Colorado Recruiting Class of 2009
Posted below: A review of the Class of 2009, looking at the Class by postion.
Which players will have an immediate impact on the fall roster? I have posted the class in order of likelihood of seeing playing time. Nick Kasa is the easy choice for #1. I have ranked tight end prospect DaVaughn Thornton at #19. What do you think? Click on the “Entire Update” for a first look at the fall depth chart. …. (the 2009 recruiting bios and Hawkins’ quotes about each player can still be found by just scrolling down this main page) ….
INTRODUCING THE COLORADO RECRUITING CLASS OF 2009
(Biographies of each recruit found below)
Eligibility – While not unexpected news, it was good news nonetheless. Offensive lineman Max Tuioti-Mariner and Ryan Miller, both injured the week of the Florida State game last fall, were given a medical red-shirt, meaning that their participation in the first three games in 2008 will not count against their eligibility. Next fall, Miller will again be a sophomore; MTM will again be a freshman. So, how’s the rehabilitation coming? Miller, at the Recruiting luncheon: “Im back to 100%. Full go. So quit worrying about me.” Good news, indeed!
Coach Mac – Former CU head coach Bill McCartney was his old self at the Recruiting luncheon on February 5th. Leading the crowd in a chant of “Good. Better. Best. Never letter it rest. ‘Till you ‘good’ is your ‘better’, and your ‘better’ is your ‘best’ “, McCartney again encouraged those in attendance to make the spring game a happening. Last season, the Buffs set a record of 18,000 for the spring game, but Coach Mac wants more.
Coach Hawk – One of the more interesting points raised during Dan Hawkins’ talk at the luncheon was that Colorado would have more returning starters than almost every other team on the 2009 schedule (Wyoming and Iowa State, two of the weaker teams on the schedule, were exceptions). As young as the Buffs have been over the past few seasons, it only make sense that the 2009 team would have a “veteran” flavor, but it is still hard to fathom that CU is finally going to be putting a more experienced product on the field than the opposition.
Colorado is at 19 commits and holding. No players are on the list which are unfamiliar. Below, get to know your new Buffs a little better (many of the tidbits courtesy of Dave Plati and the CU Media Relations Office)….
Dan Hawkins’ Press Conference quotes (overall): Coach Hawkins opened talking about “trying to build a culture” at CU, with a “quality balance of life” and that the 2009 class fit that profile. Hawkins pointed out that over 3/4 of the recruits played on playoff teams, and are players who “expect to win”. Hawkins also noted that 3/4 of the recruits were honor roll students, and a number were team captains. When asked if having honor roll students would make a difference in the fall, when his team would be graded on wins and losses, Hawkins replied, “Good things happen to good people”. Coach Hawkins also noted that a number of players from this class were very athletic, playing a number of different sports, and pointedly, “can play a number of different positions”. As the Class of 2009 will be regarded by many as a need-filling class, having versatile talent will be a plus for the depth chart over the next few seasons.Quotes from the Dan Hawkins’ Press conference pertaining to individual players can be found with their profiles:
LETTERS OF INTENT RECEIVED:
DaVaughn Thornton - two-star tight end – Denver, Colorado. Thornton is 6′5″, and is not only an all-state football player, but an all-state basketball player as well, currently averaging 19 points and nine rebounds per game. Something to keep in the back of your mind: Thornton has been the long-snapper for fellow recruit Zach Grossnickle for the past two seasons. The Buffs have been blessed with a scholarship snapper for the past three seasons in Justin Drescher. Drescher will be a senior in 2009. Perhaps starting in 2010 East High teammates Thornton and Grossnickle will be teamed up once again. Dan Hawkins marveled that Thornton was “extremely athletic”, and is a “skinny 220″ pounds who will bulk up considerably in the next few years. Thornton, according to Hawkins, “can already do some awesome things”, and that his potential contributions are limitless.
Clark Evans - three-star quarterback – Los Alamitos, California. Evans is listed as the #28 quarterback in the nation by Scout.com; #31 by Rivals.com. Evans led his team to a 22-10 overall record in three seasons at starting quarterback. Want versatility? Evans, who is 6′5″, is playing center for his high school basketball team, a team which currently has a 20-1 record! During his senior year, Evans threw for 2,173 yards and 25 touchdowns (10 interceptions), rushing for another 840 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hawkins called Evans “a big bruising guy” who is “very competitive”.
Edward Nuckols - four-star defensive tackle – San Marcos, California. If not for the fact that Nick Kasa switched his commitment from Florida to Colorado on the same day, the verbal commitment of Edward Nuckols a few weeks ago would have been greeted with great fanfare by the Buff Nation. Nuckols is 6′3″, 295 pounds, and is versatile enough that he scored seven touchdowns as a fullback in his junior year, five more as a senior. Nuckols is rated as the #1 defensive tackle prospect out of the State of California by Rivals.com, and the #23 defensive tackle in the nation. Fighting through double teams his entire senior year, Nuckols still had 81 tackles his senior year (44 solo). Of Nuckols, Hawkins said at his press conference, “he is extremely explosive”, and that Nuckolds “knocks people off the ball … and is extremely hard to block.”
