BOULDER — Two weeks into camp, the Colorado coaches believe they might have found another Jeremy Bloom.
Problem is, nobody knows if he can catch the ball.
Buffaloes coach Gary Barnett moved Vance Washington from cornerback to receiver last Thursday to help bolster a receiving corps whose speed was
crippled after losing explosive junior Blake Mackey to a knee injury earlier in camp.
Although Washington, who runs
the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, has dropped as many balls as he’s caught in his first week at the new position, he continues to get behind the CU secondary in practice — an ability the Buffs have consistently lacked since Bloom left the team last summer for professional skiing.
“He’s the same kind of player (as Bloom) right now. He’s got that kind of speed,” Barnett said Thursday. “He can take the top off the defense.”
Before Washington ever sees the field during a game, however, he will have to prove he can catch the ball as consistently as Bloom. Although Washington never played receiver other than a few snaps on a run-first team in high school, he appears to be improving.
During practice Thursday, he made several challenging catches, including a long bomb that resulted in a touchdown.
“We’re going to give him some buckets to wear,” Barnett joked. “But he’s never really worked at it a lot, and when you’re so far out in front of everybody, you’ll probably catch the ball.
“He’ll get better. He’s already changed our game a little bit. Our quarterbacks have to throw the ball a lot earlier.”
Washington has embraced his new role, although he still considers himself a defensive back at heart. He changed his jersey number Thursday from 7 to 21 to avoid duplicating quarterback Bernard Jackson’s number.
Another reason for the change was to satisfy requests from the defensive backs, who grew up watching the multitalented Deion Sanders on Sundays.
“They all want to call me ‘Prime Time,’” Washington said. “Those are the guys I came here with. They’re like older brothers. They’re just excited to see me get in there.”
He also thinks his time in the defensive backfield will help him as a receiver, much like the knack safety Tom Hubbard showed after he was moved from quarterback.
“I know what makes them nervous, what gets them turned around, what frustrates them,” Washington said.
Perhaps the biggest part of the change isn’t what happens on the field, however. For the first time since coming to CU, Washington said, he isn’t getting yelled at every day during position meetings and film sessions.
“It’s funny, because everybody is all quiet and all friendly to each other, where on defense it’s like you’re in jail all the time,” he said. “I actually got a positive comment today, and I was in shock. My hands started sweating.
“I feel like I’m the older sibling that gets to move out of the house,” he said. “But anytime they want me to come back to defense for a few snaps, I’ll play cover three at any time for those guys.”
Two freshmen transfer: Redshirt freshmen Greg Newman and David Veikune left the Buffs with the intent to play for another institution, Barnett said Thursday.
The coach said Newman went to Fresno City College with the hopes of returning to his native Hawaii and Veikune left for Utah, where he will pursue a religious mission.
The fact that both players were buried in one of the team’s deepest positions also likely played a role in the transfers.
“They weren’t going to be in the two-deep, that’s for sure,” Barnett said. “It affects practice a little bit, but it’s going to give our young defensive linemen a lot more reps.”
The move leaves the Buffs with two extra scholarships, one of which Barnett immediately gave to senior fullback Brendan Schaub, an Overland High School graduate who will see time on special teams this year.
Sims hobbled: Junior Lorenzo Sims, the Buffs’ best and most experienced cornerback, didn’t participate in Thursday’s practice due to swelling in one of his knees.
“It’s nothing too serious,” Sims said. “We’re just resting it at this point.”
Barnett said the plan is for Sims to continue to rest the knee, but he admitted the junior may require arthroscopic surgery if the swelling doesn’t subside.