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August 10, 2009BOULDER, Colo. - Overall, the Buffaloes have more experience than they did a year ago. One of the exceptions is at safety.
After getting their feet wet at the college level last season, redshirt sophomore Anthony Perkins and true sophomore Patrick Mahnke are expected to step in as full time starters.
"They are coming along," defensive backs coach Greg Brown said of Perkins and Mahnke. "Both of them are conscientious. They study the game; they studied it all summer. They worked extremely hard in the weight room. They are vocal when they call the plays out there. And they'll bring the wood; they are good tacklers.
"They are similar to the guys they are replacing in a lot of ways. But of course they don't have three years and two years of starting experience like Ryan Walters and D.J. Dykes had for us last season."
Perkins did start CU's last two games in 2008 with Dykes ill. He finished the season with 40 tackles.
Mahnke also stepped up late. With Walters injured, he played 150 of CU's final 157 defensive snaps. He recorded nine tackles and a sack in the season finale against Nebraska, playing with a broken rib.
"It is a bonus when you have new starters that have at least played in big games and performed well. Playing on the road at Nebraska is as big as it gets here," Brown said. "But, like I said, it is going to be a difference as far as not having senior leadership back there like we had most of last year."
Travis Sandersfield entered preseason camp as the backup at both safety positions. The redshirt sophomore from Limon, Colorado, was recently placed on scholarship.
"It was just his persistence for two years that led [head] coach Dan Hawkins[/db] to reward Travis," Brown said. "He was exceptional on special teams last year. And now he is in the mix at safety. He is a big, smart kid that can run."
The wildcard at safety is redshirt freshman Ray Polk. The former four-star running back prospect approached Brown and asked if he could move to the defensive side of the ball in February. His father Raymond Polk played cornerback for Oklahoma State and was drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders in the 12th round of the 1985 NFL Draft.
"Ray is coming on at a fast pace at safety," Brown said. "You are talking about a guy that hasn't played defense since high school and he did not have the good fortune of participating during spring ball because of surgeries he had done on both shoulders. Plus, he had his tonsils taken out. So he had been physically out of it.
"For Ray to make the progress he has made the first few days during camp is exceptional. He is fast and he will hit and now he is making calls loud and vocal. He has gotten his hands on a lot of balls."
Vince Ewing, Bret Smith, Matt Meyer and true freshman Parker Orms are also competing at safety.
"Parker Orms did a heck of a job in the summer with the lifting and running program, and he is showing well right now during camp," Brown added. "Hey, we'll see where it leads for him."
Monday Practice Notes -
*** Max Tuioti-Mariner is not going to leave Boulder this year to take a Mormon mission after all. The young offensive guard told CUBuffs.com, the Buffaloes' Sports Information website, that he hopes to back in the mix ready to play by CU's conference opener on October 10th.
Tuioti-Mariner worked his way into the starting lineup by the second game of his true freshman season last year. But he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on September 23rd. The injury occurred early enough in the season that he was granted a medical hardship.
Tuioti-Mariner was nearly recovered from the torn ACL in his right knee when he tore the ACL in his left knee while conditioning on March 3rd. He has not been able to participate in preseason camp.
*** Monday's practices were in shells and were not supposed to include tackling. Parker Orms must not have gotten the memo. He was consistently trying to lay offensive players out. At 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, Orms is not the biggest player in CU's secondary, but he can pack a punch.
*** After undergoing five surgeries last year, senior cornerback Ben Burney is finally healthy. He has picked up where he left off in 2007. Hawkins believes he has even improved as a player.
"He is a lot more assertive and a lot more confident," Hawkins said. "The poor guy, up until he had all those surgeries, he was always dealing with something. He always had so many nicks. He is playing at a whole 'nother level. The awesome thing is we are really good at corner, and he is really good."
*** The Buffaloes were hopeful that wide receiver Andre Simmons would be able to practice for the first time on Monday. But CU has still not been able to receive the necessarily paperwork from Independence Community College to officially clear him. Simmons was a spectator at both practices.
"It is just a formality of getting all his grades together and getting them posted and getting him cleared," Hawkins explained. "You are just talking about a bunch of administrative loops."
*** The veterans and newcomers will unite and practice for the first time in full pads on Tuesday, 9:45-Noon. "They are getting a little agitated so we'll see what happens tomorrow," Hawkins said.