Liloa Nobriga - three-star linebacker – Las Vegas, Nevada. Nobriga was tabbed by Rivals as the #87 outside linebacker in the nation; Scout has him as the #74 weakside linebacker prospect. In his senior year, Nobriga had more tackles (185) than any other prep player in the State of Nevada, and his high school team gave up only 11.4 points per game on its way to a 14-1 record (losing only in the state championship game). The 6′3″, 235 pounder was also all-league as a punter his senior season. Nobriga grew up on Oahu in the town of Kailua, the same hometown as associate head coach and linebackers coach Brian Cabral. At the press conference, Hawkins told the story of how he and coach Cabral watched Nobriga at a basketball game, marveling at how this linebacker brought the ball up the court. “A very smooth athlete”, was Hawkins’ description.
Parker Orms - three-star defensive back – Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Of the early commits this past fall, Orms was my favorite. Recruited as a safety, Orms is an all-around great player. All he did in the state championship game was score five touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 56-yard run with less than a minute to play. Orms was tabbed by different publications as an all-state player at both safety and running back. As a senior, Orms led the state in rushing (2,813 yards – averaging over 10 yards per carry), and had 32 touchdowns. At safety, Orms had 102 tackles his senior year, returning two of his four interceptions on the year for touchdowns. Orms was a three-year starter on both offense and defense, and, his last two seasons, was also the team punter. (If you were with me all day, you know that my above opinion was posted before the press conference) …. At the press conference, Dan Hawkins said of Orms, “he’s got something to him”. Noting that while Orms is not particularly large or fast, he has been a state champion in three sports, and that Orms has that look about him that says, “I’m ready to go right now.”
David Bakhtiari - two-star offensive lineman – San Mateo, California. Bakhtiari did not start until his senior season, only taking up football as a junior (his game is lacrosse). At 6′4″, 270 pounds, Bakhtiari (pronounced bock-t-are-e) is seen has having a tremendous upside. As eveidence, coaches point to his game against USC recruit Kevin Greene, when Bakhtiari held Greene to no sacks and only a pair of tackles. His oldest brother, Eric, plays for the San Diego Chargers.
Terdema Ussery - three-star wide receiver – Dallas, Texas. Ussery had long been considered a solid possibility for Colorado, but there were always questions about whether Ussery would stick. In the end, it came down to CU and Stanford, and the 6′3″ prospect (who just happens to run a 4.47 40) is now officially a Buff. Rivals has Ussery pegged as the #82 wide receiver prospect in the nation, despite the fact that Ussery played only five games his senior season (mostly for precautionary reasons due to a concussion). In those five games, Ussery caught 46 passes for 615 yards and eight touchdowns (you do the math on how that projects out for a season!). Ussery will go for a fourth letter in track this spring (as a decathlete!). Ussery has been on the honor roll in high school since his freshman year. His father is the long-time President and CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. When asked about Ussery, Hawkins noted that Ussery was “a great kid”, and that he was “very, very explosive” off the ball.
Nick Kasa - four-star defensive lineman – Broomfield, Colorado. Where to start with the accolades? Okay, deep breath …. Rivals ranks Kasa as the best defensive end in the country against the run; third on its list of strong-side defensive ends; and its #42 player overall in the nation. Scout has Kasa listed as the 4th-best defensive end in the country. Kasa was the consensus choice as the Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Colorado (Parker Orms was the Offensive Player of the Year). A four-year starter in high school, Kasa had 59 tackles (including 10 sacks) his senior year. Kasa also started on the offensive line, where he did not allow a sack and did not incur a penalty. Despite his size, 6′7″, 250 pounds, Kasa is a three-year letterman in track (going for a fourth this spring) – as a sprinter! When asked about Kasa, Coach Hawkins said that one of his favorite things about his star recruit is that Kasa “finds the adulation embarassing”; that Kasa is just a “great kid” who wants to play. Hawkins went on to say that Kasa can become a “dominating factor”, and “can be as great as he wants to be.”
Jack Harris - four-star offensive lineman – Parker, Colorado. Perhaps the most under-rated, or at least under-publicized, get for the Buffs so far this cycle. Harris could be a four-year starter on the offensive line. Rivals tabbed Harris as the #19 offensive tackle in the nation, and the tackle from Parker is the consensus #2 player from the State of Colorado this year (behind only Kasa). A three-year lettermen, Harris recorded 16 pancake blocks in one game during his senior season. Harris is listed 6′6″, 260 pounds.
J. Forrest West - two-star defensive end – Salisbury, Connecticut. Splitting time between linebacker and defensive end during his senior season, West registered 70 tackles, including six sacks and six forced fumbles. Playing on special teams, West blocked two punts. West is 6′2″, 230 pounds, and also plays on his high school’s basketball team. West has been on the honor roll at school the last two years.
