April 5 Practice Report

Bernard Jackson/Getty

Inside, notes from Thursday's Colorado football practice, which includes news on a special visitor at practice and about a member of the 2007 recruiting class.

Bernard Jackson continues to make strides when he's in the receiver role. Bar none, he's the best player on the team with the ball in his hands in the open field. Thursday he got loose on a pass route on one sideline, hauled in a pass, set up a DB and cut back for a run all the way to the end zone. A few plays later, he made another catch and juked a defender. It's looking like his role will change from game to game in the fall. Should be fun to watch.

• Quarterbacks were having to run as a punishment for picks Thursday. Nick Nelson underthrew a receiver and Jalil Brown came up with the interception and Nelson immediately went for a trot to the far fence and back. He came back and made some nice throws for completions on the next series. He and Cody Hawkins continue to look neck and neck.

• DL coach Romeo Bandison donned big arm pad/gloves in one drill. He went one-on-one vs. each of his defensive linemen in some hand-to-hand combat. The two DTs, George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas looked good in this one. Nicolas reminds me a little of Justin Bannan. Bannan, who was way into karate, was always great with his hands in the trenches.

I know it's been said before, but the Buffs really lucked out with their defensive tackles. One was recruited as a fullback who showed up bigger than they expected, the other dropped into their laps when he transferred from Notre Dame. But both have turned into decent Big 12 defenders.

• Out of pads: Players dinged up and out of pads (but still working some drills) on Thursday included OL Erick Faatagi, OLB Brad Jones and DE Alonzo Barrett. None appear to be serious.

• A big kid with red hair was at practice Thursday. Buff-to-be Ryan Miller attended the session, and spent most of the time following the offensive line group around, getting in the middle of any meetings and watching closely when Coach Grimes led the O-linemen through drills. Miller and some of his 2007 classmates will be banging with the vets four months from now. Some playing time may be there for the taking.

"It'll be awesome to see because I think a lot of the guys in the class will have an opportunity to get in here and play (right away)," Dan Hawkins said. "It'll be just a question of who's mentally ready and who's emotionally ready and who can master the schemes and get that done. I anticipate there'll be two or three of those young guys that have an opportunity to get in the mix."

• Speaking of incoming freshman, quarterback Matt Ballenger earned a big honor Wednesday when he was named Idaho's basketball Gatorade Player of the Year. It is the second time the 6-4 Ballenger has earned the honor. He led his Skyview team to the state championships before the team from Nampa fell short in the title game. Ballenger was also a McDonald's All-American selection from his region.

• CU is tackling less but hitting more this spring. While less practice time is spent in drills or scrimmage situations where players are tackling to the ground, players say there's more fierce hitting going on than last spring.

Hawkins said it's to protect the offensive line since they are practicing with only six offensive linemen (Faatagi, the seventh, could be back next week), and to avoid the big injuries. But he confirmed that when they go full contact, they're hitting pretty hard.

"I'm not going to back off, I'm going to err on the side of being aggressive," he said.

His ideal spring?

"We win the Big 12 Championship and come out and do a lot of no-pad days, get a lot of work done without getting any guys hurt in the spring," he said.

• The Buffs will conduct their third scrimmage of the spring Friday afternoon. Hawkins said it'll be a more demanding scrimmage than the first two.

"We are going to try and get in 40 really good plays," Hawkins said. "We are going to get the ball and drive it."

The scrimmage begins at 5 p.m. on the practice fields and is open to the public.

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