Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Delrick Abrams Jr. came to Colorado in January as a highly regarded junior college prospect at cornerback.
With spring practices nearly complete, Abrams has hardly disappointed.
The junior has made quite an impression in his first spring with the Buffaloes, and on Wednesday, he picked off three passes during a practice that was open to the public.
“He’s been getting his hands on the ball, but hasn’t had as many picks. Today he was getting it,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Every day I see him getting a little more comfortable, a little more comfortable, a little more comfortable.
“He really understands more what to do, so he’s now more confident, so he reacts quicker and he plays faster and he’s able to make those plays. I see him getting better every day.”
At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Abrams is built a bit like former CU corner Ahkello Witherspoon, who also came from the JUCO ranks and is now entering his second season with the San Francisco 49ers.
While Abrams isn’t at the level Witherspoon reached during his senior year in 2016, he’s making a push for the starting lineup.
The emergence of Abrams and redshirt freshman Chris Miller has bolstered the Buffs’ depth at corner. Miller has been praised by teammates and coaches this spring and backed that up with some impressive play in the three open practices.
Junior Dante Wigley and sophomore Trey Udoffia, who combined for 14 starts and over 1,100 snaps last season, are the veterans of the group, but Abrams and Miller are very much in the mix for starting jobs in the fall.
“One of the hardest things for a freshman, as well as a junior college transfer guy to come in, is to be able to play at our tempo and play at our speed that we play at here, because we practice really fast and being able to think fast,” said safeties coach/defensive passing game coordinator ShaDon Brown. “I’m starting to see those guys start to make some plays.”
Sophomore Ronnie Blackmon has had a good spring, as well, playing mostly at nickel.
“He’s done a good job there,” Brown said. “That’s more his natural position.”
Although the Buffs lost Isaiah Oliver, who is skipping his senior year to enter the NFL draft, they may have more depth at corner than a year ago.
“I think there’s great growth; I think there’s great competition between all those guys,” Brown said. “The good thing is I think we have four or five corners that we can put out there and win with in the Pac-12. Last year, I don’t know if we had that.”
Outside linebacker Sam Bennion has decided to end his college football career and focus on academics.
A redshirt sophomore from North Logan, Utah, Bennion signed with CU in 2014 but delayed his enrollment until January 2016 while he served a two-year mission for the Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Bennion was the Buffs’ defensive scout team player of the year in 2016, but never did play in a game at CU.
“Sam is going to go ahead and finish up school and go to med school,” MacIntyre said. “He’s a phenomenal young man, great kid and he was just trying to make a decision what he felt was best for his future.”
With Bennion’s departure, the Buffs are projected to have 86 players on scholarship next fall, one above the NCAA maximum.
Former Arizona State head coach Todd Graham attended practice Wednesday. Graham was fired after last season, his sixth with the Sun Devils, and is currently not employed.
“I got to know Todd when I came in the league,” MacIntyre said. “I called him and said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ He said he’s driving his wife crazy, so he came down here for a few days to watch and hang out with me, so it’s good.”
The Buffs wrap up spring practice on Friday. MacIntyre said the coaches will spend part of that day instructing the players how to conduct their player-led practices for the summer. “Most of them know, but it’s always good to go back over that,” he said. … CU will take part in five satellite camps over the summer, in addition to five camps in Boulder. … Redshirt freshman receiver Maurice Bell and redshirt freshman running Alex Fontenot both made some nice plays Wednesday.