Zach Grossnickle - three-star kicker – Denver, Colorado. Scout has Grossnickle as the #10 kicker in the nation, while Rivals has the East High product listed as the #21 kicker overall. According to Ray Guy’s prokicker.com, Grossnickle is the #2 kicker in the nation (and the #2 punter/kicker combined). Grossnickle was true on 12-of-13 kicks his senior season, with his only miss coming on a 58-yard attempt. His season long make was from 53 yards (overall average on successful kicks – 41.7 yards out). Grossnickle also averaged over 40 yards per punt (on 39 kicks). Playing football and soccer simultaneously last fall, Grossnickle led his team to the state title in soccer, scoring 13 goals. Dan Hawkins deflected questions about whether Grossnickle would be playing this fall, conceding only that every player would be evaluated, and that it was always good to have starters looking over their shoulders at the guys behind them.
Shaun Simon - two-star center – Tulsa, Oklahoma. Simon did not start until his senior year, but there were some good players on those teams. Simon’s high school team played for the state championship in both his junior and senior season’s, winning it all last fall. For his efforts, Simon was named all-state his senior year. Lest you believe this 6′2″, 305 pound player is not Big 12 worthy – Simon didn’t concentrate on football until his junior year – he was too busy with his other love: steer wrestling! Coach Hawkins also praised Simon’s football sense, despite the lineman’s relative lack of experience. “One of the smartest (football) guys we’ve had,” said Hawkins.
Josh Moten - three-star quarterback/athlete – Harbor City, California. While the Buffs missed out on Moten’s teammate, Byron Moore (below), Colorado did pick up an exceptional athlete in Moten. Moten is 6′0″, 177 pounds, and runs a 4.6 in the 40. Last fall, Moten threw for 2,741 yards and 26 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He also rushed for over 500 yards on the season. Scout sees Moten as the #95 quarterback in the nation, though speculation has always been that this athlete may be seen in other capacities once he hits Boulder. At his press conference, Dan Hawkins was asked about whether Moten’s first crack will be at quarterback. “Yes it will”, responded Hawkins, going on to note that if Moten or any other player is to be moved to another position, it will be by mutual agreement.
Gus Handler - two-star offensive lineman – Barrington, Illinois. Handler is considered the #52 offensive tackle in the nation by ESPN, though Handler, at 6′4″, 280 pounds, is projected as a center in college. Handler was named first-team all-state his senior season, playing every snap during the year. Getting qualified for CU should not be a problem for Handler, he has been on the honor roll every semester since his freshman year.
Andre Simmons - four-star wide receiver – Independence, Kansas (JC) - the first pleasant surprise of the morning. Simmons had taken an official visit to Kansas State this past weekend, and had all but committed during his trip. Now Simmons is a Buff. The only junior college signee by the Buffs this season, Simmons was seen by Rivals as the #35 overall player coming out of the junior college ranks, and the #6 overall wide receiver. While eligibility is always an issue for junior college players coming to Boulder, if admitted Simmons will have three years to play two for the Buffs. When asked about Simmons qualifying, Dan Hawkins said simply, “he really wants to be here”, going on to talk about how straight he (Hawkins) was with players, and that they knew what to expect when they came to play at CU.
Jarrod Darden - three-star wide receiver – Keller, Texas. How great is the upside for this recruit? Despite not playing a down his senior season due to injury, Darden was ranked as the #71 wide receiver prospect in the nation by Scout (#74 by Rivals). Darden sustained an ankle injury the week before the first game of his senior season. After surgery, Darden immediately began his rehabilitation. While doctors have not yet cleared Darden for next fall, he is already jogging and hopes to run routes this spring in anticipation of being cleared to participate in fall camp. Darden is 6′5″, 210 pounds, and so the first verbal commit of the 2009 class (Darden committed last June), is likely to become a CU fan favorite in the very near future. When asked about his wide receiver recruits, and the fact that they are 6′3″, 6′4″, and 6′5″, Dan Hawkins just smiled ….
Derrick Webb - three-star linebacker – Memphis, Tennessee. The Buffs may have gotten away with a good one here. Webb is rated as the top linebacker from the State of Tennessee this season, and is listed by Scout as the #23 outside linebacker prospect in the nation. Webb tallied 130 tackles as a senior, including 25 tackles for loss and three sacks. Webb is the cousin of former San Francisco 49er great Roger Craig, and had another cousin and an uncle who played in the NFL. Dan Hawkins remarked that Webb may be one of those who came in “under the radar”. Webb “can run and hit”, said Hawkins, and that the Tennessee linebacker was “very athletic”.
Nate Bonsu - three-star defensive tackle – Allen, Texas. The #63 defensive tackle in the nation according to Rivals, Bonsu is 6′2″, 280 pounds. His high school team won the 5A Texas State championship his senior season (and, for any of you who read Friday Night Lights, you know that is no small feat in Texas). In his final two seasons when he was a starter, Bonsu’s high school team went 25-2. Last season, Bonsu had 80 tackles (47 solo) and four sacks. Bonsu throws discus for the track team, and is a participant in the school’s power lifting team. Being a team captain of a state champion impressed Coach Hawkins, likening Bonsu to George Hypolite in both personality and talent.
