worthington made 11 starts (nine at safety, two at Buff back) and finished third on the team with 86 tackles.
Worthington also led the team with three interceptions, had seven pass breakups and five tackles for loss, proving to be a playmaker throughout the year.
His thoughts on his performance?
“I feel like I could have played better in pretty much all the games,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement.
“I need to work better on my tackling, I need to gain more weight and get faster; get the plays down.”
Spring football is all about getting better, and if Worthington does improve, he could be a force in the Pac-12.
“Evan’s doing a great job,” safeties coach Shadon Brown said. “We’re honing Evan in right now at safety and not playing him at two and three positions, which I think is really helping his development.
“He’s becoming more of a leader for us and he sees things before the ball is snapped now. It allows him to play fast, but the game has slowed down for him. He’s going to be a playmaker for us next year. He’s got to keep developing every day. As he does things right and he’s playing fast, other guys will see that and start to follow.”
The other guys at safety aren’t as experienced as Worthington, but Brown is encouraged by what he’s seen through the first few days of fall camp.
Next to Worthington is senior Nick Fisher, who has always seemed to be stuck behind a talented veteran. Now, he’s the talented veteran.
“Nick’s always been a really good player,” Brown said. “He’s a very smart kid. He understands the game; he sees things before it happens; he can communicate with other people well.”
Fisher played a career-high 315 snaps last year in a backup role, with 29 tackles and six pass breakups. He also had a 100-yard interception return for touchdown against California.
Brown said Fisher and Worthington have been “hands down” the top two safeties this spring, but depth is developing.
Seniors Jaisen Sanchez and Kyle Trego and walk-ons Daniel Talley and Lucas Cooper are competing this spring, as well. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Lewis had “his best practice” of the spring on Wednesday, Brown said.
More help is on the way after this spring. Junior college transfer Aaron Maddox is with the team this spring, but he is recovering from shoulder surgery. True freshmen Hasaan Hypolite and Ray Robinson are also expected to be in the mix for playing time.
The leader of the group, however, is Worthington, who is now settled into a role, growing into a leader and eager and to make his senior year a good one.
“It’s fun and we’re having a good time out there,” he said.