Prior to the start of the scrimmage portion of Colorado’s football Spring Showcase on Friday at Folsom Field, the Buffaloes went through a few one-on-one matchups.
The last one featured a pair of walk-ons, tight end Matt Lynch against safety Curtis Appleton.
Appleton broke up the pass intended for Lynch, but both were quickly mobbed by their teammates in celebration as the scoreboard flashed an announcement that they had earned scholarships.
“It’s awesome. That’s the only way to put it,” center Colby Pursell said of seeing two teammates earn a scholarship.
Lynch, a senior from Legacy High School, was a scholarship quarterback and then tight end at UCLA before transferring and walking on at CU last year. He wound up becoming a key part of the offense and the holder on placekicks.
Appleton, a junior from Cherry Creek High School, spent a year at Washburn before transferring and walking on at CU in 2018. He has been a key backup and a special teams player.
“Both of those guys were integral pieces for us last year where they made some productive input on both sides of the ball,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “Curtis was doing some very good things for us on our defensive side and he’s grown at the safety position; he’s in all of our special teams. … I think Matt kind of led our team last year with Brady (Russell) being out and he continues to do those positive things for us. So, those guys are well deserved.”
Dorrell said it’s important to reward hard-working walk-ons and send a message to other walk-ons.
“We want the competition being fierce at every position,” he said. “I also want our walk-ons to feel like if you do walk-on a Colorado, that you feel like, ‘If I work hard and I get into the depth chart and contribute on special teams, I have a chance to maybe earn a scholarship,’ and that’s what these two guys did.”
Boulder County Public Health allowed CU to have 1,000 fans in the stadium on Friday. About 500 of those tickets went to family and friends of players and staff, while another 500 went to the general public. It was the first time since November of 2019 that any fans from the general public were allowed at Folsom Field.
“I can tell that there was a little bit more excitement about a practice than normal,” Dorrell said. “It was good to see some people in the stands. I was telling (players) earlier, before the scrimmage, ‘Men, it’s great to have some people watching us for a change. Just imagine in the fall this place is going to be packed and it’s going to be 50,000 people and people excited and cheering us on.’ … It was good to just have a change of scenery in terms of people at least watching us.”
Many of the players had their parents travel in from out of state to watch them play.
“It was definitely fun getting to play in front of fans, a little bit of fans that we haven’t played in front of for a while,” cornerback Christian Gonzalez said. “That was a good environment for us.”
During the second part of the scrimmage, receiver Dimitri Stanley tried to catch a pass from Brendon Lewis near the sidelines and was shoved out of bounds by safety Isaiah Lewis. Stanley appeared to hit his head against the wall that is near the sidelines. He was down for a couple of minutes before heading back to the locker room to be evaluated.
A CU spokesperson told BuffZone that Stanley checked out OK and had no significant injuries.
The Buffs have been without several key players for most of the spring, as they recover from injuries. On Friday, the Buffs played with roughly 25 scholarship players out. They had about 50 available.
CU didn’t go through a traditional scrimmage because of being short-handed at key spots. The Buffs had just three outside linebackers, four inside linebackers and seven scholarship offensive linemen available.
“It was just like last season,” Pursell said of missing so many offensive linemen. “It’s kind of just like that all over again. It’s something that we kind of already experienced. We kind of knew how to work our way around.”
The benefit, Pursell said, is that “other people were able to get opportunities and grow.”
Among those who didn’t play were quarterback Sam Noyer, running back Jarek Broussard, tight end Brady Russell (although he went through individual drills), tackle Frank Fillip, defensive lineman Terrance Lang, linebacker Nate Landman and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon.
Following Friday’s scrimmage, offensive linemen Nikko Pohahau and Valentin Senn both posted messages on Twitter that they are moving on from the Buffs. Both are expected to put their names in the NCAA transfer portal.