Deji Olatoye – three-star defensive back - Dublin, Ohio. A three-year letterman, Olatoye did not start playing football until his sophomore year. Last season, Olatoye had 49 tackles, 21 solo, while contributing eight catches on offense. Olatoye, who is 6′2″ and who has run a 4.52 40, is an accomplished athlete. A state champion in soccer before he discovered football, Olatoye, is also the starting power forward on his high school’s basketball team, set a state high school high jump record, and ran the third leg in the 4×400 relay.
Disappointment list -
Emory Blake, three-star wide receiver prospect from Austin, Texas, has reportedly sent in his letter of intent to Auburn. Blake had been a Texas Tech commit, and had narrowed his choices down to Texas Tech, Colorado, and Auburn.
Byron Moore, four-star safety prospect from Harbor City, California, announced that he is staying with his commitment to USC. Moore, who had first committed to UCLA, switched to USC last summer, then re-opened his recruitment a few weeks ago. USC, Notre Dame, and Colorado were his final choices. Diante Jackson, the four-star wide receiver prospect from Walnut Creek, California, has apparently ended his soap opera ride through the recruiting cycle, and signed with Oregon. Originally an Oregon commit, Jackson took his official visit to Boulder in November, then switched his commitment to CU on January 1st. The well-circulated story is that Jackson wanted to come to Colorado, but his family wanted him to sign with Oregon. Now Jackson is a Duck.
Chris Freeman, a three-star offensive lineman from Trotwood, Ohio, has signed on to play for Missouri. Colorado was in the running for Freeman’s services for the past month, after his January visit to Boulder. Freeman was also looking at Tennessee and Wisconsin before taking his official visit to Missouri this past weekend.
Rating the Buffs’ recruiting class v. the rest of the Big 12
Colorado’s 2009 recruiting class was ranked 58th by Scout.com; 48th by Rivals. com. Both of these rankings are down significantly from 2008. How did CU’s rivals in the Big 12 fare? Oklahoma and Texas are consistently in or near the top ten nationally every year, including this one. What about everyone else? Take a look at which teams other than CU made strides compared to their sixyear average, and which teams did not measure up to their normal rankings ….
What does history tell us? A look back at the recruiting classes of 2003 and 2004
The Colorado recruiting class of 2004 was ranked 49th by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. As a group, they do not rank highly in the annals of CU football history. Still, when viewed in light of what they went through to be Buffs, this is truly an extraordinary class ….. Also,
The Colorado recruiting class of 2003 was ranked 19th by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. What players lived up to their hype? Which names of players were on the lips of every Buff fan five years ago, but would stump most of us today? Lessons we can learn from the class of Mason Crosby and and Terrence Wheatley, which was also the class of Dominique Brooks and Travis Berry …
“Fuzzy Math: Applying the 85 Scholarship Rule”
Teams are allowed up to 25 new scholarship players each season, and a total of 85 scholarship overall. Still, it seems that it takes a graduate degree in mathematics (or, at least, a friend in the compliance office) to figure out how many scholarships a team has available.
Below is a look at the Colorado scholarship status. How many are available on signing day? How many will the Buffs use? Is it true that the Buffs were 20 men down when they took the field in Lincoln last Thanksgiving weekend?
CUatthegame.com does not go into hibernation!
The 2008 season has come to an end, and while the recruiting season is building towards its frenzied climax, it will soon become relatively quiet in the Buff nation.
The 2009 campaign remains months away, but there will always be plenty to chat about between now and August (and not just the coverage of spring ball). I will be sending out periodic emails to anyone who would like to be on the email list. If you are not already on the list, just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to put you on the update list. If you are already on the list, then you should (to paraphrase Bill McCartney at last year’s recruiting luncheon) go get 50 friends to sign up!
A first look at a CU at the Game preview:
What we are looking for – Offensive Line
Player Lost – Daniel Sanders
Lettermen Returning – Nate Solder (Jr.); Devin Head (Sr.); Matthew Bahr (So.); Ryan Miller (So.); Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner (Fr.); Shawn Daniels (So.); and Blake Behrens (So.)
Others Returning in 2009: Bryce Givens (Fr.); Mike Iltis (So.); Ryan Dannewitz (Fr.); Ethan Adkins (So.) David Clark (So.); Sione Tau (So.); Evan Eastburn (Jr.); and Keenan Stevens (Jr.)
New in 2009: Jack Harris (Fr.); David Bakhtiari (Fr.); Gus Handler (Fr.); Shaun Simon (Fr.)
Spring Expectations - First, let’s look at the starting lineup for the entire second half of the 2008 season:
LT-Nate Solder; LG-Blake Behrens; C-Daniel Sanders; RG-Devin Head; RT-Matthew Bahr. With only Sanders lost, to the non-Buff fan it might appear as if the new offensive line coach, Denver Johnson, would only have one replacement to find. Buff fans, though, know better, which is why the offensive line will be one area of focus for many this spring.
