Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell was quick to point out that outside linebacker Alvin Williams isn’t a new player with the Buffaloes.
Williams does, however, represent a large number of players who are inexperienced and growing up quickly this spring.
“We’ve got a number of guys and I’ll use Alvin as an example,” Dorrell said. “He has been here a couple years with me and, yes, he’s still a young player in terms of his years, but he’s been around and been in our system for a good bit of time. So it’s good to see those guys kind of step up and let their natural instincts go a little bit more because they’re confident that they know what they’re doing.
“They’re playing faster and then when they’re playing faster, you really get a chance to see their ability. So that’s what I do like with some of those guys that are like him that are kind of in that sophomore category.”
On Saturday, Williams, a third-year sophomore, and the rest of the young Buffs will wrap up spring with CU’s annual showcase event at Folsom Field (1 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Mountain).
Injuries have impacted the Buffs at several positions, including the offensive line, so it won’t be a full-bore scrimmage. But, the showcase will allow fans to see the growth of players like Williams, tight end Erik Olsen, linebacker Eoghan Kerry, cornerback Joshua Wiggins and more.
“We need to just continue to keep building on some of the success of these guys,” Dorrell said. “I asked them all before we started spring about having a short little checklist of things that they need to personally do for themselves to improve on. They’ve been staying true to that, really trying to fix their game from a fundamental standpoint by their positions. They’re doing really a pretty fabulous job with that.
“I think collectively as a group, offensively and defensively, there’s so much gain and growth that happened over these (spring) practices. It’ll show on Saturday when fans get a chance to see it.”
In addition to developing the youth, CU’s spring has been about installing new wrinkles on defense and a new scheme on offense. Saturday’s showcase isn’t likely to give much of a preview of the new offense, though.
“We’ll be pretty vanilla,” offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said.
A year ago, Sanford was the coordinator at Minnesota, which faced CU in Week 3. Sanford said he knew CU was putting in a new defense a year ago and last summer, “We watched every single angle that was available in the Pac-12 Network of the spring showcase to be able to get ready for that game. We spent eight hours trying to figure out what it was.”
From that experience, Sanford isn’t too interested in giving much for CU’s first opponents of this season – TCU, Air Force and Minnesota – to study.
“People are gonna watch us, particularly our first couple opponents,” he said. “With that, obviously, we don’t want to give away all the trade secrets. … It’s reckless to run the entire system with everything that you have.”
While the showcase may not provide too much information on what the offense will look like in the fall, there is still plenty to keep an eye on Saturday at Folsom Field.
Positions to watch
1. Offensive line: There isn’t a lot of depth right now, but the projected starting group has worked together this spring. Tackles Jake Wiley and Frank Fillip, guards Tommy Brown and Casey Roddick and centers Noah Fenkse and Austin Johnson have had 14 practices with new coach Kyle DeVan. It’s still a work in progress, but the group has been pleased with the growth this spring.
2. Outside linebacker: CU needs to develop a better pass rush and this group has been praised throughout spring. Guy Thomas is a returning senior who has had a good spring, while several others, including Jamar Montgomery, Alvin Williams and Devin Grant have stepped up.
3. Inside linebacker: Nate Landman has graduated, so this group needs a new leader and to pick up the slack. Seniors Robert Barnes and Quinn Perry lead the pack. Marvin Ham II, Isaac Hurtado, Mister Williams and Eoghan Kerry have been highlighted at times this spring, too.
4. Tight end: The Buffs know what senior Brady Russell can do, but they need a group of freshmen to mature quickly. This spring, Caleb Fauria, Erik Olsen and Austin Smith have all turned some heads and been praised at times.
5. Secondary: The entire back end is filled with youth. At safety, Tyrin Taylor and Trevor Woods are looking to take another step forward. At corner, sophomores Kaylin Moore and Nikko Reed and freshmen Jason Oliver and Joshua Wiggins have had good springs.
Players to watch
1. WR Daniel Arias: Few players have been highlighted as much as Arias this spring. He’s a fifth-year senior who appears to be taking his game to a new level.
2. LG Tommy Brown: He’s the high-profile newcomer, a transfer from Alabama. He’s been playing left guard as the Buffs hope he can solidify the line.
3. ILB Eoghan Kerry: Came to CU in January as an outside linebacker recruit, but has moved inside and has earned praise from coaches.
4. QB Brendon Lewis: After starting all of last year, Lewis has been a much better player this spring, according to coaches. Can he put that on display in the showcase?
5. TE Erik Olsen: A four-star recruit in 2021 from Heritage High School, he has put together a good spring and hopes to finish strong in the showcase.
6. DL Na’im Rodman: Keeps getting better as he gets older. He’s had a good spring, according to coaches.
7. RB Jayle Stacks: He’s turned some heads in the past but has never been as consistently praised as he has been this spring. The big back will have opportunities to run the ball Saturday.
8. CB Joshua Wiggins: A true freshman early enrollee, he had several pass breakups in an open scrimmage on April 9. He plays with confidence.
9. OLB Alvin Williams: He made his presence known in the scrimmage on April 9 and continues to be highlighted.
10. DL Ryan Williams: One of the talented young defensive linemen on the CU roster, he has a ton of talent and has been highlighted at times.