BOULDER — University of Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff welcomed 105 players here Friday, signifying the start of the annual football practices ahead of the 2014 season, MacIntyre’s second at the reins of the program.
The full-time staff returns intact, just the third time at Colorado in the last 26 seasons, and there are 50 lettermen and 15 starters returning from MacIntyre’s first Buffalo team that went 4-8 in 2013. That was a three-win improvement over the previous year; the Buffs also improved in 29 major statistical categories and in most of those, quite significantly.
The 105 players, the maximum allowed in camp practices prior to the first day of school per NCAA rules, are largely comprised of underclassmen – 68 to be exact, a number that includes 41 freshmen. Among those are often the forgotten ones – the redshirt freshmen – and who often play a larger role than anyone thinks; 12 out of 21 true freshmen were redshirted in 2013, and 10 of those players were in the two-deep at the end of spring practice.
Three four-year college transfers reported with the group: quarterback Jaleel Awini and offensive lineman Shane Callahan have transferred in from Air Force and Auburn, respectively, and arrived on campus last week. Awini has to sit a year in residence per NCAA rules and is thus ineligible; he will have two years of eligibility remaining. Callahan is a sophomore and currently is ineligible, pending an appeal CU has filed with the NCAA for him to play immediately. Earlier this summer, defensive back Travis Talianko enrolled at CU after transferring from San Jose State via College of the Canyons. He had three years of eligibility remaining and can play this fall.
There are four recruited freshman walk-ons in, three of whom reported earlier this summer, linebacker Lance Cottrell (Plano, Texas), tailback Kyle Evans (San Jose, Calif.) and quarterback Ty Gangi (Glendale, Ariz.). The latest addition is receiver Dylan Spradling, who hails from Elizabeth, Colo., and played his high school ball at Ponderosa. A fifth recruited walk-on, quarterback Will Fischer-Colbrie (Los Altos, Calif.), will report on August 23, the first day of classes.
Three recruits did not report, two freshmen and a junior college transfer: offensive lineman Isaac Miller (Silver Creek High School, Longmont), linebacker Grant Watanabe (Brennan High, San Antonio) and defensive lineman Leo Jackson (Foothill College). Miller and Watanabe are injured and will “grayshirt,” while Jackson needs to complete one more class to become eligible. All will enroll at CU in January.
In addition, junior defensive end Samson Kafovalu will be taking the semester off for personal reasons, as he has returned home to Riverside, Calif. He will rejoin the team for the spring semester and still have two years of eligibility remaining.
CU’s first two weeks of practices are open to the public and will be held on the fields just north of Boulder Creek; parking, however, is extremely limited with the Folsom Field and Athletics Complex Expansion construction underway. All practices are in the morning, generally in the 8:30-11 a.m. window (afternoon walkthroughs are closed). The final open practice until after the first game will be on August 16; it will be a full scrimmage in Folsom.
The Buffaloes open the season on Friday, August 29, with the 86th renewal of the series with Colorado State; the two will duel at 7 p.m. at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.