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BOULDER, CO-April 9, 2022: Cornerbacks coach, ...
CU cornerbacks coach Rod Chance works with his group during a recent practice in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)
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During his coaching career, Rod Chance has mentored several experienced veterans, some of which are now in the National Football League.

There might be future NFL players among his group at Colorado, but Chance’s main task is to simply get a young set of cornerbacks ready to play.

“We’ve got a lot of bodies out there running around; we’ve got a lot of bodies out there competing for playing time, but as we end camp we’re gonna need a little bit more production, a little bit more situational football to kind of see what we truly have,” Chance, CU’s first-year cornerbacks coach, said Thursday.

“We have four true freshmen in the room. I’m gonna earn my money this year for certain, but these guys have a really good growth mindset thus far and I’m excited to work with them, because it’s never too much for them.”

CU’s two starting corners from 2021 are now playing at other Pac-12 schools and the oldest player in this year’s group, junior Nigel Bethel Jr., is still working his way back from a knee injury.

Chance and the Buffs will go into the season leaning on a pair of true sophomores and four true freshmen.

“Most rooms that I’ve come into have some sort of experience,” Chance said. “In my mind, they’re all freshmen. There’s got to be some learning and some growing and there’s gonna be some challenges along the way that they’re gonna have to grow from.”

With 202 career snaps (less than one-third of a full season’s worth of plays), Bethel has the most game experience in the group. Sophomores Nikko Reed (199) and Kaylin Moore (134) are next in line.

True freshmen Keyshon Mills, Jason Oliver and Joshua Wiggins are vying for playing time, as well.

Chance likes the talent in his room, but said, “We’ve got to go out there and prove that we can actually execute our defense, execute our technique. Not just for four-play or three-play racks, but for an extended period of time. We’re not there just yet, really, to say how much depth we truly have. We’re still kind of finding guys roles, finding who can do what, who can retain what information.”

Chance said there are benefits to having experienced veterans that he can lean on as a coach, but likes the “raw clay” that he can mold at CU.

“I might have a few more strands of gray in my beard, but I’m having a lot of fun everyday coaching these guys,” he said.

Receiving weapons

CU’s running backs combined for 32 receptions last year, which was 20.8% of the Buffs’ catches. Running backs coach Darian Hagan said the backs could be more impactful as receivers this year.

“You’re gonna see it,” Hagan said. “It’s a totally different approach offensively. The running back is a staple of it, as well. It’ll be exciting. Those guys have really good, soft hands, run good routes. I’m excited for them to be able to turn it loose and put the ball in their hands in space.”

Senior Alex Fontenot has 40 career receptions to lead all of CU’s backs.

Notes

Bethel suffered a knee injury last season and missed the last six games. He did not practice in the spring and has not been on the field this month, but Chance said Bethel is doing well and progressing. CU just wants to make sure he’s fully healthy before letting him practice. “We’re not ready to pull the reins off of him just yet,” Chance said. “We don’t want to be premature in that.” … Chance said true freshman corner Simeon Harris is learning the defense and has position flexibility but is behind his classmates at this point. “He’s trying to find his way in that deal, but we’re pleased where he is. Everybody as a freshman develops at different rates.” … CU will host its annual Boulder Chamber Kickoff Luncheon on Friday at the indoor practice facility.

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