Freshman Jaylyn Sherrod leads Buffs to victory in exhibition

The Colorado Buffaloes women’s basketball team hosted Regis in an exhibition game Monday night in Boulder at the CU Events Center. Colorado defeated the Rangers 92-45.

Sophomore forward Peanut Tuitele opened the scoring for the Buffs following a three-minute drought to begin the game. Colorado took advantage of the size difference inside, finding junior forward Mya Hollingshed for an easy layup for the Buffs’ second basket.

Despite shooting a low percentage early, the Rangers were persistent of the glass, grabbing multiple offensive rebounds and capitalizing on the inside with second chance points. Freshman guard Jaylyn Sherrod provided a spark for the Buffs, knocking down a three, converting an and-one, and assisting on a fast break layup on three consecutive possessions. Colorado jumped out to a 14-6 lead.

Head coach JR Payne talked about Sherrod’s performance postgame. Payne said even though it’s just an exhibition, it counts in her mind.

“I mean I count that,” Payne said. “I even said in the locker room your (Jaylyn Sherrod’s) first collegiate game: 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one turnover, a couple blocks. It’s a great stat line and Jaylyn’s a great player. She’s going to be a great Buff for years to come.”

Regis continued to struggle on the offensive end, finishing the first quarter shooting 17 percent from the field. Sherrod led the Buffs with eight points and four rebounds after the first ten minutes. The Buffs led 20-6.

Sherrod’s playmaking continued in the second quarter, finding freshman guard Zuzanna Kulinska for an and-one to extend the Colorado lead to 16. After struggling early on, sophomore guard Emma Clarke knocked down a three to add to the already commanding lead for the Buffs.

Sherrod found senior guard Quinessa Cayloa-Do for an and-one late in the second quarter to push the Colorado lead to 30. Sherrod pulled up for a jumper with a few seconds left in the half to give the Buffs a 47-12 lead at halftime.

Sherrod admitted that she was nervous to begin the game, but after the first few plays she settled in.

“When I first started I was kind of nervous,” Sherrod said. “I told Aubrey (Knight) that I was so jittery. But, it was just good to get out there and play, being that I haven’t played in a minute, even going back to high school. So, it was just a good opportunity and a good chance to get back out there.”

Redshirt sophomore guard Aubrey Knight knocked down a jumper at the top of the key for open the third quarter scoring for the Buffaloes. A transition layup from Clarke capped a 7-0 run for Colorado. Unselfish play on the offensive end kept the Buffs efficient from the field, shooting 59 percent through three quarters.

Despite holding a 39-point lead early in the fourth quarter Colorado’s activity level remained high on both ends, grabbing multiple offensive rebounds and attacking the rim. Freshman guard Raanee Smith set up Knight for an and-one opportunity after coming up with a steal.

Payne liked the Buffs’ persistence and high energy, which translated into rebounds on both ends.

“I’m just thrilled with our effort tonight,” Payne said. “I thought we played extremely hard. We want to be the toughest, hardest-working, most disciplined team and I thought in a lot of ways we were that team tonight. (I) love our rebounding effort, to out rebound somebody by 25, especially Regis, who’s a very good rebounding team, was great.

Sherrod pushed the ball in transition and found junior forward Annika Jank for a corner three. Colorado led 87-38 late in the fourth quarter. Sherrod attacked the Regis press late and put back her own miss to give the Buffs a 50-point lead. Colorado defeated Regis 92-45.

Sherrod said after the game that she prides herself on her ability to bring a relentless energy and effort to the court and it showed Monday night.

“I pride myself on what I do best is what I bring to the team and if I don’t do my job I let my team down,” Sherrod said. “And my job is energy so bringing that to the team every night is what I pride myself on.”

The Buffs open the regular season Sunday, November 10 against New Jersey Institute of Technology in Boulder. Tip-off is set for 12 p.m. MST.

D’Shawn Schwartz looks to solidify his role as a third option for Buffs

Junior guard D’Shawn Schwartz took a big step from freshman to sophomore year. He started 35 games on the wing for the Buffs last season, averaging 9.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, compared to just 3.4 points per game his freshman year. Schwartz’s production increased in the Pac-12 and postseason play in 2018, scoring in double digits during the three NIT matchups.

According to Colorado head coach Tad Boyle, Schwartz had an effective offseason headed into 2019, one that should put him position to be the third option offensively, alongside junior forward Tyler Bey and junior point guard, McKinley Wright IV.

