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BOULDER, CO - April 16, 2021:  Colorado safety Ray Robinson, left, talks with fellow safety Steele Dubar during University of Colorado football practice. (University of Colorado Athletics)
BOULDER, CO – April 16, 2021: Colorado safety Ray Robinson, left, talks with fellow safety Steele Dubar during University of Colorado football practice. (University of Colorado Athletics)

For Ray Robinson, there was some value to getting out of his comfort zone and playing inside linebacker the past two years for the Colorado Buffaloes.

The fourth-year sophomore feels more at home this spring, however.

A 6-foot-2, 220-pound safety from Highlands Ranch High School, Robinson is back to playing the position he started with at CU.

“I definitely feel more comfortable playing a strong safety role,” he said Friday after the Buffs completed the ninth of their 15 spring practices. “It’s kind of good to get back to my roots. I’m definitely starting to feel really comfortable and smooth back at that position.”

A first-team all-conference performer as a junior at Highlands Ranch, Robinson missed his senior year with a torn ACL in his knee. He then redshirted in 2018 and has been one of CU’s better special teams players the past two years. He has yet to play a snap on defense, however.

“It’s absolutely been a humbling experience,” he said. “Just kind of patiently waiting my turn for the past couple of years, but I also think it was good for me to get that experience of just being out on the field and getting a feel for it. … I think it’s all led me to be more comfortable with where I’m at today. I’m grateful for it and I’m grateful for where I’m at now.”

CU lacks depth and experience at safety, but Robinson played much of Friday’s scrimmage with the first-team defense, gaining valuable reps that he hopes will expedite his development.

“We have a very competitive room, so I’m not taking anything for granted,” he said. “I’m just gonna continue to work. … The competition between the room is honestly just going to make us better. It’s definitely my first time taking first-team reps, but I’m absolutely loving every minute of it.”

Head coach Karl Dorrell said this week he believes Robinson has found a home at safety, showing more energy this spring than he did last year. Robinson, however, is grateful for the experience at linebacker.

“I think that playing linebacker helped me get in that role because I’m rotated down (near the line of scrimmage) a lot, so I think it’s easier for me to see the formations and the get off of the line and everything,” he said. “I definitely feel more comfortable there than I felt at linebacker.”

BOULDER, CO – April 16, 2021: Colorado receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig, left, lines up against cornerbacker Nigel Bethel during a Buffaloes’ spring football scrimmage. (University of Colorado Athletics)

Lemonious-Craig stepping up

One of the more impressive players during Friday’s scrimmage was receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig. A 6-foot-2, 185-pound second-year freshman, he hauled in three passes, including a touchdown pass from JT Shrout. He also caught passes from Brendon Lewis and Grant Ciccarone.

“He’s growing into being, I call it like a comfort piece for the quarterback,” Dorrell said. “Guys that are open that are usually productive and they do something good with the football. Montana is kind of getting in that role with the quarterback. They’re really comfortable with him. For a young player that’s a good thing. He hasn’t really played all that much this past season and we know that he’s going to be a big part of what we do going forward. It’s good to see that there’s some comfort there that quarterbacks feel with him.”

Part of a stellar group of 2020 recruits at receiver, Lemonious-Craig played just 28 offensive snaps last season but caught his first career pass in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Shrout, who transferred from Tennessee in January, said he knew Lemonious-Craig when they were growing up in California and played a bit of seven-on-seven with him. He’s impressed with Lemonious-Craig now that they are teammates.

“He’s a super hard worker,” Shrout said. “It’s been really good to see him grow, and I think he’s gonna be a special player here soon.”

Like father, like son

When Dorrell was an assistant coach with CU in the early 1990s, he worked with tight end Christian Fauria, who was a three-time All-Big Eight selection and third-team All-American.

Now, Dorrell is coaching Fauria’s son, Caleb, a freshman tight end who caught two passes in the scrimmage, including a touchdown.

“We’re hopeful that Caleb is kind of on that road to being and playing very similar to where his dad was here years ago,” Dorrell said. “He’s made a few plays and his confidence is rolling. … If we can continue to bring him along where he’s making productive plays and gaining his conference, he’ll be a factor to help us in the fall.”