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CU Buffs receivers making impact in all three phases of game

Talented group of receivers helping young secondary, inexperienced quarterbacks and working as kick returners

CU Athletics
Colorado receiver Daniel Arias looks to catch a pass in front of cornerback Nigel Bethel during football practice on Oct. 9.
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Throughout his nearly five years on the coaching staff at Colorado, offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini has made his mark as a recruiter.

In particular, the former receiver and current receivers coach has stockpiled that position group with talent. Going into the 2020 season, it is once again one of the deepest position groups on the Buffaloes roster.

Despite losing Laviska Shenault and Tony Brown to the NFL, the Buffs return two starters – senior KD Nixon and sophomore  Dimitri Stanley – as well as potential breakout star Daniel Arias, other veterans who have waited their turn and four talented true freshmen.

“We’re so deep at that spot,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “There’s a number of guys that can be helping us this year. We got to narrow that down at some point. But it’s a good problem to have. It’s a great problem to have. We’re very fortunate at that position.”

They are fortunate in a number of ways, actually.

While they will narrow down which receivers become the primary targets on game day, the entire group is making an impact in other areas.

Every day at practice, CU’s young players in the secondary are benefiting from going against that receiver talent and the Buffs’ inexperienced quarterbacks are enjoying the luxury of throwing to them. On special teams, there are a number of receivers who could fill roles as returners.

CU Athletics
Sophomore Dimitri Stanley is one of several talented receivers for the Colorado Buffaloes.

The Buffs have 13 defensive backs on scholarship, but six have never played a snap at CU and five others have less than 400 career snaps (roughly half a season) under their belt, so facing the talent at receiver every day has helped.

“When you’ve got to run down the field with Daniel Arias, there’s not a lot of people that’s running like him,” said safety Derrion Rakestraw, the lone senior in the secondary. “So, this is definitely helping us, having to cover those quick guys in the slot and then having to go out there and cover the long guys on the outside. It’s helping us a lot.”

Assistant coach Brett Maxie, who works with defensive backs, said: “We’re making them better and then consequently they’re making us better in terms of not just in the passing game but in the run game, when those guys come down to block us.”

At quarterback, the Buffs have senior Sam Noyer, junior Tyler Lytle and true freshman Brendon Lewis competing for the starting job and backup roles. Combined, they have thrown just 47 career passes and have no career starts, but developing chemistry with CU’s receivers is helping them prepare.

“We’re all good friends with the quarterbacks, all three of them and even the walk-ons,” said Stanley, who caught 29 passes for 312 yards last season. “It just comes down to getting that work done with them, and they’ve done an excellent job of just being prepared and knowing what they’re doing and getting guys right and building that chemistry up when they do get the opportunity.”

Stanley, Arias, junior Jaylon Jackson and other receivers have said building chemistry with the quarterbacks goes well beyond the past two weeks of practices.

Jackson, in his fourth year at CU, has worked with Noyer and Lytle in practice for years. Arias said the receivers and quarterbacks have spent all offseason working together – although the process is ongoing.

“We’re still building our chemistry every single day, still getting better every single day, still working every single day,” Arias said. “We’ve had a lot of extra time just talking. (Friday), I was in the film room with the QBs, going over some routes and talking about where I should be at and how long it should take for me to get from point A to point B, so the chemistry is still building. We’re getting there, so we’re just going to keep working.”

In addition, the receivers should make an impact on special teams. Stanley, junior Maurice Bell and freshman Chris Carpenter are among the handful of players practicing as returners. Stanley and Nixon were the primary returners in 2019.

As they make an impact on other areas of the roster, CU’s receivers continue to improve each other, as well, through the competitiveness in their group.

“We have a lot of depth at receiver, so it’s kind of just been whatever rotation we need, what guys need to get in, what guys need some work, what guys need a little rest time,” Stanley said. “We’re not skipping a step wherever we’re at. We’ve just got a bunch of talent in the wide receiver room and whoever plays can play.”