The CU Buffs just wrapped up their second week of spring practices, meaning they’ve reached the halfway point and we’re now just two short weeks away from the highly anticipated spring game.

What did we learn this past week and what should fans be keeping an eye out for on April 22nd? Let’s look.

1. Shane Cokes is the CU Buffs’ defensive leader

In a transfer class chock-full of talent, one of Coach Prime’s most lauded signings was Shane Cokes, formerly a star defensive lineman for Dartmouth. So far, he’s outperformed expectations.

Cokes is doing a good job for us,” defensive ends coach Nick Williams said. “He’s a good kid. He’s smart. He plays hard. He’s a team guy. He’s a leader, and we’re glad he’s here. He’ll do whatever you ask him to do, and that’s what we need.”

Despite having no prior experience with Coach Prime or the university, Cokes has immediately begun living up to the sky-high standard that Prime sets for his players.

“Cokes has been leading the defensive line room,” the CU Buffs head coach said of Cokes’ impressive spring. “He works his but off everyday. He understands what we’re trying to accomplish, and the kid plays the game like we desire him to play it.”

As a result, Cokes became the first (and, to this point, only) pure defensive player to earn his jersey number, and he chose No. 99.

We are less than two weeks away from the sold-out, nationally televised spring game, and so far just three players have numbers assigned for the game. Coach Prime wasn’t kidding when he said his players would have to earn their number, so with that in mind, having Cokes be the first defender to earn that honor speaks volumes about what he’s already accomplished in Boulder.

Prime underlined that standard on Saturday.

“Consistency, fighting every play, understanding the offense, not blowing assignments, not busting certain things that we’re asking of them, leadership as well,” Coach Prime responded, when asked to outline the standard. “We just really want guys to give it their all. And sometimes we had 10 plays on the script, [but] I may have run 15, because I know some guys are on the verge of shutting it down, and I wanted to see, ‘would they actually shut it down?'”

Cokes isn’t shutting it down anytime soon.

2. Travis Hunter is a bonafide offensive weapon for the CU Buffs

When you have one of the freakiest all-around athletes in the history of the sport, why not keep that guy on the field as much as possible?

That’s basically been the thought process of Coach Prime’s experiment to integrate Travis Hunter into the CU Buffs offense, and so far, it’s working beautifully.

Even last season, as a seldom-used gadget player on offense, Hunter was pretty effective. He tallied 190 yards and four scores on a meager count of 18 receptions, despite not being all that familiar with the offense, the calls they were running, or any technical aspects of the wide receiver position.

To add that polish, he’s been working exclusively with the offense so far during spring practice.

“We had a conversation because I didn’t play a lot of snaps of offense last year, so I wanted to come in and know the playbook so they didn’t have to tell me ‘sneaky signals’ and [have] other teams get used to it, knowing when I’m coming in the game, if I’m getting the ball or not,” Hunter told the press on Thursday. “So, we just came in and said, ‘Alright, learn the playbook,’ and once I learn the playbook, then I’ll go back to defense, learn the defensive playbook, and then [it will] just all be together, and I can go both ways, no matter what.”

Yet, despite wide receiver already being such an unfamiliar position to Hunter, he’s been one of the standout stars of spring practice.

On days when the media is allowed to observe, Hunter regularly rips off explosive plays, thanks to his rare combination of field-stretching deep speed, tremendous size, springy vertical ability, and sticky hands. When the media isn’t able to observe, we hear the rave reviews of his teammates gushing about what he can do on the football field.

“Yeah of course I have [that connection] with Travis [Hunter],” Shedeur Sanders said during his end-of-week press conference. “He definitely has been winning and getting open all the time. Travis is always open over there, unless they double him, but there’s not too many teams that are gonna be able to double him, because we’ve got guys that compliment each other in each position. So having Travis on offense is an amazing weapon to have.”

All of that talk was ratified by something non-debatable too — Hunter getting his jersey number.

As stated when discussing Cokes, earning your jersey is a real honor under Coach Prime, and he’s not just going to hand it out to anyone. The fact that only one player (Jimmy Horn Jr.) earned their number before Hunter, despite Hunter playing a foreign position, is wildly exciting.

3. Seydou Traore is still earning his stripes

Between his uncommon path to Division I football, his obvious physical gifts, and tremendous pass-catching talent, Seydou Traore was a transfer addition many CU Buffs fans were drooling over, but tight ends coach Tim Brewster made it seem like Traore still has a long way to go, during his media session this week.

“[Traore] is a very gifted, talented player,” Coach Brewster said. “He doesn’t understand right now how to work and how to push on every snap. He can flash and really do some good things, and then he can take a step back, he can take his foot off the gas pedal. I like to say, ‘are you hungry or are you starving?'” And we need more out of him.”

Coach Brewster than called out Traore directly, who was in the room during Brewster’s media session, waiting for his turn to talk.

“He’s standing back there in the back,” Coach Brewster pointed out. “I need him to be a better performer, giving more effort every single day, for him to do what he wants to do and for us to do what we want to do. He’s got ability. There’s no if’s, and’s, or but’s about that. I’ve gotta and he’s gotta decide to become a tougher player, and a player that gives better effort on every single snap.”

At first glance, that does seem relatively scathing, but it should be noted that feels like the baseline with Coach Brewster.

Brewster would go on to emphasize the fact that he doesn’t buy into the concept of ‘situational tight ends’, and stressed that he’s looking for a player that can impact the game on all three downs — both in the run game and in the passing game.

“The pass game is the pass game,” he said. “[Traore’s] gonna do some really great things in the pass game. We gotta have a true three-down tight end. We gotta have a tight end that’s gonna be able to block power, that’s gonna be able to establish some things at the point of attack, and only he can determine whether or not he’s willing to do that. I’m not about situational tight ends. I’m about a complete, three-down tight end.”

If Traore wants to become that complete, three-down tight end, it’s going to require some considerable growth this offseason.

What he brings as a receiver is obvious, but his blocking still leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes in practice he’s asked to kick out and help pick up a defensive end in pass protection, and those reps are consistently ugly.

Now, although Traore does need to improve as a blocker, one would also hope that Brewster has the awareness to recognize Traore’s tremendous talents, and play to those talents rather than try and jam a square peg through a round hole.

It’s absolutely true that, in order to maximize his potential, Traore needs to improve his blocking. It’s also true that Traore has the makeup to be one of Colorado’s deadliest receiving weapons, and they shouldn’t lose sight of that entirely, simply because ‘he can’t block power.’