Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
One of the most intriguing additions to the Colorado football team this winter was tight end Darrion Jones, but he and the Buffaloes have their work cut out for them to get him ready for game days.
A transfer from Los Angeles Harbor College, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Jones brings a unique set of skills to the tight end position, but as the Buffs go into their final few days of spring practices, he’s still trying to grasp the offense.
“That’s for sure,” tight ends coach Gary Bernardi said. “There’s a lot to learn. (CU’s tight ends) have a lot to do with all the formations, and over the course of the game they could actually line up in six different places. All those things take various techniques.”
Jones, who will be a junior and has two years to play, caught 41 passes for 795 yards and five touchdowns last season at LAHC, and he could be a dynamic weapon for the Buffs. It’s going to take some time to get him to that point, however.
“He’s a little bit bigger target, but he needs to get stronger, too,” Bernardi said. “The game goes a lot faster than what he’s used to, which is a normal situation (for newcomers).”
The positive, Bernardi said, is that Jones is making progress.
The Buffs are short-handed at tight end this spring, with true sophomore Jared Poplawski still recovering from a knee injury he suffered in early November. That has left Jones and junior Chris Bounds as the only healthy scholarship tight ends.
“In some ways it’s a little bit of a plus for him that Poplawski isn’t practicing, because he gets more reps,” Bernardi said of Jones. “If Jared was practicing, he would be getting half those reps. (Jones) does have an opportunity to get a lot of reps and get better and he’s gotten better. When you look at the practice film from Day 1 to Day 12, no question he’s gotten better.”
So has Poplawski, who, despite not practicing, is taking a lot of mental reps while also strengthening his upper body.
“He’s gained probably more weight than any tight end, and it’s a credit to him because he hasn’t been able to lift on his legs,” Bernardi said. “He’s just been able to lift on his upper body.”
Poplawski is in meetings every day and Bernardi gives him a lot of mental reps and has him take notes on a daily basis. The expectation is for Poplawski to be ready for fall camp in August.
The Buffs are also encouraged by the progress of walk-on Brady Russell. A redshirt freshman from Fossil Ridge High School, he’s showing some leadership skills and has also been working as a long snapper.
Upon further review
After having a chance to watch the film of Saturday’s spring showcase, head coach Mike MacIntyre said he was pleased with redshirt freshman tackle Jake Moretti.
The former four-star recruit hasn’t played in a game since 2015, his junior year at Pomona High School. Injuries have cost him the past two seasons.
“He did really well (Saturday),” MacIntyre said. “He was a little bit sore yesterday and today a little sore. That’s the first time he had played that physical in over two-and-a-half years. But, he did well in practice (Monday). I was pleased with his progress in that scrimmage.”
Overall, MacIntyre said he liked the effort from the entire team in Saturday’s scrimmage and thought the Buffs were “pretty sound” in carrying out assignments.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Chase Newman continues to progress after missing last season with a knee injury. In fact, MacIntyre said Monday was the first time Newman has “flashed” from his spot at inside linebacker.
“He’s doing really well there and made some plays,” MacIntyre said. “He made a couple really good plays today. I think his knee is starting to feel comfortable again and I also think he’s getting used to the position.”
MacIntyre confirmed that senior tight end Eddy Lopez has decided to graduate in May and will not play next season. Lopez has not participated in spring drills. … MacIntyre said slot receiver Jay MacIntyre had successful surgery on his left foot last Friday. “He should be full speed ready to go in the middle of May,” coach MacIntyre said. … The Buffs practiced in the snow on Monday morning. They’ll wrap up spring with two more practices, Wednesday and Friday.