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bsn BSN: Donovan Lee diving into role at running back

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Aug 22, 2016.

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    BOULDER — Coming out of high school and stepping onto a college campus, every prospect wants to be the man. They know success, the accolades that come with it. College, however, is simply a different game.

    Freshmen of all types, even four or five-star prospects, often struggle in their acclimation to collegiate playbooks, speed, and lifestyles. For junior running back Donovan Lee, named All-State by both Cal-Hi Sports and MaxPreps while at perennial California prep power Chaminade, the first two years of his career in Boulder were often spent trying to find a defined role on the offensive side of the ball.

    Having made the full-time move to running back, he’s used the offseason as a chance to hone his craft.

    “The biggest thing that I’ve really improved upon this fall camp is just being in the playbook, knowing the schemes of the offense,” he said. “Us all in the running back room all being able to push each other and challenging each other to make us all a better group as a whole.”

    Lee caught 13 passes as a freshman, scoring one touchdown, before seeing his sophomore campaign remain one of multi-positional usage. Last season, Lee marched in for three rushing touchdowns and finished with 286 yards on the ground, with 59 of those yards coming on an impressive touchdown run against Nicholls State.

    Now, settling in the backfield, he’s had to shift his approach. Diving into the playbook as a running back is helpful, sure, but he’s also found inspiration in the man listed ahead of him on the depth chart.

    “(Phillip Lindsay), he’s kind of a Tasmanian devil kind of runner,” Lee said. “I think our games are kind of similar. The main thing I learn from Phil is just how he plays the game. He’s really intense and passionate about what he does.”

    Going from being an All-State selection in one of the toughest, deepest, and most competitive states in the country to being listed behind someone on your college depth chart isn’t easy—of that you can be sure. Some players would complain to coaches, to teammates, and even to the media. Others might even transfer, hoping to find their dreams of playing time and glory elsewhere. Lee, however, stayed in Boulder. He remained a part of the rebuild despite setbacks and let downs.

    In terms of the pure number of starts returning for the Buffs, the 2016 edition of the Mike MacIntyre era is certainly the head coach’s most experienced group. In fact, it’s one of the most experienced groups in program history. Lee is a part of that as well. That experience has seen him out wide, running between the tackles, and being put in a position to make the most out of one-on-one situations, mainly outside of the tackle-box.

    “I love being out in the open space,” he said. “Get the ball in my hands and it doesn’t really matter.”

    Having played plenty at wide receiver has, he said, given him the confidence to come out of the backfield and make an impact in the screen game, or any other spot where the coach might need him catching passes.

    “That gave me a bit more confidence in the passing game,” Lee said. “Having that season and a half of experience under my belt makes me feel a bit more confident.”

    As he’s settled into his role as a running back, Lee has also seen his mentorship change. Darrin Chiaverini came back to Boulder from Texas Tech, assuming the role as Co-Offensive Coordinator in addition to his duties as wide receivers coach. Buffaloes legend Darian Hagan is also back on the field coaching, heading the running backs.

    “Both of those coaches are great coaches,” said the southern California native. “Coach Chev doesn’t let up on us…Coach Hagan is definitely a great coach. He’s taught me a lot of nuances to the game that I hadn’t learned already. Adding that to my game is definitely going to be something to look forward to.”

    With just two seasons of eligibility remaining, few could blame a player with Lee’s past accomplishments for having his eyes on personal goals. After all, every prospect, every player, wants to be the man. For Lee, though, his mind hasn’t been diverted away from perspective, from his team’s ultimate goal.

    “This year we all have the same goal—Pac-12 Championship, win a bowl, and be the best team that we can be,” he said.

    William Whelan
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