There are some players listed above who will have to wait until August to make their case to be in the starting lineup (including the three incoming freshmen listed above). Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner (MTM), suffered his third ACL in three seasons on March 4th, and will not be available until at least fall practice. The following will also be on limited duty this spring: Blake Behrens (off-season shoulder surgery); Devin Head (off-season shoulder surgery); and Mike Iltis (tore ACL last August). Ryan Miller, who broke his leg during the Florida State game last fall, is listed as a “Full Go” for spring practice.
Want to take a stab at a starting lineup for September 5th? It might be as easier to pick the Final Four in your March Madness tournament pool. Best bets at this point would likely include returning starters Nate Solder (LT) and Devin Head (RG), joined by Ryan Miller (RT). At the other guard position, look for Blake Behrens to be challenged by Bryce Givens and Mike Iltis (and don’t completely count out MTM, who could be back this fall). At center, we may have to wait until August to see if Gus Handler or Shaun Simon can assume the duties as true freshmen. This spring, those listed at center on the roster (transfer Evan Eastburn and fellow junior Keenan Stevens) may have to battle for playing time with a guard (Mike Iltis?) who slides over from the guard position.
For my part, there would be a certain poetic justice to the following starting lineup on September 5th:
OT - Ryan Miller (Littleton)
OG - Bryce Givens (Mullen)
C – Evan Eastburn (Fairview)
OG - Jack Harris (Chaparrel)
OT - Nate Solder (Buena Vista)
You got it – An all-Colorado high school starting five! (Just in case the Ram fans happen to forget which school is the flagship school for the state of Colorado!).
The absolute best part about playing Offensive line bingo with all of this talent? Look again at the roster of players at the top. Look for the number of seniors who are listed. Yup. One. Devin Head. Plus, there are only a handful of juniors this year. The Colorado offensive line could be a force to be reckoned with, not only in 2009, but for years to come!
[A similar forecast for each unit on the team will be posted as part of CU at the Game’s Spring Practice Preview. The remainder of the offense will be previewed on Sunday, March 15th; the defense on Sunday, March 22nd. A special posting will be made on Sunday, March 29th, in anticipation of the start of spring practice on Tuesday, March 31st. Go Buffs!]
Bits and pieces – News from this past week …. If the NCAA has its way, Florida State may have to “vacate” (just this side of forfeit) 14 of its victories in 2006-07, including its16-6 win over the Buffs in Boulder in 2007. As punishment for the academic cheating scandal which involved the infamous online music class (you may recall that the Seminoles self-imposed suspensions on some of the players – but that they were back on the field by the time CU played FSU in 2008). The penalties imposed by the NCAA include a reduction of scholarships for FSU over the next three seasons. Florida State officials indicated that the school would contest any action to remove its wins on the field (which, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that if 14 wins are taken away from Bobby Bowden, he will never be able to catch Joe Paterno on the all-time victories list) ….
Coordinator vacancy at Missouri. Remember all the consternation over replacing Jeff Grimes as the CU offensive line coach? Well, a week away from the start of spring practice, Missouri is still looking to fill the job of defensive coordinator. Dave Steckel, who has been the linebackers’ coach at MU since 2001, is considered the front-runner to replace Matt Eberflus, who left the Tigers two weeks ago to become the linebackers’ coach for the Cleveland Browns ….
Nebraska loses fourth player. Joining the list of Cornhusker players who will not be around for the fall campaign is Major Culbert, who was dismissed from the team this week. Culbert, a senior-to-be, was a backup safety for Nebraska, and played in 29 games in his career. No reason was given for the dismissal. Culbert joins quarterback Patrick Witt, running back/defensive back Justin Rogers, and defensive back John Levorson as players on the 2008 roster who are no longer with the team ….
West Virginia loses three-year starter at safety. Senior-to-be Quinton Andrews, who finished second on the team with 77 tackles in 2008, “will finish his career elsewhere”, according to head coach Bill Stewart. Andrews, who had run-ins with former head coach Rich Rodriguez and law enforcement, was removed without any further explanation …. Also, receiver Jock Sanders, the team’s leading receiver in 2008, remains indefinitely suspended following his DUI arrest in February ….
Quarterbacks of the Recruiting Class of 2010.
Too early to worry about next year’s recruiting class? Perhaps. But consider this: Texas already has 19 verbal commitments for next February – 19! One area of interest for Buff fans as we look toward next February is the 2010 quarterback class, seen by those who are supposed to know as one of the best in the past few seasons. While there are some names which will receive much of the national publicity (including one Nick Montana, son of Joe), there are several quarterbacks Buff fans should monitor.
The first is Austin Hinder from Steamboat Springs. Hinder may be the best player in the state of Colorado this fall, so if Dan Hawkins is to maintain his record of securing the #1 player in the state for the fourth year running, he will need to land Hinder. Hinder is 6′4″, 185, and already has offers from over ten BCS schools, including Cal, Notre Dame, Florida State, Alabama, and Nebraska. While some see CU as only having an outside shot at this prize recruit, Hinder did have nice things to say about the Buffs. “The last couple of years, I have gone to as many CU games as I could”, Hinder told HuskerIllustrated.com. “CU is another great program, and I talked to coach Hawk (this past week). He’s a fun guy to talk to, and they’re another school that I am high on.” Right now Cal, where Hinder’s grandfather, Jim Hanifan (former head coach of the St. Louis Rams) went to school, is seen as the leader for Hinder’s signature.
