The Buffaloes' football program held their annual media day on Wednesday. Below are quotes from coach Gary Barnett along with seniors Joel Klatt and Lawrence Vickers.
Head Football Coach Gary Barnett
GENERAL— "We're seven practices into fall camp so I'll tell you where we are at in a number of different issues. I really feel good about 15 or 16 guys on offense and about 15 or 16 guys on defense. I'm also excited about our four specialists. I don't know how many great players we have but I know we have a good player at every position. We don't have a lot of depth but that's not unusual in college football today with the numbers the way they are—we're forced to play a lot of young kids. Our entire second offensive line has four of five who are true freshmen. The nightmarish part about that is we work ones against twos so our second offensive line works against our first defense right now. We're just a little bit thin on the offensive line and we're especially thin at wide receiver now with (Blake) Mackey injured. But we have a good core of about four guys at that position and hopefully we can find a fifth guy that can pick up the slack and help us with Blake being out."
ON SUMMER WORKOUTS—"We've had a great, great summer. I can't remember seeing a team in better condition than when we reported for fall camp. That's a real credit to (strength and conditioning coach) Greg Finnegan and his staff. At the end of spring I thought we were a little bit behind in some of our team development and chemistry and we had to make it up somewhere. Greg put it on himself to make up that difference in the summer. He did a great job of really working this team harder than any team we've worked before. He created the bonds and chemistry that you need going into camp."
ON BRINGING IN FRESHMEN FOR SUMMER CLASSES—"This is the first year that we've been able to bring in our freshmen for summer school before school actually starts. I think overall we've been really pleased with the way it's turned out. The kids have come in and taken two classes. They have learned how to go to school; they have learned how to use the academic support system. Our older guys have done a great job of bringing them along, not so much in school but in football. So they are much more prepared for the start of the season and the school year than they ever have been before."
ON FALL CAMP—"Our guys really spent themselves the first five days of practice and then on the sixth, with Alex Ligon going down, it cost us in the afternoon—I didn't think we had great focus. But rather than say anything about it I just let it go. I think they needed that to transition themselves from what looked to be a really bad injury to Alex.
"I think at the end of spring, Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis both had good practices, but it's a night and day difference compared to where they are now. I really feel good about those two guys. Hugh, in particular, has been outstanding in camp so far, and Byron has had an excellent six or seven practices.
"I think the other area that has really solidified itself is the offensive line. We don't have a lot of guys—we have six or seven—maybe an eighth guy we can count on. Jack Tipton has really improved and so has Mark Fenton.
"Our quarterbacks have had a good race for No. 2. Joel (Klatt) is our No. 1 hands down, and unless there is an injury, he will be our starting quarterback. Joel, like all the seniors, has done a great job over the summer.
"Defensively, we have three experienced defensive ends that we can play and three experienced defensive tackles. We feel good about that. We have a lot of depth at our linebacker position. I don't see any drop off between the first and second strings. Brian Iwuh will be our Buff linebacker on the outside and he continues to be a force out there for us. Our receivers all know where he is when they line up. They better know where he is because he is going to find them. At the safety position we have tremendous competition going on with J.J. Billingsley back in the mix. Ryan Walters, Tom Hubbard and Tyrone Henderson will compete for time, and even Lionel Harris has thrown himself into the mix.
"You don't have to have great players as long as you play together as a great team. That's what coaches know about this sport. It's not about players; it's the way they play and the way they come together. That's what this part of camp is for.
"Because we have so much time in camp, as coaches, we have to make sure we get to the games healthy and still be ready to play. With our numbers the way they are it will have to be an art rather than a science. Our kids feel really good about where we're at right now but they all know where we want to go, and we want to be in Reliant Stadium on December 3rd (for the Big 12 Championship game).
"I can't imagine anybody having a more difficult road schedule than we do. But it's also a challenge. Our guys are already looking forward to Miami. That's why the road is going to be so critical for teams in this division.
"We've got playmakers and we're flexible. I think we would ideally like to be a 50/50 team (running and passing). I think we'll have to wait and see how we develop but we want to be a balanced team. We'll obviously have to adjust as the season unfolds."
ON CORNERBACKS—"Our corners are a bit suspect because Terrence Wheatley is lost for the year because of wrist surgery and Vance Washington is out right now. Between Wheatley, Vance Washington and Mackey, we don't have three of our four fastest guys on the team right now and not having that speed available to us is going to make us adjust in some areas. Terry Washington has stepped up and has become a guy that I think we will be able to count on. Gerett Burl has been impressive in camp, and so has Lorenzo Sims. We need a fourth and maybe a fifth corner. Stephone Robinson and Gardner McKay are going to have to step up and fill those roles for us.
ON RUNNING BACKS—"I don't think there's a better fullback in our league than Lawrence Vickers. I really like our two young backs and we'll have to find a third. Right now it would be Lawrence. (Fullback) Brendan Schaub has had as good a fall camp as anyone and he'll give us depth at that position."
