December 19, 2007

Playing 'Bama a special opportunity

Had the Buffaloes been selected to play in the Insight.com Bowl, which most were hoping for, they would have played Indiana.

The Hoosiers had a fine 2007 season, but that match up would not have been quite as prestigious as going up against a program like Alabama. CU will play the Crimson Tide in the Independence Bowl on December 30th.

Only five other programs at the Division-1A level have had a better winning percentage than Alabama over the course of the last 138 years.

"Playing against the Crimson Tide, the school where Bear Bryant coached at, is something you will tell your grandkids about some day," said senior defensive tackle George Hypolite. "Forrest Gump, they were in a movie! It is a program with rich tradition.

"They have had a lot of great players come through their program and they have a lot of great players there now. Playing against a team like Alabama is a childhood dream. They are one of the big boys. They are in the same category as Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC. Alabama is up there with them in terms of prestige."

"It is a great opportunity for us," added Buffaloes' defensive backs coach Greg Brown. "You are going up against one of the outstanding coaches in all of football in Nick Saban. You are talking SEC players, scheme, reputation. This is Alabama and their players went there for a reason, they are used to winning games. That is a big time program. So it is going to be a huge challenge for us."

Improving underclassmen in CU's secondary

With Terrence Wheatley out with a foot injury in the Buffaloes' final two regular season games, underclassmen Jimmy Smith, Cha'pelle Brown and Gardner McKay all got an opportunity to play more snaps on defense at cornerback.

Smith gave up some big plays in the Iowa State game and struggled early on in the Nebraska game, but the redshirt freshman stepped up with an interception return for a touchdown and also had a big pass break up in the end zone against the Huskers in the second half.

"Besides it obviously being great for our team and the momentum that it created in that game, it was big individually for Jimmy to get some confidence," Coach Brown said of Smith's big plays in the Nebraska game. "It is a natural progression of growth that takes place. Guys who were freshmen maybe stop playing like freshmen."

Ben Burney has established himself as one of the better cornerbacks in the Big 12, so it will be an interesting battle to see who will replace Wheatley as the other starter next season.

At safety, Coach Brown has been pleased with the process of freshmen Anthony Perkins and Anthony Wright this fall. Both are currently redshirting.

"We were tempted to play them this season but we didn't think it was worth it to pull the redshirt off those guys," said Brown. "Now, if they both were at the point in September that they are right now, oh yeah, they would have both played this season. They both made a lot of progress this fall."

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