Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Throughout the offseason, very few – if any – members of the Colorado football team worked harder than receiver Juwann Winfree.
The senior rarely took time off in anticipation of what he hoped would be his season of college football. Yet, while CU (3-0) takes momentum into Friday’s Pac-12 opener against UCLA (0-3), it’s been a slow start for Winfree.
“It’s been real frustrating,” he said. “I’m used to adversity. I’m just going to keep rolling with the punches. I understand nothing is perfect and I understand God has a plan for me. I’m going to keep working, staying positive and staying faithful.”
Winfree’s frustration has very little to do with his statistics – a modest seven catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
He spent much of preseason camp dealing with a hamstring injury. Then, he injured his ankle in the Buffs’ 33-28 win at Nebraska on Sept. 8. He didn’t play in CU’s 45-14 win against New Hampshire on Sept. 15.
Following last week’s bye, Winfree is optimistic about his chances of getting back to his old self against the Bruins.
“I should be ready for this week,” he said. “With any opportunity I get I’m going to try to make the most of it. I’m just hoping God heals me right and when I’m finally 100 (percent healthy), to be able to give all I’ve got, because I have a lot in the tank ready to show.”
Voted a captain in the offseason, Winfree said he’s having fun watching fellow receivers Laviska Shenault, KD Nixon and even Jay MacIntyre put up some big numbers to this point. Yet, after working tirelessly with quarterback Steven Montez in the offseason, he’s eager to make a big impact himself.
“It’s real hard (to sit out), because each week off, each day off, I’m missing in our timing, me and Montez,” he said. “We put a lot of work in, but after a few days if you’re not out there, it takes a few extra reps to get back to how we were.
“That’s the main thing for me, getting back up there and getting back on the timing and speed of everything.”
Co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said last week’s bye came at a good time for Winfree and Shenault, who has battled through shoulder pain. Both practiced Monday.
“It was good to just get healthy,” Chiaverini said. “That Nebraska game was a physical game and it was good to have an extra week to get our bodies right.”
In general, Winfree said the entire team is ready to go after last week’s break.
“I feel like everybody is back and ready to go,” he said. “You could see it today. We had a real good practice and you can see the fire is back in our eyes.”
Beginning Friday, but Buffs will play nine weeks in a row, but that’s nothing new for this team. Last year, they played 11 weeks in a row before a bye, and in 2015 they played 13 consecutive weeks.
“This is a good fit for (the bye),” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “It breaks up the preseason and the Pac-12 and I like that. I think our guys have liked it and hopefully we’ll come out and play well Friday night.”
MacIntyre said he enjoyed watching football at home over the weekend. He doesn’t go into complete fan mode, however, as he watches how different teams handle in-game situations and will text his coaches about being ready for certain situations.
MacIntyre might use plays from other games as teaching tools for the Buffs. One of those situations was the end of the Oregon vs. Stanford game, when Oregon fumbled late in regulation, rather than taking a knee to run out the clock. The Ducks coughed up the lead and lost in overtime.
“We watch different games during the season, parts of games and say, ‘Hey this is what we’re talking about; here’s how we explain (what to do),'” MacIntyre said. “That young man (Oregon running back CJ Verdell) was running really hard, and it’s just very unfortunate that he fumbled the ball. He’s a really good player. He’ll learn form that.”
The Pac-12 announced that CU’s game against Arizona State on Oct. 6 will kickoff at 2 p.m. at Folsom Field. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. … As of Monday afternoon, CU had sold 41,270 tickets for Friday’s game against UCLA. Sales are on a similar pace to two years ago, when the Buffs sold 43,761 tickets for a Thursday night game against the Bruins. … UCLA has not announced whether senior Wilton Speight or freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson will start at quarterback this week, but MacIntyre said the Buffs “will be ready for whichever quarterback comes out.” … The Pac-12 players of the week: Arizona’s JJ Taylor (offense); Washington’s Ben Burr-Kirven (defense) and USC’s Jay Tufele (special teams).