Injured Buffs superstar Travis Hunter helps Colorado by lending his expertise as a coach

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Colorado cornerback Travis Hunter warms up before an NCAA college football game against Colorado State, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

 Already a cornerback and receiver, injured Colorado two-way standout Travis Hunter added a new role — coach.

It's a way to contribute while he heals from a lacerated liver that's expected to keep him sidelined at least two more weeks. Hunter has been working with highly touted defensive back Cormani McClain in practice and on the sideline. Hunter's also mentoring receiver Omarion Miller, who is fresh off a seven-catch, 196-yard performance last weekend in a 48-41 loss to No. 9 Southern Cal.

Hunter's proving to be a valuable playmaker even when he's just on the sideline as a coach.

“You don’t instruct dawgs to be dawgs,” Colorado coach Deion Sanders said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “That’s just who (Hunter) is.

“Travis just took it upon himself to do what he does. That’s what he does.”

Hunter has been out the last two weeks after an illegal hit in the Colorado State game sent him to the hospital. Sanders said Hunter could be sidelined until after the bye week when Colorado travels to UCLA on Oct 28.

Until that time, Hunter is lending his knowledge any way he can.

On Saturday, Hunter roamed the sideline in a white sweatshirt with “I'm him” written on the hood. He was giving Miller some instructions, too, which paid off. The freshman Miller had no catches entering the game, but turned in a record-setting performance.

His 196 yards receiving were the most in a game by a Colorado freshman, breaking the mark of 141 set by Paul Richardson in 2010 against Kansas.

“He's a great kid,” Hunter said of Miller on his online streaming show. “He's like a brother to me. I talk to him almost every day to let him know, like, keep your confidence and keep going. We're going to need you no matter what. You've got to continue to prove yourself. You can't get satisfied, can't get happy.”

Hunter has been working with McClain, too, a talented defensive back who has struggled to get consistent time on the field. A week ago, Sanders said McClain needed to study and prepare more. Sanders added that McClain need to "have a desire to play this game. Desire to be the best in this game, at practice, in the film room and on your own free time.”

McClain held his ground against the Trojans, deflecting a pass in the end zone.

“I was just bending his ear and letting him know what I see,” Hunter said on his video of working with McClain. “Every time I told him something, he listened and it worked out good for him.”

Hunter the coach is helping bolster the confidence of his teammates.

“He’s one of the best coaches we have,” Sanders said. “Those type of guys, that’s who they are. That’s what they do because they want everyone to come up. When everyone comes up, we’re better as a whole.”

The secondary may be steadily getting back to health. Safety Shilo Sanders may be trending toward a return Saturday at Arizona State. He appeared to injure his kidney during the Oregon game and sat out against the Trojans.

“Shilo's doing great. He’s back on the practice,” Deion Sanders said. “And he’s back on getting on my nerves so he's picking up right where he left off.”

Fellow safety Myles Slusher may soon be back, too.

“I’m loving what I’m seeing, man,” Deion Sanders said. "When Cormani gets his thing together in its totality and mentally ready to compete every single play, and Travis and Shilo and, shoot, Slusher are back — I mean, come on, man. It’s going to be something to behold in the secondary.”

Notes: Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders said his ankle is feeling better. “Everything's fine now,” said Sanders, who has three games this season with four TD passes. “I sat in the ice bath for almost an hour after the game. I'm fine now. I feel great."