BOULDER — Not many around the University of Colorado’s football program missed the news that Joel Klatt landed a spot on the watch list for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Some, you might even say, carry a vested interest in the quarterback’s immediate future.
“It’s a big-time nomination for him,” senior receiver Evan Judge said. “I’m definitely happy for him, and hopefully he wins it. If he wins it, then that means we had a good year.”
Running the football and using tight ends remain keys to CU’s offense. But the ability to use the receivers more in 2005 would be nice. It’s
probably mandatory if CU wants to achieve something special on offense in 2005. This is where Judge’s role becomes large.
No CU receiver totaled more than 30 receptions last year, a figure held down by the team’s 39 drops. Judge’s 29 catches led the team.
Judge described CU’s receivers as “average” in 2004. Compounding the challenge to improve this “average” group is the torn ACL suffered by Blake Mackey, upon whose speed and athleticism CU counted.
“I think we had the talent last year to be great, we just had some inconsistencies and we just sometimes stalled the offense,” Judge said. “This year we can’t do that.”
Klatt compared Judge to a security blanket, saying he knows exactly where the senior will be at all times. What CU’s coaches expect in 2005 from Judge, a former walk-on and CU’s sole senior receiver, is a lot.
“He has to be a mainstay for us,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “He has to be a guy that we can call upon to play all three receiver positions, which he can, and he has. When called upon he’s going to have to come up with plays, and he has.”
Which Buffs emerge as playmakers will be a season-long storyline. A year ago, there were times CU needed one badly, and there were other games in which the receivers made the big plays. Judge’s 39-yard touchdown reception, the winning score, in CU’s defeat of UTEP in the Houston Bowl is one example.
Judge said he expects to get open and catch the ball. He added that Dusty Sprague has great hands, and combined with Patrick Williams and Alvin Barnett, CU has “four or five guys this year that can make some plays.” That’s in addition to tight ends Joe Klopfenstein and Quinn Sypniewski, he said.
“Last year we had a rotation of six or seven guys,” Judge said. “All of them could play, but we never got the momentum or the flow of the game going. This year we have a small unit so we can get into the flow of the game better.”
Said Watson: “We want to see the receivers get themselves in position to make plays. We’re better than we have been in a long while right now at doing that.
“Evan, the way he makes plays, he’s always at the right place at the right time. He’ll make the tough catch.
“The difference in Evan is his level of confidence in what he’s doing helps him in how he does it. He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s very assignment sound and he knows how to get himself in position - or in other words, get open - and that’s been his forte. That’s how he’s successful as a player. He has very dependable hands, he’s a very dependable receiver.”
Extra points: CU coach Gary Barnett said he and his staff have put in roughly two-thirds of the game plan for the season opener against Colorado State (Sept. 3, 1:30 p.m., TBS) ... Barnett said safety Ryan Walters (ankle) ran through some exercises Thursday. Linebacker Jordon Dizon (shoulder) practiced without hitting, Barnett said ... Asked who would be CU back-up kick returner, behind Stephone Robinson, Barnett said, “I haven’t even thought about it.”