ON INCOMING FRESHMEN WITH A CHANCE OF PLAYING—"Gardner McKay will figure in somewhere, maybe as our fourth corner and maybe a return guy. Marcus Burton could sneak in here or there on special teams. There is no question that George Hypolite will step in immediately on the defensive line. He's already practicing with the second strings. He'll play in the first game and he's been a real positive force for us. Maurice Lucas has a chance to be our fourth defensive end before the year is done. I think Riar Geer is probably going to be our fourth tight end. Jarrell Yates should be back in about two weeks (knee surgery) and he could compete for the fifth wide receiver spot. He's a smooth kid and he's really tough. He should be able to compete before the year is over. Kevin Moyd is going to be forced into the third or fourth spot at running back."
ON QUARTERBACK JOEL KLATT—"It's a blessing to have Joel as our quarterback, not only because he's great to be around as a person, but because of his knowledge, his age and his maturity. He could walk into any one of the offensive meeting rooms and coach every position on the field. He's like having another coach on the field. I just want Joel to have fun, be himself, stay within the system, use his weapons and be a leader. That's a lot but if anybody can handle it, Joel Klatt can."
ON WIDE RECEIVER DUSTY SPRAGUE—"Dusty had a pretty good start last year. He broke his collarbone against Texas and was able to come back a little bit in the last couple games. Dusty is one of our best route runners; he's got great hands and he's a great competitor. He's got a mean streak in him that you need to have to play wide receiver. He's extremely valuable to us."
ON PUNTER JOHN TORP AND PLACE KICKER MASON CROSBY—"From what I've seen in camp, (punter) John Torp and (place kicker) Mason Crosby have picked up right where they left off. They're having an outstanding early part of camp. I don't think we would have been 8-5 last year without those two guys. We won five games on the last play. Torp gave us great field position for a defense that yardage-wise wasn't very good. Mason is three points if you cross the 50-yard line. You pretty much just count it. We probably dependeded on that more than we wanted to last year but we knew we could depend on him. Thirty-five percent of the game is the kicking game. So we feel like we've got 35 percent of the game sewed up."
ON WIDE RECEIVER PATRICK WILLIAMS—"Patrick Williams has a huge upside. He has a lot of pressure on him because with Blake gone, he's our speed guy. We'll use him in a number of different situations. He's a great kid, he's competitive and he's very strong. He's making us better at the corners already. Without question he's a guy that we're going to depend on a lot."
ON CU'S REPUTATION—"We have a tremendous name in the sports world. We still have a really good reputation—our coaching staff, myself included, our players, our team and our university. We've been received very well and everything is a lot better than it was last year."
ON LINEBACKER JORDON DIZON—"Jordon needs to work on his pass defense. He also needs to get bigger. Last year he played at 205 (pounds) and this year he's at 225 (pounds). He's a lot stronger than he was. He's never going to be a prototype linebacker—he's 5-11, 225 pounds—but he loves to play the game and he has great instincts."
ON VETERAN LEADERSHIP—"We tried to make the Houston Bowl our first game of this year. We took our seniors out of leadership roles and put it all on the juniors. When you first get thrown into a leadership role, you don't do all the right things—you don't make all the right decisions. We were down at halftime of the Houston Bowl and I think our leadership had failed and our seniors took over and we came out and won the game. But I hope our juniors learned a valuable lesson from that."
ON CU BEING THE FAVORITE IN THE BIG 12 NORTH—"I think if we were a unanimous choice we would have a bull's eye on us but we're not. I think if you look at this division any one of the six teams can win it. We all have the same number of guys back. Nebraska will be back, Kansas State has a ton of kids back, Kansas was an impressive team at the end of the year and Missouri was picked to win it last year. I don't think anyone went out and went after Missouri. I think Iowa State is picked to win it by as many people as we were. The important factor of the season in our division is who does well on the road. I think that will be the difference."
Quarterback Joel Klatt
ON MIAMI–"I am very excited to play them, especially in front of a national audience and in the legendary Orange Bowl. I guarantee we will give them a battle."
ON SPECIAL TEAMS–"To everybody else on the football team, field position doesn't matter, but to me as a quarterback, to know if we are in field goal range or we can punt out of our own end zone, that is like a warm blanket around me. It changes the philosophy and the tempo of the offense based on Mason (Crosby) and John (Torp)."
ON SENIOR RESPONSIBILITIES–"The one person that keeps me in tact is my wife because she reminds me that I play football for fun, and that keeps me focused on other things in life that are more important to me. It helps to hear that and makes me a better person because of that."
Defensive End James Garee
ON FALL CAMP–"It is a long camp, but in the end I look at it and I realize that it is my last camp, and that is special to me. It brings a whole new meaning and intensity to pre-season camp."
Place Kicker Mason Crosby
ON STRATEGY FOR THIS SEASON–"Last year it was all about making long kicks, but this year it's important that I make every single field goal so that I can help my team, not myself."
V-Back Lawrence Vickers
ON FOOTBALL–"I'm very vocal about my passion and energy for football. I live for football, not because you will get paid, that is just on the side for me. I eat, sleep and even cry for football because it has made me who I am and what I have become as a person. I have found what makes me happy and now I will live in it."