It is the Christmas Eve of the football season. Coaches and even some die hard fans will have a hard time sleeping tonight as cone drills and spiraling footballs fill their dreams. The offseason is coming to a close and with it brings a new look for the Denver Broncos. Change has been abundant this offseason and it will be a big part of training camp this August.

After several seasons of regular season success and playoff disappointment the team underwent a huge overhaul this offseason and with it brought opportunities for the roster’s youth. On both sides of the ball several players will have to step up quickly and everyone from John Elway to DeMarcus Ware acknowledged that fact Thursday at the newly named, UCHealth Training Center.

“I’m excited about it,” Elway said in regards to the young talent on the roster, particularly at offensive line. “They are young, they’re tough, they’re athletic, they want to play so they are going to come into training camp and they are going to learn fast.”

The offensive line is undoubtedly the biggest area of concern entering camp and the fact that the team is still entertaining signing more linemen magnifies that. Thursday All-Pro left tackle; Jake Long visited the team for a workout.

“We brought him. We are doing our homework on him,” Elway said but also elaborated on the situation. “At this point in time we are not going to make a move.”

That leaves only one sure return starter to the offensive line entering camp. Louis Vasquez will return to his All-Pro slot at right guard with youngsters, Matt Paradis, Ben Garland, Michael Schofield and Ty Sambrailo fighting for the other four slots. The youth will be in competition with veterans Chris Clark, Gino Gradkowski, Shelley Smith and Ryan Harris who will try to regain starting roles in the NFL.

“Youth is always a little bit scary because you don’t know how fast they are going to come along, “ Elway said of the offensive line. “You can never go into every training camp with every question answered 100% but I will tell you this, we have the potential to have a real good group there.”

Camp will surely expose any deficiencies and elevate the starters from the backups quickly. Another area of question but far more optimistic is the running back position. The Broncos boast a healthy, young group that is versatile and ready for competition. Gary Kubiak was asked about last year’s projected starter entering training camp, Montee Ball and the talent he has in the backfield Thursday afternoon.

“I think Montee wants to be the starter. That’s why I have been so impressed with him. I’ve said a lot of great things about C.J. (Anderson) since I have got here. I think he has done a great job. I think he has a bright future. He’s earned the opportunity to be our starter as we go into camp,” Kubiak said. “I think any player when they are given an opportunity, if they go out there and light it up and play at a level they aren’t coming out. So I think Montee is looking for that opportunity.”

Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson will also push hard for carries at the third running back postion. As the team moves into a more balanced attack on offense wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders likes the depth and spirited battle he expects to see at running back this week.

“I think that we have a stable of young running backs that are ready to go. That feel like they can be ‘the guy’ at any time,” Sanders said with confidence.

The youth at running back won’t be the only big piece that needs to continue to improve. Sanders was also asked about his close teammate Cody Latimer and how the second-year wide receiver is preparing to be the third starting receiver this season.

“I’m excited fro him. You talk about a guy that is a physical tool just like Demaryius Thomas,” Sanders said with a smile. “I’m big on Cody. I’m telling you he is strong and he is fast. He is going to come in here and have a big year for us. I’m looking forward for him to take off.”

Latimer struggled to grasp the playbook after a great training camp in which he dazzled the media and coaches with some spectacular grabs. He played in less than 40 snaps in 2014 but now has the first crack at a big starting role due to Wes Welker’s and Julius Thomas’s departures.

The defense has several young players that will be immediately looked at to contribute as well. None will get more attention than the team’s 2015 first-round draft pick, Shane Ray. He has been recovering from a turf toe injury since his bowl game but was asked about his health Monday.

“I’m 100 percent—full go. All drills, 100 percent. The issue was that I didn’t have any time to rest during the pre-draft process and get the proper treatment. As soon as I got here, I got the things that I needed, the treatment that I needed and the orthotics that I needed, and my recovery happened like it was supposed to. Now it is not an issue.”

Ray will be brought along slowly but is expected to impact the defense especially as a third pass rusher. Ware is ready and willing to get Ray ready for the NFL and told the rookie how he needs to approach the coming days before the season.

“I talked to him. I said, ‘You have the title of a rookie but you are going to have to play this year. You are going to have to go out there and be effective not matter if it is for me or Von’s (Miller) position.’”

Ray was an offensive lineman’s nightmare in college for the University of Missouri Tigers. He will have to gain some weight and adjust to NFL speed in order to make a big impact in his rookie season. Fans and the coaches will both be getting the first look at Ray in full speed drills Friday. Since the team drafted Ray, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has emphasized his desire to have all three pass rushers on the field if they can. That will all depend on the Ray’s development in the coming weeks.

The surprise of the offseason seems to have been Kenny Anunike. Both Kubiak and Ware were asked who has stood out this offseason and both separately named Anunike. The second-year defensive end out of Duke University hurt his arm in training camp last season and has worked his way back up the depth chart.

“Kenny was probably one of the standout players throughout our offseason workouts, OTAs and our program,” Kubiak said Thursday.

There will be a defensive end starting role open for at least the first four weeks of the regular season due to Derek Wolfe’s four-game suspension for violating the National Football League’s policy on performance enhancing substances. Anunike, Vance Walker and Antonio Smith will be front runners for the job. Kubiak stated that Anunike’s size will likely be the biggest factor in his playing time.

“He (Anunike) had a whole offseason to really to get himself right and to see how hungry he was in camp when he was right there behind Wolfe. He played on both sides of the 3-4. He was actually out there with the ones sometimes making plays in some drills. Kenny really stood out to a lot of guys and he is coming along really well,” Ware said Thursday.

At the beginning of every training camp there are seemingly a million questions and few answers to how a team will shake out in September. On the eve of training camp on thing is certain; the Broncos will need several young players to step up and start games this season. On both sides of the ball, at every level, the team will begin that process tomorrow. Elway, Kubiak, Sanders and Ware shed some light on who is expected to make an impact but now it is up to the young players to prove they belong along side the proven talent in the early days of the 2015-16 season.

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