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Colorado's Nelson Spruce leaning toward staying a Buff

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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Colorado wide receiver Nelson Spruce will face Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu this Saturday.

Colorado junior wide receiver Nelson Spruce, the nation's leading receiver, said he plans on returning to school next season.

"That's something that people have been asking me," Spruce told the Boulder Daily Camera on Monday. "It's something that is not even in my mind until we finish this season. I'll have to sit down, but I plan on being back next year."

Spruce (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) has 99 receptions, eight more than any other player in the nation. He also has 1,091 receiving yards, which ranks seventh nationally, and 11 TD receptions, which is tied for fourth. His receptions and TD catch totals are school single-season records, and he needs one more TD catch to set a career record in that category. Paul Richardson, now a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks, set the single-season yardage record with 1,343 last season, so that record could fall, too.

Colorado plays at Oregon on Saturday, which means that Spruce almost certainly will spend part of his day going against highly touted Ducks cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, which will be a must-watch matchup for scouts.

Scouts already have noticed Spruce. An AFC West scout told NFL Media analysts that Spruce "is a good-looking player. Not sure if he's better-suited to outside the numbers or in the slot, but his production is impressive."

Spruce's receptions total through 10 games this season is eerily close to his stats from his first two seasons combined: He had a combined 99 catches for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012 and '13 in a complementary role. There was a concern whether he could be a go-to receiver, but he quickly alleviated those questions with 24 receptions and six touchdowns in the first three games.

"He's been a very bright spot," coach Mike MacIntyre told the Daily Camera. "... He's played really well and done a lot of great things for us."

Spruce is not a burner, as his 40 speed is in the 4.5s. But he is a savvy route-runner with good hands, and he has dropped 10 pounds from last season to become a bit quicker.

Spruce, who is from the Los Angeles area and played at powerhouse Westlake High, redshirted as a true freshman in 2011 and now is in his third season as a starter.

Colorado's wide receiver coach is former NFL player Troy Walters, and Walters told the Daily Camera that Spruce is a legitimate NFL prospect. "I expect him to get better and to work on his weaknesses and have an even better year next year," Walters said.

If Spruce does come back for his senior season, he already could own all the key school receiving records. He is just 17 receptions short of owning the record for career catches and is 361 yards shy of the career yardage record.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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