For the past two years, Christian Powell has led the Colorado football team in rushing yards.
Given the talent at the running back position this year, Powell might have a tough time leading the team again this fall.
"That's what college football is," Powell said about the competition in the backfield. "Nothing is ever set in stone; you have to work at it every day. Ever since I stepped onto this campus, I've known that's how it was going to be."
Colorado (4-8, 1-8 Pac-12 in 2013) is in the middle of spring ball this week and one of the biggest questions about the Buffaloes for this season is whether they can finally get their running game going.
Two seasons ago, Powell, as a true freshman, led the team with 691 rushing yards, but as a team, the Buffs averaged just 110.3 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry.
A year ago, under the direction of first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre, the Buffs improved a bit, averaging 120.8 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. Still, they ranked 108th nationally in yards per game.
Powell had 562 yards last year, while true freshman Michael Adkins II emerged as a threat, posting 535 yards. Tony Jones added 249.
All three are back this year, along with redshirt freshman Phillip Lindsay, junior Donta Abron and senior Malcolm Creer.
That talented group gives Powell and the Buffs some hope for the running game in 2014.
"We've had problems with it (in the past), but all we can do is improve," Powell said. "So far that's what we've been doing and I think that's going to show (in the fall)."
It may not be Powell leading that charge, however.
In fact, Adkins likely would have led the team last year had he played every game. But, the Buffs didn't give him an opportunity until Week 3. He posted 98 yards in his first game and had a 137-yard, four-touchdown performance later in the year against Charleston Southern. His 5.2 yards per carry was by far the best among the running backs (Powell was second, at 3.8).
Although Adkins' ankles have bothered him a bit this spring, head coach Mike MacIntyre said he's impressed with the development of the sophomore-to-be.
"Michael is doing good," MacIntyre said. "He's gotten stronger, he's more flexible, he's making a 4.0 (grade point average), so he does really good in school."
Powell has been hobbled a bit this spring, too. He tore the meniscus in his right knee in January and has been limited during the spring, but said he's coming along well.
"He's a bona fide Pac-12 football player that can do a lot of good things for our football team in a lot of ways," said MacIntyre, who plans to use Powell at fullback and tailback.
Aside from Adkins and Powell, Lindsay figures to have some impact this year. The former Denver South High School star dazzled coaches last season as a practice squad player and is now fully healed from the knee injury he suffered as a senior in high school.
"Lindsay is doing some really good things this spring," MacIntyre said. "We thought that and we're seeing the results. That's exciting."
Jones brings three years of experience, while Creer and Abron bring some experience, too.
"I'm always excited and looking forward to what we can do in the future, and next season obviously," Powell said. "Plus we have an assist with the other backs coming in — Tony, Donta, Phillip, Malcolm. I like how we are right now."
In addition to running back, the Buffs are looking for better production at tight end.
Last season, just 19 of the Buffs' 235 completions went to tight ends, with Scott Fernandez and Kyle Slavin each getting nine. Fernandez, who led the tight ends with 97 yards, has graduated.
So far this spring, sophomore Sean Irwin has stepped up his game. Aside from Fernandez and Slavin, he was the only other tight end to catch a pass last year, getting one for seven yards.
"I think Sean Irwin has really come on," MacIntyre said.
He said Slavin, now a senior, has had a good spring, too, and he pointed out the progress of redshirt freshman Connor Center. But, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Irwin has been the most impressive.
"To me, Sean Irwin has taken another step, because he's able to run the routes, he has speed, and he can block," MacIntyre said. "All of our kids are good, but to me, he's probably the most well-rounded of being able to attack a team vertical, too, at tight end and not just be a blocker. I'm excited with the movement that Sean has made."
Senior defensive back Josh Moten left Wednesday's practice with an undisclosed injury.