Another name to keep an ear out for is Jake Heaps, considered to be one of the best, if not the best, quarterback in the 2010 class. Heaps, at 6′2″, 185 pounds, from Sammamish, Washington, has offers from all over the country, including Georgia, LSU, Florida State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Cal, and UCLA. Heaps recently narrowed his choices down to his top ten, and Colorado was on that list. The front-runner is reportedly hometown Washington, with Pac-10 foes Cal and UCLA in the mix with BYU (Heaps is a Mormon). Ironically, the Buffs attempts to sign Austin Hinder, above, may be improving due to Cal’s desire to sign Heaps. Reportedly Hinder was looking to commit to Cal, but Cal is dragging its feet in its recruitment of Hinder in hopes of landing Heaps, thus opening the door for other schools to land Hinder.
One last name on the quarterback list of interest to Buff fans. Don’t be surprised if you hear the name of Blake Bell over the next few weeks and months. Bell, a 6′6″, 215-pound specimen from Wichita, Kansas, has already received over 15 scholarship offers, including ones from Georgia, LSU and Notre Dame, as well as offers from no fewer than five Big 12 schools, including North rivals Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
Does CU have a chance at Bell? Well, no. Bell won’t be coming to Boulder, except in traveling whites. Then why mention him? It’s his ties to the Buffs’ weak sister to the north that has me concerned. Blake Bell’s father and uncle, Mark Bell and Mike Bell, both played in the NFL after successful runs at … Colorado State. Blake Bell could be an opening day pain for the Buffs for the next four years if family wins out in this scholarship race. Here’s hoping Bell goes elsewhere (Bell told IrishEyes.com “Since I’m Catholic and I go to Bishop Carroll, a private Catholic school, there’s a lot of Notre Dame fans in our school. Notre Dame’s a big time school and that’s why I’m so interested in them.” – Go Irish!).
Enough about 2010 for now. There’s plenty of 2009 stories to keep us busy over the next two months. Still, I’ll be keeping a look out for the next Buff quarterback – so you won’t have to!
The Week that Was – February 22nd – February 28th
CU secondary coach Greg Brown interviewed this past week for the defensive coordinator position at South Florida. Brown was reportedly offered the job on Friday (February 27th), but on Sunday confirmed that he was staying at Colorado.
Brown joined Dan Hawkins’ staff in 2006 after having spent the previous fifteen seasons coaching in the NFL. Just prior to coming back to Boulder, Brown spent four years with New Orleans. In addition to his run with the Saints, Brown had stints with San Diego, San Francisco, and Atlanta. In the NFL, Brown coached 15 All-Pro performers, including Ashley Ambrose, who joined the CU staff in 2008 as a defensive technical intern.
Greg Brown was not unfamiliar to Buff fans when he returned to Boulder in 2006. Brown coached the secondary at CU between 1991-93 under Bill McCartney. Brown coached Thorpe Award winners Deon Figures (the 1992 winner) and Chris Hudson (who won in 1994). In all, Brown has coached five All-Big Eight/12 performers for CU, including Terrence Wheatley in 2007.
Other News this week ….
The rumors surrounding the move of the Miami (Ohio) game September 12th just won’t go away … The Dayton Daily News reported this week that Miami is discussing opening the 2009 season September 5th against Kentucky in a game to be played in Cincinnati. What does this have to do with the CU/Miami game, scheduled for September 12th? Plenty. First and foremost, there is the money. If Miami wants to buy its way out of the CU game, the Buffs are entitled to a $750,000 payoff. This sounded like a prohibitive sum until the Kentucky game (with a likely sellout of the Bengals’ home stadium) came along. Now, if the RedHawks can find the Buffs a suitable replacement, of if ESPN can be persuaded to televise the game with CU’s new opponent, the monetary loss to Miami can be mitigated, and the RedHawks might pull the plug on the Buffs.
What teams are out there with open dates on September 12th? Very few, as you might imagine. Akron, another Mid-American Conference team, is still looking to fill its schedule on that date, but does not represent an attractive match up for CU or ESPN. Other schools looking to fill their schedules are Rutgers and Mississippi. Given the strength of the Buffs’ overall schedule, however, it would not seem to be a wise move for the Buffs to trade a 2-10 MAC team for a 2008 bowl team from a BCS conference. Another possibility discussed is having another MAC team (Bowling Green and Toledo have been mentioned) switch one of its non-conference opponents with Akron to free up a date to play the Buffs.
I am hoping for none of the above. Unless Colorado gets a buyout, as well as a home game against a lesser opponent, I would not switch. Yes, I know it would be difficult to find a 1-A opponent willing to come to Boulder without any guarantee of reciprocity, and I am all too familiar with the struggles the Buffs have had against the two 1-AA opponents (Montana State in 2006; Eastern Washington last season). But to trade up to play a tougher foe, on the road, when the Buffs are looking to post a winning season for the first time since 2005?
