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As they typically do, Colorado receivers KD Nixon and Laviska Shenault showed up to CU Events Center on Tuesday night to support the women’s basketball team.
Just three days after the football season came to a close with a 33-21 loss at California, the sophomores were asked if they were taking some time off after the grind of the season.
“Oh no,” Nixon said. “We’re already working out for next season.”
While players still don’t know who will coach them next year — CU athletic director Rick George is continuing that search — those scheduled to return to the team are pressing on.
Posting back-to-back 5-7 seasons doesn’t sit well with CU’s players, and especially those from the 2017 class, which came in with a lot of hype two years ago.
“Our class, we trust Rick George,” Nixon said after the loss to Cal. “We know Rick George is going to make the best decision for us, but also the players that are coming in, we’re going to tell them straight up, ‘Hey, we’re about business this year. It’s time to work. It’s time to change the program. It’s time to take over.’
“There’s no other feeling you can say.”
CU’s 2017 recruiting class is loaded with talent, including Nixon and Shenault; linebackers Jacob Callier, Nate Landman, Jonathan Van Diest and Carson Wells; defensive linemen Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami; cornerback Chris Miller; running back Alex Fontenot; and offensive linemen Jake Moretti, Casey Roddick and William Sherman.
It’s a group that came from winning football teams in high school, and many of them have already made an impact with the Buffs.
Of course, it’s not just the 2017 class that will play a role in CU getting back to winning football.
Quarterback Steven Montez, receiver Tony Brown, linemen Aaron Haigler and Tim Lynott and Buff backer Davion Taylor are expected to lead a talented senior class and the 2018 class was filled with talent, too.
“Us being us,” Shenault said of what the returning players can do to turn the program around. “As a team, we need to bond more and all go in and put in extra work at the same time.”
Shenault is one of the hardest workers and brightest stars on the team, and just moments after the Cal game — during which he topped the 1,000-yard mark for receiving on the season — he said he was already flipping the page to 2019.
“Just looking forward to getting better (individually) and getting better as a team, of course, and come harder next year,” he said.
That work is already underway, and Nixon said the returning players are determined to make 2019 a winning season, regardless of who gets hired as head coach.
“It’s not going to happen again,” he said of CU’s losing season. “I promise you that.”
CU had 16 true freshmen on scholarship this year, and only four of them played more than four games, meaning they did not use their redshirt season. Defensive lineman Israel Antwine, receiver Daniel Arias, offensive lineman Frank Fillip and safety Hasaan Hypolite will all go into next year as true sophomores.
Overall, there were four scholarship players who took advantage of the new NCAA rule that allows players to participate in up to four games and still use the redshirt season.
True freshman receiver Dimitri Stanley (three games) and cornerback L.J. Wallace (one) will both go into next year as redshirt freshman. True sophomore Jacob Callier played in the first four games before opting for shoulder surgery, and thus will be a redshirt sophomore in 2019. And, senior punter Alex Kinney played in only four games because of a broken collarbone and will have the option of playing a fifth season.
Kickers Tyler Francis and Evan Price, who were both true freshman walk-ons, played in two games each and will still have four seasons to play.