“He (D’Shawn Schwartz) has had as good of an offseason as anybody in our program,” Boyle said. “He’s playing with a high degree of confidence right now and I think he’s, he’s going to be a guy, I think McKinley and Tyler being first team all-league guys, we know what they’re capable of and we know what we expect of them. I think D’Shawn has got the ability to really step his game up and be that third option.”

Schwartz’s shooting has stood out over the summer and so far in preseason. He should provide a major boost for a Colorado team that finished tenth in the Pac-12 last season, shooting just 32 percent from downtown. Schwartz along with senior guard Shane Gatling will be the go to three-point shooters for the Buffs in 2019-20.

“When we looked at all the shots we took in the preseason in the workouts, he was by far our best in terms of overall shooting,” Boyle said. Defensively and offensively he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”

In addition to improving his accuracy from deep, Schwartz made a purposeful effort in transforming his body and getting in shape for the upcoming season. Tad Boyle talked about Schwartz’ physical evolution this offseason.

“He’s physically a lot stronger and bigger,” Boyle said. Just the natural maturation (and) the work he’s put in with coach Englehart in the weight room (has paid off).”

Schwartz echoed Boyle’s thoughts and was quick to mention strength and conditioning coach Steve Englehart, who played a key role in Schwartz’ offseason transformation.

“I would say the weight room (on areas of offseason improvement),” Schwartz said. “Shout out to Steve because he really put a lot of emphasis on working on my lower body (and) upper body, trying to get my vertical better. I think I got really in shape in the offseason, that was something I was really focusing on, just trying to be in the best shape of my college career.”

Headed into this season Schwartz said he wants to be a guy that his teammates can look to as a leader. Schwartz’ jump in productivity last season came in part because former guard, Namon Wright missed the second half of the 2018-19 season with a foot injury. This year, because of his drastic improvement in his sophomore campaign, Schwartz is expected to be an integral part for the Buffs’ both offensively and defensively.

“(I’m) just trying to change my mindset from being a guy in the backseat to just trying to be one of those guys that people can look to for help or if they want watch somebody who leads by example,” Schwartz said. “I kind of want to be that guy this year.”

When asked about the evolution of his game since arriving on campus in 2017, Schwartz said it’s a product of going up against stiff competition every day in practice. Playing in the Pac-12 year after year has helped to craft his game into what it is today.

“I think (it) comes from just confidence and just playing at this level every day,” Schwartz said. “Going up against guys like Tyler Bey and everybody on this team, playing against hard defense made me want to become a better defender and (improve) all those facets of my game.”

Schwartz’s length defensively allows him to guard pretty much all five positions, something that frequently is overlooked when evaluating repertoire both offensively and defensively. His physical improvements in the offseason put him in position to be a solid option defensively given his length a six foot seven inches. With all the focus on Bey and Wright, expect Schwartz to take on an even more expanded role for Boyle’s Buffaloes in 2019-20 and be a consistent contributor on both sides of the ball.

Buffs sweep Campbell, finish Colorado Classic undefeated

The Colorado women’s volleyball team faced Campbell in the final match of the Colorado Classic. CU dominated UMBC on Saturday in their earlier match, sweeping the Retrievers 3-0. The Buffs defeated Campbell on Saturday night in four sets to finish the tournament undefeated.

Senior outside hitter Justine Spann was key for the Buffaloes throughout the tournament recording 21 and 18 kills against Oakland and UMBC respectively. Multiple players starred for the Buffs in the first two games of the tournament in addition to Spann. As a team, Colorado broke four school records in the 3-1 win over Oakland on Friday night, including freshman middle blocker Sterling Parker, who became just the third player in CU history to record seven kills on seven swings.

The Buffs’ final match against Campbell started fast. It was a tightly contested match throughout the early part of the first set. Two straight kills from Spann gave Colorado a 9-7 lead. A couple service errors and errant hits from the Fighting Camels allowed CU to jump out to a double-digit lead in the first set. Colorado took the first set easily 25-10.

Two straight kills from Parker gave the Buffs a 7-3 lead in the second set. The duo of Parker and Spann led the way for the Buffs in the second set. A kill from span gave CU a 23-13 lead late in the second set. Colorado took the second set 25-14 and took a commanding 2-0 lead.

Campbell responded in the third set, keeping the match tightly contested through the first ten points. Two straight kills from Spann in the first set gave the Buffaloes a 9-6 lead. Parker, Spann and freshman outside hitter Jill Schneggenberger kept the Buffs on top through a majority of the third set. The Fighting Camels came back and took a 19-18 lead late in the third set. Colorado responded courtesy of two straight kills from Spann. CU led 20-19. A kill from Parker gave the Buffs the third set and they completed the sweep.