No, thank you. Give me the cash and a game against Northern Colorado.
I’ll post updates as they become available ….
Nebraska’s #2 quarterback leaves school …. Patrick Witt, considered a leading candidate to be the starting quarterback in Lincoln this fall, has left school. Witt appeared in five games in 2008, and was the first quarterback in when long time starter Joe Ganz came out. The sophomore-to-be was expected to compete with junior Zac Lee and freshmen Kody Spano and Cody Green for the starting job. “We have no comment and Patrick has no comment,” said Gene Witt, Patrick’s father. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini was equally tight-lipped. “Patrick has decided that it is in his best interest to continue his college career at another school”, said Pelini in a released statement. The rumor mill has it that Witt wanted a guarantee coming out of spring that he was the starter, and that Pelini balked – but there is no confirmation of this version of events …. Two other players have also left the Cornhusker program. The Lincoln Star Journal reported this week that neither John Levorson, nor Justin Rogers, both red-shirt freshmen, were listed on the Nebraska spring roster. Both players were a part of Bo Pelini’s first recruiting class in 2008 (Levorson was a two-star safety; Rogers a three-star running back). No reasons were given for the removal of these players from the roster.
Spring 2009 walk-ons identified …. There are seven walk-ons listed on the Colorado roster for this spring. Included on the list are four transfers from other schools: Kyle Cefalo, who comes to Boulder by way of Oregon State, will get a look at the wide receiver position; Zackary Farley is a Thornton high linebacker who attended Mesa State in Grand Junction; Erik Manarino is a safety prospect who comes to CU via Saddleback Junior College in California; and Joe Silipo is a defensive end who played for Northern Colorado (Silipo is also listed as a long-snapper – the Buffs’ three-year starter at that position, Justin Drescher, will be a senior this fall).
Another preferred walk-on signs with Colorado …. Jerry Slota, a quarterback from Chaparrel High in Parker, Colorado (the same school which produced offensive tackle standout Jack Harris) has agreed to attend CU as a preferred walk-on. Slota had scholarship offers from six colleges, including six junior colleges, but instead chose to walk-on at CU. “I am just looking for a shot to try out at quarterback,” Slota told Rivals.com. “I want to give it a good shot. And if I don’t fit in there, I am open to any position.” Slota, who is 6′2″, 225, has also been mentioned as a possible fit at linebacker or safety. Slota joins Denver East athlete Quentin Hildreth and Eaton High quarterback Seth Lobato as players identified as preferred walk-ons who will be arriving in Boulder this summer.
Next week – Greg Brown: In or Out? / The CU/Miami (Ohio) saga, Part Six / First look at some of the position battles to watch out for this spring …
The Week that Was – February 15th – 21st
Headline of the Week: New offensive line coach named. Denver Johnson, former head coach at Illinois State, was named this week as the new offensive line coach for Colorado. Johnson, who coached the Redbirds for eight seasons, replaced Jeff Grimes, who left in January for a similar position at Auburn.
During his tenure in Normal, Illinois, Johnson coached 34 All-Americans, compiling a 48-54 overall record. The best Redbird team under Johnson was the 2005 squad, when ISU had a season-ending #8 national ranking. That team established new team records for total points, rushing yards, passing yards, and total yards.
Before being hired by Illinois State, Johnson spent three years as the head coach at Murray State from Murray, Kentucky. Under Johnson, the Racers (yes, I had to look that up), went 7-4 in each of his three seasons. Other stops for Johnson in his road to Boulder include assistant coaches jobs at Tennessee-Martin (1986-‘89); Oklahoma State (1989-‘93), Mississippi State (1993-‘95), and Oklahoma (1996).
Prior to embarking on his coaching career, Johnson played at Tulsa, graduating in 1981 after twice earning All-Missouri Valley Conference honors as an offensive lineman. As a professional, Johnson played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1981-‘83), as well as with the Los Angeles Express and Houston Gamblers of the USFL.
Johnson is a native of Seminole, Oklahoma, and, at least according to the Illinois State website, is “known for his homespun humor and southern drawl”, and is in high demand as a public speaker. Hopefully for the Buffs, Johnson can continue to make inroads for the Buffs in the Sooner State (OL Shaun Simon this season, three players total in the past six years), while maintaining his contacts in the midwest – OL Gus Handler comes to CU from Illinois this season. In the Dan Hawkins era, there have also been midwest recruits from Ohio (3), Tennessee (2), and Kentucky (2).
After being a head coach for over a decade, is Johnson willing to be an assistant again? “I have been a head coach for 12 years, but I am an offensive line coach by trade,” said Johnson. “That’s my passion, so I am excited to be here at such a critical time and am looking forward to settling in and getting down to business.”
In a released statement, Dan Hawkins said of Johnson: “He has experience coaching with and against Big 12 competition and has recruiting ties in the Big 12 region, especially Texas. I think he’s a great fit for our staff and our team.”
