In the past two seasons, Dimitri Stanley has become one of Colorado’s best receivers.
The sophomore doesn’t believe, however, he’s reached his full potential.
“I want to improve upon my blocking,” Stanley said after the Buffs’ third practice of spring on Friday. “I think I could have been a lot more efficient in the blocking game and in the run game. And then pretty much yards after catch – I think I can do a lot more from that standpoint.
“Even on punt return, I think I can be one of the best returners in the (Pac-12). Just going into the season with that kind of confidence is going to take my game to the next level.”
With KD Nixon transferring to Southern California this winter, the 6-foot, 190-pound Stanley is entering his fourth season with the Buffs as the most experienced receiver on the team.
In 21 career games, Stanley has caught 55 passes for 690 yards and three touchdowns, while returning 18 punts for 124 yards. During the abbreviated 2020 season, he caught a team-high 20 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown.
During the first week of spring practices, Stanley feels ready to take his game to another level.
“So far I feel a lot better, honestly,” he said. “I feel faster, stronger, quicker. I feel like I’m making guys miss. I feel like I’m catching the ball better. I’m honestly thinking that I’m just getting ready for the season now. I think I’m halfway there already. So, from this standpoint, it’s just seeing how far I can go.”
In addition to Stanley’s talent on the field, CU head coach Karl Dorrell said Stanley and La’Vontae Shenault are emerging as leaders among the receivers.
“Dimitri is one of those guys that he’s trying to step up and fill the void (left by Nixon), but it’s … a very talkative group anyway,” Dorrell said. “They get after each other to try to get them all hyped up and going, but I would say those two guys particularly have done a nice job of really starting the process. Hopefully, that’ll continue for the rest of the group.”
Last season, the Buffs focused on cross-training their defensive backs out of necessity. From day to day, coaches never knew if some players would be unavailable because of COVID-19, so several players learned a variety of positions in the secondary.
Dorrell said the Buffs will continue to cross-train their defensive backs because of the nature of college football.
“Because of the sophisticated offensive systems you’re seeing both in college and in the NFL, you have to have a number of secondary that can play certain roles on the defensive side,” he said. “We play with three-corner sets, in terms of three corners in the game and one safety; we play with three safeties in the game and two corners.
“The more flexible that we can get our kids to understand our scheme and then plug and play with some of the personnel, I think that’s really going to help us. We’re really teaching the defense that way, too, for them to really understand the big picture, and not just be so isolated on their one spot. That is how we’re moving forward to create that versatility in the backend.”
Making his mark
Linebacker Robert Barnes, a transfer from Oklahoma, continues to make a good impression on Dorrell in the early going.
“You can feel his presence on the field, and he’s a veteran player,” Dorrell said. “He’s had a lot of experience. You can see how he carries himself and how he can read and diagnose plays and how he tracks the football and how he fits on runners. You can tell that he’s been around the block, so to speak.
“I think he’s going to be a really good piece for us.”
School paying off
This offseason, Dorrell put the players through “football school,” to help them get a better understanding of the basics and fundamentals of the game. It made an impression on Stanley.
“That football school is extremely helpful,” Stanley said. “I think it just kind of breaks down the game of football and the kind of offense and style that we play. I think it’s been extremely helpful and you can actually see it on the field that people know their assignments, know what they’re doing, know how to read defenses. I love it.”