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Meegan Hart was named the MVP of the tournament. The sophomore recorded hitting percentage above .600 throughout the three games. Hart, a transfer from Iowa State, talked about what it meant to her to deliver a wonderful performance not only against Campbell, but UMBC and Oakland as well, only ten games into her Colorado career.

“I means a lot,” Hart said. “It’s really special to me. My teammates have been amazing, obviously couldn’t have done it without them. They’re passing was great.”

Sophomore setter Jenna Ewert talked about how the Buffs have struggled offensively so far this season. Saturday’s two matches was a significant improvement compared to the first several games.

“We haven’t passed that well all season.” Ewert said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game where we’ve passed that well, so that was a new feeling for me. It was definitely a lot of fun to have that much freedom. “(There) was a different type of connection with the hitters. You all have the confidence and… you kind of get into a groove. That’s a special thing that you don’t always get to experience.”

Head coach Jesse Mahoney talked about how the Buffs maintained a high level of intensity despite playing earlier in the day on Saturday and Saturday night.

“I thought it was a good match, especially after playing three (matches) on the weekends,” Mahoney said. “I thought our team did a really nice job to come back mentally and physically and start that match out on a really high level. We sustained that throughout the match.”

Mahoney talked about how the Buffs can use their success in the Colorado Classic as a building block headed into conference play. The Buffs face Utah to begin conference play, who began the year with wins over seventh ranked Kentucky and No. 23 Cal Poly.

“They (Utah) have one of the best players in our conference in my opinion in Danny Barton,” Mahoney said. “They redshirted one of the best middle’s in our conference last year due to injury. She’s back. I think that makes them better. They have a top ten win under their belt this season, so they’re really good.”

The Buffs will Travel to Salt Lake City next week for a Wednesday night matchup against the Utes. The game starts at 7 p.m. MST.

Rams prevail over No. 19 Buffs in inaugural Golden Spike Trophy match

The Colorado Buffaloes women’s volleyball team hosted Colorado State Friday night at CU Events Center. Colorado State defeated the Buffs 3-2 in five sets.

The Buffs traveled for Fort Collins Thursday, losing to Rams in three sets. Mistakes plagued Colorado on Thursday night and the team suffered its first loss of the season after starting the season 5-0. The Buffs hoped to rebound against the Rams at home. Friday night’s game in Boulder was the inaugural match for Golden Spike Trophy, a match between the two top teams in the state.

Senior libero Rachel Whipple talked about the team’s poor play Thursday night against CSU and how they wanted to come out on Friday and play a complete, sound match.

“I think we just came together as a team and recognized that how we played last night want anywhere near our potential,” Whipple said. “We made sure we created a positive environment after that match and all throughout today. We really energized ourselves in the locker room and throughout our warm-up and just believed in ourselves that we are a good team.”

Colorado started fast courtesy of senior outside hitter Justine Spann. Spann recorded two straight blocks for the Buffs to give Colorado the edge early. Following a sloppy performance Thursday night in Fort Collins, the Buffs rebounded, winning the first set 25-11 in part due to multiple service errors by the Rams.

 

Colorado State responded in the second set, scoring the first seven points. Two kills from senior setter Katie Oleksak propelled the Rams to an early 9-2 start. For the Buffs, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Danielle Price provided a spark in the second set, recording two blocks and a kill. Colorado came back to tie the second set at 20. A kill from redshirt senior middle blocker Kirstie Hillier gave the Rams the second set 25-23.

Colorado State used the momentum following a victory in the second set to defeat the Buffs in the third set 25-19. The Buffs responded and took the fourth set 25-20.

Redshirt junior outside hitter Breana Runnels starred for the Rams, recording a game-high 16 kills. The Rams defeated the Buffs and took the match in five sets.

Despite the loss, head coach Jesse Mahoney liked the way Colorado responded following Thursday night’s loss to the Rams in Fort Collins. The Buffs put together solid sequences of plays on Friday to force the fifth set.

“Last night (Thursday night) was a really rough match for us,” Mahoney said. “We struggled to respond to the pressure that Colorado State put us in last night. I thought we responded really well today (Friday night). I thought we played really good volleyball for long stretches. Unfortunately, we had multiple point runs where we just couldn’t get out of certain rotations and that happened in every set that we lost.”

