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CU Buffs, Arizona Wildcats both hoping injured stars return

Top players for Colorado, Arizona dealing with injuries


Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate and running back JJ Taylor are two of the best players in the Pac-12 at their positions. Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault and defensive end Mustafa Johnson are among the Pac-12’s elite, as well.

When Colorado (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) and Arizona (3-1, 1-0) meet on Saturday at Folsom Field (2:30 p.m.; TV: Pac-12 Networks), there could be a lot of stars on the field.

It’s also possible that none of those four get on the field.

Colorado’s Mustafa Johnson, left, exited the Buffs’ last game with an injury that may keep him out against Arizona on Saturday.

CU head coach Mel Tucker said Monday that Shenault and Johnson will be “game-time decisions” as they recover from injuries suffered in a 34-31 win at Arizona State on Sept. 21.

Shenault left the game early in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury, while Johnson left the game early after an ankle injury.

For Arizona, Tate (hamstring, ankle) and Taylor (sprained ankle) are both questionable after missing Saturday’s 20-17 win against UCLA. Tate is one of the country’s top dual threat quarterbacks, while Taylor was third in the Pac-12 in rushing a year ago.

As the Buffs prepare for the Wildcats, they have to get ready for both Tate, a senior who has racked up 846 yards and 10 touchdowns against CU the past two years, and true freshman Grant Gunnell. Against UCLA, Gunnell made his first career start, throwing for 352 yards and a touchdown.

“You have to prepare for both guys,” Tucker said. “We’ll be monitoring the situation.”

CU senior Davion Taylor said the two quarterbacks are different, because of the threat Tate possesses as a runner.

“We want to try to keep him contained because we know he’s a very good athlete,” Taylor said. “He can throw the ball, he can run it and we feel like the other quarterback is more like a pass threat. He’s not going to run much as a Khalil Tate.”

Either way, the Buffs have their hands full, defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said.

“Both guys are very good players, both guys give them the ability to win,” he said. “(Tate) is one of the most talented players in the country, and a guy that can create as much conflict as anybody in the country with his ability to both pass and run. … (Gunnell) is a guy that does a really good job of being a game manager, he understands the offense very well and is able to play within the reads in the scheme of the offense.”

Back to work

After a bye week and a weekend off from practice, the Buffs returned to the practice field on Monday ready to go.

“The focus was good today,” Tucker said. “We worked with a purpose. We laid out some things for them in a team meeting and showed them where we are and where we need to go and now let’s focus on today.

“Coming off Colorado State (in the opener), we had a couple days off. The Monday practice, we had to do some special things to get them going, but we didn’t have to do that today so that’s a good sign of our maturity and how far we’ve come in a short period of time.”

Taylor said he felt the team was refreshed after being able to rest a bit last week.

“We had time to recover and everything,” he said. “People that were injured got in the treatment room and tried to get their bodies right. We just came out ready to practice and ready to get back at it.”

In addition to Shenault and Johnson, cornerback Chris Miller also left the ASU game with an injury. Tucker also referred to Miller as a “game-time decision,” but said, “Chris is a little further away than the other two.”

Striving for consistency

The Buffs’ offensive line had its best performance of the year at Arizona State, and Tucker is hoping that group can duplicate the effort this week.

“I saw them strain in the run game,” he said. “I saw guys begin to move people against their will, really dig down especially in crunch time and get it done, and make a conscious effort with pad level and power and being able to run the football and move the pile and things like that.

“I’m beginning to see that (consistency) and it’s because of the way they work and the way they are coached. They believe in what they’re doing.”


On Monday, Gunnell was named Pac-12 freshman of the week. … Arizona has won six of the past seven meetings between these teams, including three in a row in Boulder.