Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Two of the best players on the Colorado football team are close to returning to the field at full speed.
Receiver Juwann Winfree and safety Evan Worthington have been limited or held out of practice for much of preseason camp, but should both be back this week.
Winfree has been limited in camp for an undisclosed injury, while Worthington has missed some time with a concussion.
CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said Winfree, a senior captain who could be the Buffs’ top receiver, returned to practice Monday.
“(He didn’t do) everything, but he did a lot of stuff full speed,” MacIntyre said. “He should be back going full speed before the week is over.”
Worthington, a senior returning starter at safety, cleared all concussion protocol on Monday and will be back on the field Tuesday.
Worthington also missed a large chunk of spring football with a concussion, but MacIntyre said there are no long-term concerns. In both cases, Worthington fell and hit the back of his head. It’s typically the front and sides of the head that are most vulnerable.
“He had a little bit of a whiplash in it too,” MacIntyre said. “It’s a combination of whiplash and a concussion. That happened on both of his. As long as we’ve got him back and he can get about 10 practices under his belt, he’ll be ready to roll.”
Another player returning from injury is true freshman offensive tackle Frank Fillip. The 6-foot-7, 280-pounder has been out most of camp with an ankle injury, but returned for Saturday’s short practice.
“He was back full-go (Monday),” MacIntyre said. “He looked good out there today.”
Stronger in the trenches
During the 2017 season, the Buffaloes got pushed around quite a bit on the offensive and defensive lines. They know that, and they’re working to improve it.
“I think the battles are good in there (in the trenches),” MacIntyre said. “Both of them have heard through the grapevine or through the media or whatever that they weren’t physical enough, they weren’t good enough, so I think I’ve seen that little chip on their shoulder. They’re both helping each other out. They’re coming to compete every day, which is important.”
On the defensive line, the Buffs have emphasized getting more horizontal push, and MacIntyre believes they’re getting it.
“We are more athletic and stronger than we were last year, across all the front guys,” he said. “They’re in better shape, their numbers are higher in the weight room, they’re powerful, they understand our defense a little bit better. I have noticed a difference there.”
Junior college transfer Mustafa Johnson and true freshman Israel Antwine have consistently displayed their strength and power on the defensive line.
Offensively, MacIntyre said guard/center Brett Tonz and center Colby Pursell have been physical and aggressive “on a consistent basis.”
“Our offensive line is more physical, I believe, than we were last year,” he said.
One of the reasons for optimism on the offensive line is that junior guard Tim Lynott Jr. has fully recovered from an Achilles’ tendon tear in November.
“There’s (no signs of injury) with the Achilles, which is amazing,” MacIntyre said. “The trainers did a phenomenal job with him and he worked his rear end off getting back. All the underwater treadmill and all the things we have that help elevate that quicker has helped him tremendously. Our facilities really helped him.”
Getting up to (game) speed
CU’s opener against Colorado State is coming up on Aug. 31, but the Rams have their opener on Saturday against Hawaii. The Rams will be used to game speed by Aug. 31, but the Buffs have to try to get that speed in practice.
The Buffs are doing that by spending a lot of time having the first-team offense go against the first-team defense, and the twos going against the twos.
“We’re trying to get game speed as much as we can,” MacIntyre said. “Cross your fingers; you can’t do too much to (where you) get hurt; you can’t do too little so you won’t be soft.”
CU’s receivers and co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini repeatedly tweet “Nothing to say … a lot to prove.” It’s a mantra that MacIntyre likes – for the whole team. “They all need to be saying that all the time,” MacIntyre said. … The Buffs were able to meet for two hours on Sunday to go over film from Friday and Saturday. That allowed them to start fresh on Monday. “We had a good, physical practice,” MacIntyre said.