Next up the Buffs will host the Colorado Classic beginning Friday, Sept. 20th. Campbell, Oakland University and UMBC will participate in the tournament along with Colorado. The first match for the Buffs will take place Friday Sept. 20th at 7 p.m. MST against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies.

Colorado makes history with win over Baylor

The Colorado Buffaloes women’s soccer team (5-0) hosted Baylor (3-0-1) to close out their six game home stand to begin the season. The Buffs looked to extend their winning streak to six and remain undefeated, while the Bears hoped to continue their success away from home following a 2-0 shutout victory over Wyoming. Both teams sat just outside the top 25 according to the United Soccer Coaches poll coming into the matchup

Last time out, Colorado defeated Austin Peay 2-0 in what was the 100th career win for the Buffs at Prentup Field and the third shutout in the first five games for CU.

A fast-paced and physical match throughout, both teams generated solid chances early. Freshman midfielder Roo Yarnell-Williams scored her third goal of the season at the 15-minute mark off assists from senior midfielder Taylor Kornieck and junior defender Gabbi Chapa to give the Buffs a 1-0 lead.

Yarnell-Williams talked about the fast pace and the energy the Buffs came out with in the beginning to ultimately give Colorado the lead. The freshman generated multiple offensive chances for the Buffs throughout the matchup.

“I just wanted to win,” Yarnell-Williams said. “These players are a lot more aggressive than any of the teams we have played against so far. So, I just came out knowing that I had to get the ball off my foot early in order to a, stay safe and b, make something happen on the field. Honestly, our whole team, we totally sped up the game and I think that’s what put them on their heels and got us the win.”

Chapa made an excellent cross after receiving a pass from Kornieck, which ultimately set up Yarnell-Williams for the game’s only goal. Yarnell-Williams talked about the play following the victory.

“It definitely just started from the middle,” Yarnell-Williams said. “Taylor played out a great ball out wide to Gabi. She looked up and opened her hips up and Gabi and I just made eye contact and I knew it was going to go in from that moment. It was a beautiful ball in, beyond perfect actually, I don’t think it could’ve gotten any more on target.”

With the assist on the Yarnell-Williams’ goal, Kornieck took sole possession of third place on Colorado women’s soccer all-time points list with 79 points, passing former Buff Katie Griffin. Kornieck is also tied for second on CU’s all-time assists list.

Baylor had a great chance to score at the 69-minute mark when redshirt freshman midfielder Maddie Algya drilled a shot toward the top right corner, only to be saved by leaping senior goalkeeper Jalen “J.J” Tompkins.

Head coach Danny Sanchez came into the game expecting a physical match. The game included four yellow cards and a combined 21 fouls. Sanchez talked about Baylor’s physical play.

“Baylor plays a style that got them to two straight elite eight’s and they’re a handful,” Sanchez said. “But you can also see the quality of their players. So, we knew it’d be a bit of a fist fight, like I told the team, I was super proud of them for competing. We scored the one goal, but after that we really competed. And the 50-50 (balls) were 50-50’s. The 50-50’s couldn’t be 70-30’s them because then they would’ve won the game.”

A save by Tompkins in the last minute secured the Buffs first 6-0 home stand in program history. Next up Colorado will head to Tallahassee for a Thursday night game with the sixth ranked and defending national champions, Florida State Seminoles on Sept. 12.

Yarnell-Williams talked about the importance of winning the mental game against No. 6 Florida State.

“I don’t think we should get in our heads,” Yarnell-Williams said. “I don’t think we should go in thinking we’re going to win. I don’t think we should go in thinking we’re going to lose. I think we just need to go in saying we’re going to play with everything we have and get the most out of the game.”

The matchup with the Seminoles will be the Buffs toughest test to date and will take 90 minutes of focus and intensity. Catch the game from the Seminole Soccer complex in Tallahassee on Thursday evening at 5 P.M. MST.

 

Kornieck talks individual and team play, previews Buffs’ matchup with No. 24 Texas

Senior midfielder Taylor Kornieck will undoubtedly go down as one of the best players in Colorado women’s soccer history. As Kornieck continues to climb the Colorado soccer all-time points list, she has one goal in mind: to finish at the top.

“All four of my years here I just wanted to play at my best, and literally I just look at the points (list) all the time,” Kornieck said. “I’m in third place right now (in all-time points at CU), and I just really want to be number one. I think it’s just really important to me, I’m really competitive like that.”

