With an extensive background in playing and coaching at the highest levels of football, Brett Maxie was a logical choice to join Colorado’s staff a year ago.
This winter, head coach Karl Dorrell decided to give Maxie some added responsibility.
In January, Maxie, the Buffs’ safeties coach, took on the added title of defensive passing game coordinator.
“We had a brief conversation and (Dorrell) understood my position, in terms of where I am trying to go in my career. He was willing to accommodate that,” Maxie said. “We just kind of talked about the things that we were able to accomplish as a secondary, especially in the passing game, this past season, especially early on. Not only that but the guys we were able to trust and put on the field. He trusted that I was going to make the right decisions on who was going to represent us back in the secondary when it was time to compete.”
CU led the Pac-12 and finished 18th nationally in opponent completion percentage (55.6 percent) and the Buffs were 33rd nationally in opponent passer rating (126.00).
Under Maxie’s tutelage, Isaiah Lewis had a breakout season at strong safety, while Derrion Rakestraw played well at free safety.
Meanwhile, cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin helped Mekhi Blackmon have his best season and true freshman Christian Gonzalez to show some star potential while developing.
Maxie will work with Martin to make the Buffs even stronger on the back end of the defense.
“Now I am going to have an opportunity to incorporate some of the things I have done in the past, because I have been so many different places and I have worked with so many great coaches that I get an opportunity now to express some of those ideas,” said Maxie, who has been a coach since 1998.
“(Martin) and I are always in collaboration with one other in terms of coverage, technique, even how we’re going to talk about certain things in our meetings.”
CU began spring practices on Monday, and Maxie said the defense, and the secondary in particular, is putting an emphasis on creating turnovers and eliminating big plays.
“When you take the football away and not let people run the ball and throw it over your head, you have opportunities to win a lot of football games,” Maxie said. “And you are going to have many opportunities to put the offense into obvious passing situations, which now the advantage goes to the defense.”
Senior quarterback Sam Noyer, who started all six games last season, isn’t participating in spring practices because he’s recovering from shoulder surgery. His presence is certainly felt, however.
“You can tell Sam’s around because you hear him,” Dorrell said. “He’s showing his leadership qualities. He’s running, he’s doing everything from a conditioning standpoint. … He’s doing all of that stuff but obviously he’s not ready to throw a football yet.”
With Noyer out, returning freshman Brendon Lewis, true freshman Drew Carter and junior J.T. Shrout, a transfer from Tennessee, are competing.
“(Noyer) has being very encouraging for the quarterbacks and all the offensive players,” Dorrell said. “Sam is such, I think, a really positive influence on a lot of our players. He loves this team, being around the team and encouraging them to keep getting better and keep performing.”
Robert Barnes, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, is already making a good impression on the Buffs.
“He’s shown great leadership qualities since he’s been here,” Dorrell said. “He’s been great in our offseason workouts and getting to know his new teammates and voices some opinions and some things about how to do things . I’ve been very pleased with what he’s done for us since he’s been here.”
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Barnes was a safety at Oklahoma, but transitioned to linebacker last season. He had 77 tackles and two interceptions in 27 games with the Sooners.
At CU, Barnes is listed as inside linebacker, but could also play safety or Star.
“We know that he’s a pretty versatile player,” Dorrell said. “We’re trying to get a lot of looks for a lot of different guys and make a good assessment at the linebacker positions about, OK, what is the best combination, who are the best three or four guys we think that we can utilize and help us in terms of the core of that group?
“We feel that (Barnes) is going to give us flexibility to plug and play maybe the top three players and he might be one of those three, but he has versatility to be in a number of those positions.”