Kornieck is currently tied for third on CU’s career points list with former Colorado forward Katie Griffin, who played from 2003 until 2006. In addition, Kornieck  sits in fourth in career goals with 29, trailing  former Buffs’ midfielder Fran Munnelly (2002-2005) by one goal.

In her final season with the Buffaloes, Kornieck hopes to lead Colorado back to the NCAA Tournament after narrowly missing the cut in 2018. CU boasts an impressive combination of upperclassmen leadership and overall depth with nine freshman and two transfers available for the 2019 season. This depth should help the Buffs avoid losing multiple games in a row, despite facing a tough schedule both in and out of conference play.

“I think it’s important that we all include the freshman and the transfers,” Kornieck said.  We’ve done a really good job of integrating them with our team.”

After talking briefly about her individual success at Colorado, Kornieck was quick to mention that the most important thing in her senior season is to win games.

“I think team success is the number the number one. (It’s) important to me,” Kornieck said. “Whatever happens with me, I just hope the team gets far and we end up being the best Colorado’s ever seen.”

While talking about her development as a player, Kornieck said head coach Danny Sanchez had a tremendous impact on her individual growth.

“I’ve definitely grown a lot as a player,” Kornieck said. “I think Danny really challenged me and now I’m a leader, it’s my final year, I’m a senior now so being captain really (has) helped me grow.”

According to Kornieck, Sanchez has emphasized giving the maximum amount of effort possible throughout the game and getting off to fast starts. CU struggled with this aspect last Thursday against Kent State.

“I think we just all came out really slow in that game,” Kornieck said. “We flipped a switch in the second half for sure.”

Kent State came out aggressive on Thursday and were able to maintain possession in the attacking half for a good chunk of the first half. The Golden Flashes found the back of the net later in the half when redshirt sophomore Karly Hellstrom blasted a ball into the upper left corner of the net, past senior goalkeeper Jalen Tompkins. The Buffs responded in the 36th minute when sophomore defender Hannah Sharts served up a corner kick which Kornieck met with a centering header. The ball then ricocheted off freshman forward Tessa Barton and was headed in right at the goal line by sophomore midfielder Kayleigh Webb to even the game. The Buffs had 13 shots in the second half compared to only six in the first. The aggressive play earned Kornieck a penalty kick in the 68th minute, which she put past the Kent ‘State keeper to give Colorado the lead and ultimately the 2-1 victory.

Kornieck was happy with how the team responded in the second half to earn the comeback win.

“I’m really proud of them, we battled to the end,” Kornieck said. “We don’t usually end up coming back and winning when we’re losing in the beginning, but I’m really proud of them, we battled really hard.”

The Buffs will face number 24 Texas on Sunday, the highest ranked team Colorado has faced this season. Kornieck talked about last year’s loss to the Longhorns and how the depth on this team should give Colorado a great chance to avenge the defeat.

“Last season we lost 3-0 to them, but I think we’re coming out with a different mentality,” Kornieck said. “We have a lot of players that can really help us, especially with the freshman, I know Roo (Yarnell-Williams) has been doing really well up top. We’re just a different team this year.”

The Buffs’ focus is 100% on the Longhorns, despite facing multiple former NCAA Tournament teams following Sunday afternoon’s matchup. Kornieck said it’s important to focus on one task at a time.

“We have the same mindset going into every game, it’s basically just play as hard as you can, and we take one game at time pretty much and now all we’re focusing on is Texas.”

Colorado will host Texas at Prentup Field on Sunday. The game is set to start at 1 P.M. MST.

A duo of upperclassmen will lead the Buffs at defensive back, but many freshmen will see significant playing time

Head coach Mel Tucker knows how important it is to have a solid secondary. Despite the apparent lack of experience at the defensive back position, Tucker is confident in the leadership ability of his few upperclassmen cornerbacks. He spoke after practice last week about senior Delrick Abrams Jr. ability to guide the younger players and respond to coaching.

“Delrick, he’s like an old guy around here, even though he’s a youngster in my mind,” Tucker said. “He understands what it’s all about. He helps the younger guys. You’re able to coach him hard—if you can coach your best players hard and they respond, it makes it easier to coach the younger players. He really takes coaching,” Tucker said.

Tucker went on to speak about Abrams as well as junior Mekhi Blackmon. The upperclassmen duo has been a pleasure to coach according to Tucker, and they are both improving because of their ability to take coaching and apply what they learn.

“Mekhi is starting to follow his (Abrams) lead,” Tucker said. “Those are two really fun players to coach. They seem to enjoy getting coached and are starting to apply what we tell them, and that’s why they’re getting better.”

Tucker and the Buffs will need Abrams, Blackmon, as well as sophomore Chris Miller to step up and lead this relatively inexperienced group. Being able to take and utilize coaching is a key component in Tucker’s mind because it allows his staff to have an impact on both the upperclassmen and the younger players.

“A big part of being a leader is being coachable as a leader,” Tucker said. “That makes it easier to coach the rest of the guys.”

When asked about the most important thing you have to do when trying to lead younger guys, Abrams said it’s vital to keep them upbeat and confident.

“[You’re going to] face adversity…,” Abrams said. “We’re just trying to keep everybody positive.”

Abrams and Miller are very close. The senior cornerback talked about what it’s like to have Miller back playing football after he missed spring ball because of shoulder surgery.

“It feels good to have him back out there competing, [he’s] one of my bros,” Abrams said. “I know he gives it his all on the field, so I’m just trying to help him be the best, and he’s trying to help me be the best.”

Miller missed a chunk of the 2018 season due to injury as well as this past spring. Regarded by many as the most athletic defensive back on the roster, Miller is glad to back out there competing with his teammates and playing football.

“It’s just good be back out there actually playing football,” Miller said. “It’s been awhile, I’m just happy for that.”

When asked about how the younger defensive backs are coming along, Miller said everyone is focused on honing their skillset and daily improvement.

“We are all learning every day and trying to really get better and work on our craft every day,” Miller said. “Coach Tuck came in with a new system, we’re just learning off what he’s teaching us, and we’re just trying to get better.”

Despite their tight knit relationship on the field, Miller and Abrams have contrasting leadership styles. Abrams, described by Tucker as “humble and hardworking”, prefers to lead with his play.

“I lead by example,” Abrams said. I don’t like to talk really, but sometimes if I need to talk I’ll talk, but most the time I lead by example.”

Meanwhile, Miller said he’s more of a hands on, vocal guy, but also prides himself on his play on the field and work ethic.

“I feel like I probably [do] both,” Miller said. “If the younger guys need to do something that I see. If they need to take notes, I’ll help them out. I’ll be like ‘here’s some paper. Take some notes.’ Or out there on the field, if they need to fix up their technique just a little bit, I’ll tell them. It’s just little things I’ll tell them to help them, things I wish I knew when I was younger.”

Miller went on to echo Abrams point about staying positive. He said it’s sometimes hard for the freshmen to maintain a positive mental attitude, but Miller said it’s key.

“I’d say just don’t get down on yourself because a lot of our young freshmen they’re kind of new to the position and college sometimes [can get] crazy,” Miller said. “You need to just stay in there and just weather the storm and it’ll all get better at the end.”

Speaking of young freshmen, Tucker mentioned names of a couple freshmen that have stepped up and made progress so far in camp.

“K.J. Trujillo has stepped up and made some plays,” Tucker said. “I’m really happy that we moved Tarik Luckett over (to defensive back) because he shows up every day and makes some plays. He was making plays before he even knew what he was doing, so hopefully we don’t coach him down,” Tucker laughed. “I like his skillset. We’re going to need all those guys because we like to play a lot of DBs. We like to play five to six DBs every snap.”

The trio of Abrams, Blackmon and Miller will lead the Buffs, but there’s no shortage of young talent on the roster. Many of the young guys should see significant playing time early in their college football careers.

Curtis Chiaverini, under his dad’s guidance, is ready for the call

Colorado Buffaloes walk-on sophomore wide receiver Curtis Chiaverini is the son of current Buffs assistant coach/wide receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini. While Curtis walked on at CU in the beginning of the 2017 season, the elder Chiaverini has been coaching the Buffs since the 2016 season.

Darrin coached Curtis in youth football but wasn’t around a lot during Curtis’ high school years because of his coaching responsibilities elsewhere. When asked about what it is like to have his father around all the time now at Colorado, Curtis described it as “a great thing.”

“It’s cool because when he wasn’t coaching me, I didn’t really see him too much in off time, but now I see him all the time,” Curtis said. “When he is getting on me, he knows what’s in my best interest, so I really listen to him.”

Coach Chiaverini added that being able to coach Curtis at CU is a unique opportunity.

“It’s special…He was born in Boulder, so it’s really cool for it to come full circle — for him being born here and then me playing here — and then me being able to coach here and being able to coach him everyday,” Chiaverini said. “It’s really special for myself and for our family.”

Curtis talked about how in spite of the fact that he is the coach’s son, coach Chiaverini doesn’t put any extra pressure on him. Curtis said that the pressure that he does feel comes from his own internal drive.

“[My dad] tries not to put any pressure on me,” Curtis added. “Any pressure I feel, I put on myself because I’m always striving to get better.”

Despite the fact that coach Chiaverini has an intense demeanor on the field, Curtis said he and his dad are really close off the field and that his dad is just a normal father off the gridiron.

“Me and my dad are really cool,” he said. “We are always hanging out on the weekends, watching movies and stuff. He’s one of my close friends.”

When asked to come up with one word describe his father, Curtis went with “dedicated.” He said his dad applies a dedicated mindset in all aspects of his life, whether it’s family or football related.

“In every aspect of his life, he is just a dedicated man, whether it’s family, football [or] work, just everything,” Curtis said.

When asked about the difference between coach Chiaverini as a father compared to Chiavernini as a coach, Curtis said one’s more laid back than the other.

“One has a much more relaxed demeanor. Darrin the coach really just gets on to you and Darrin the dad just likes to chill out and just talk smack,” Curtis laughed. “So, it’s a big difference.”

Coach Chiaverini said that football wasn’t always a sure thing for his son. However, over time Curtis has grown to love it.

“I’m really proud of him. He’s come a long way from when he was a younger kid because he didn’t really enjoy football that much when he was little and he has really come to love it; and [he] wants to get better and work hard,” he said.

Coach Chiaverini’s wide receiving unit will be led by upperclassmen, such as juniors Laviska Shenault Jr. and K.D. Nixon, as well as the lone senior at the position, Tony Brown. The primary points of emphasis for the Buffs’ wide receivers have been to maintain a high level of confidence in the system and what the receivers do as a unit.

“The points of emphasis for us have been really just staying calm, being confident in what we are doing, and see ball, catch ball; and then we just take it from there,” Curtis said.

Individual improvement in the spring session will be critical in order for the Buffs’ wide receiving unit to find success. Curtis said he feels he has improved significantly since last fall.

“In my aspect of my game, my separation and just route technique has gotten a lot better,” he said. “I still got a lot to improve on, but I feel like I have made strides since the fall.”

Last year, multiple CU wideouts suffered nagging injuries that forced them to miss time late in the year. Shenault Jr., former Colorado wide receivers Juwann Winfree, Jay MacIntyre and Nixon all missed time, which likely contributed to the Buffs’ struggling offense late last season. Because of this, Curtis said everybody has to be ready.

“That’s how [coach Tucker] is with everybody. He just wants everybody to be prepared at any given moment and then when the opportunity arises you got to take advantage of it,” Curtis said.

Being able to learn from Shenault Jr., Brown and Nixon has been critical to the success of the younger players at the position.

“Things that you learn from them are just like how to carry yourself on the football field because they are all really good leaders. They are always trying to set the example,” Curtis added. “They are always trying to bring people up with them. Just watching them, being around them, it really elevates everybody else’s game.”

Coach Chiaverini has seen Shenault grow throughout his time at Colorado. Chiaverini recruited Shenault and has seen him mature as a person and leader.

“I recruited Laviska out of high school and I’ve really seen him grow as a person. He’s a lot more outgoing,”  Chiaverini said. “He’s a lot more engaging with people. He looks people in the eye now, and I think it’s just a matter of him being more comfortable with himself teammates. I like the way he works.”

Coach Chiaverini echoed similar sentiments for Brown. Although, Chiaverini said Brown prefers to lead by example.

“Same thing with Tony Brown,” Chiaverini continued. “He’s more a consistent, quiet leader, but the guy comes out everyday and practices hard and makes plays. He’s done a really good job.”

Coach Chiaverini said his son just continues to embrace every moment and is getting better every day. Welcoming and overcoming obstacles is part of football and Chiaverini is happy that Curtis continues to progress.

“It’s good to see that as a dad, to see his development as a young man, being able to attack challenges and overcome adversity because that’s part of the game,” Chiaverini said. “It teaches you life skills through football. So I’m proud of him as a dad obviously.”

Chiaverini said the key for Curtis is making the most of his chances. He’s seen Curtis progress through practice and is confident he will make the most of his opportunity.

“[Curtis] had a nice catch today in team drills. We had live team drills and he came out and made a really nice catch. Whenever you get an opportunity to play you have to take advantage of it,” Chiaverini said.

Curtis, coach Chiaverini and the new-look, coach Tucker-led Buffs will take the field for the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 27 at Folsom Field.

For Mustafa Johnson and the Buffs, intensity and physicality are key in spring practice

The overarching goal of spring practice this year for the Colorado Buffaloes football team is to turn up the intensity and physicality.

Junior defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson talked about how the new coaching staff — led by former Georgia defensive coordinator and current Colorado head coach Mel Tucker — is trying to change the culture of CU football.

When asked the biggest difference from last year’s culture to this year’s during the Buffs’ spring practice, Johnson pointed to the changing energy.

“Intensity,” Johnson said of the first few practices. “[The coaches] are trying to change the culture for us. They’re trying to make us more physical, hitting, just out-tough every single team. You can see that they’re doing that through drill after drill. They are just trying to make us harder guys, tougher in all aspects of the game.”

Johnson went on to talk about how the new coaching staff has put an emphasis on being more physical and intense on both sides of the ball.

“[Coach Tucker] emphasizes it all the time, the whole staff emphasizes it,” Johnson said. “Everybody is on board with the plan, that’s what ‘Relentless’ is. Not just doing it in the first quarter, doing it in the fourth quarter, playing physical all game.”

“Relentless” is the word used by Tucker to describe the culture of what he wants Colorado football to be. He even had t-shirts made with “Relentless” printed in bold lettering on the front. Tucker and many of his players can often be seen wearing the shirts on a day-to-day basis — a simple reminder to his players of his cultural message to them.

Being a former defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia, a program which he helped lead to the SEC Championship last season, Tucker brings a strong defensive understanding. It’s something Colorado needs more of after finishing ninth in the Pac-12 in points allowed per game last season.

Johnson talked about what his new head coach brings to the table from a defensive standpoint.

“[He brings] a lot of knowledge,” Johnson said. “He’s always standing on our side and making sure that he is stepping in coaching and doing a lot of things. That means a lot when it’s your head coach coming in, stepping in and saying stuff, helping you out. Not to downplay any of the other coaches, but it’s different coming from the head coach, so I think that is a wonderful thing that’s going on.”

Johnson also pointed out a difference in energy and hustle that this coaching staff has emphasized so far this spring.

“We’re focused on hustling, hustle to the ball all the time,” he said. “For the D-line, they’re having us run 20 yards down the field every time, even though the ball might be down. And the third [point of emphasis] is probably making plays, like capitalizing on all the plays we get the opportunity to play on.”

The coaching staff has put a lot of emphasis on taking advantage of every single play. Defensively, that means extra emphasis on creating turnovers.

“Picks, fumbles, forcing them, creating turnovers — all that,” Johnson said.

For the upcoming 2019 season, success for the football team will come in the form of significant improvement from last year, where the Buffs lost seven straight to finish the season.

Johnson talked about what would make this season a successful one for Colorado.

“Obviously, a better record than last year,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “But we are trying to go to a bowl game. Obviously, every team is looking for the championship, so that’s in mind also, but it’s important to just take it step by step, game by game.”

Individually, Johnson said he hopes to improve his pass-rush skills to expand his game.

“I’m doing a lot more pass-rush stuff,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty solid in the run game. I’m obviously trying to get better, but I want to create more sacks, create more negative plays. Last year I had eight sacks, I want to improve that; [and] I had about 20 tackles for loss, I want to improve all that. So, creating negative plays that’s what I want to improve on.”

Johnson, who actually had 18 tackles for loss, talked about the everyday grind of spring training, and he mentioned that if you don’t bring energy, it’s going to be a long day.

“You got to bring energy,” Johnson said. “That is the only way you are going to make it through these practices, because [the coaches] are yelling and hollering at you, and if you are just sitting there moping around, it’s going to be a long day for you. If you bring energy and a good attitude, it is going to be a good day.”

The emphasis for this year is on intensity, physicality and improvement from last season. From a defensive standpoint, that means much more energy and activity, which is something this new coaching staff is highlighting. Johnson said it is all about making plays and cleaning up fundamental mistakes.

“I would just say making plays on balls — that’s all it is — securing tackles,” Johnson said. “We had a few games where we missed a lot of tackles, things like that. We’re emphasizing finishing tackles, hard thud, wrapping up; and for our [defensive backs], making plays on balls, batting them down, good technique, things like that.”

Cleaning up mistakes and practicing good, solid fundamentals is the focus for the Buffs defensively. Being more aggressive and bringing more intensity is something players and coaches have to practice on a daily basis in order to change the culture of Colorado football before the new season begins in.

Under coach Tucker, let the “Relentless” era begin.

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