Welcome, Coach Johnson!
Latest Buff is a preferred walk-on. Colorado picked up another recruit this past week, Quentin Hildreth from Denver. Hildreth, who had a scholarship offer from 1-AA Northern Colorado, will instead join the Buffs as a preferred walk-on.
Hildreth is a 5′9″, 175-pound running back, cornerback, kick returner who rushed for over 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns in both his junior and senior seasons at East High (the home of two other Buff commits, kicker Zach Grossnickle and tight end DaVaughn Thornton). Nicknamed “Quick”, Hildreth told BuffStampede.com that he was excited to get to Boulder. “I could end up playing either cornerback or running back at CU,” said Hildreth. “They also said there is a good chance that I could start on kick return. So I definitely plan to make my mark on special teams.”
Knowing that he will have to earn a scholarship does not daunt Hildreth. “I’ve always wanted to go to CU,” said Hildreth, who has qualified academically for admission. “I am just glad they are giving me the chance.”
Schedule changes. The CU/West Virginia (to Thursday, October 1st) and CU/Oklahoma State (to Thursday, November 19th) have already been changed. Are there any other changes coming for the CU 2009 schedule? One rumor centered around the CU/Nebraska game being moved from its traditional Friday after Thanksgiving date (if 13 seasons is enough to make it a “tradition”) back one day to Saturday. The reason for the rumor was that while Colorado, with the move of the Oklahoma State game from November 21st to November 19th, now has eight days to prepare for the Cornhuskers, Nebraska, playing Kansas State on November 21st, would have a short week before playing the Buffs.
According to the Lincoln Star Journal, however, that change is not likely to move this season. The Star quoted Tim Allen, senior associate commissioner for the Big 12 conference, who said, “ABC has until June 1st to advise the conference, but there are no plans at this time to move it off of Friday.”
What about the Miami (Ohio) game? There have been any number of rumors about this game, including Miami buying its way out of the game with CU playing another MAC team (Northern Illinois?) or a 1-AA home game on September 12th. From the CU side of the issue, there is nothing to the rumors. Kyle Ringo, from the Boulder Daily Camera, reports that both Dave Plati and Mike Bohn insist that the Miami game is still on. “I fully expect us to be playing there on September 12th,” said Plati. “We have not been searching for other opponents.”
The Miami sports information director, though, does not share the same commitment. Mike Pearson could not say definitively that the game was still going to be played. With non-conference games against CU, Boise State, Northwestern, and Cincinnati, Miami could be forgiven for looking to amend its schedule. If Miami were to try and get out of its game with CU, the Buffs would be entitled to a check for $500,000. That alone, according to Dave Plati, makes a cancellation unlikely.
While the game with Miami may still be changed, there will be at least one Buff in Oxford this September. Former Buff Cedric Cormier named to Miami (Ohio) coaching staff. Cedric Cormier, wide receiver and kick returner for Colorado from 1998-2001, was named February 17th as the new wide receivers coach at Miami. Cormier served in the same capacity at the University of Montana for the past two seasons.
At Colorado, Cormier was a four-year letter winner at wide receiver, collecting 52 passes for 529 yards and a touchdown, with another 227 yards in kick returns. After graduating in 2001, Cormier returned to his native Houston, where he coached at two high schools before landing the assistant coaching position at Montana.
The Week That Was – February 8th – 14th
The big news of the week was the announcement that redshirt-freshman tailback Ray Polk is switching to safety. Polk was the 11th-best running back in the nation in the recruiting class of 2008, but sat out last season as fellow running back recruits Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott carried much of the rushing load. This fall, Polk would have been fighting for playing time with not only Stewart and Scott, but also with senior Kevin Moyd, junior Demetrius Sumler, and sophomore Brian Lockridge.
The switch was actually Polk’s idea, though apparently the CU coaches were thinking along the same lines. “I used to play defense and I kind of missed it,” said Polk, who spent much of his high school career at cornerback (including a game-winning interception in the state championship game – as a sophomore). “I felt with my body type, No. 1, and I knew I could play defense. Also, with a couple of our safeties leaving, I figured I could probably, hopefully help the team and fill that void.” It was certainly good to read that this was a decision Polk was excited about, rather than one which was being forced upon him. “There was never any pressure,” said Polk. “Nobody ever approached me about making the switch. After talking it over at length with my mom, I went into Hawk’s office and asked him what he thought about the idea and he liked it.”
Polk, who has had surgery to both shoulders this off-season, will not participate at safety until August. “He’ll observe in spring ball and continue to ‘rehab”, said secondary coach Greg Brown, “but I’m tickled to get him.”
Polk with compete with sophomores Anthony Perkins and Patrick Mahnke, who filled in the final two games of the season when Ryan Walters and D.J. Dykes were injured (also keep an eye on Paul Vigo, the grey-shirt from the 2008 class. Greg Brown reported Vigo “more than held his own” in off-season drills against the Buffs’ offensive players. “I’m told he can really run,” added Brown.) ….
Linebacker Lynn Katoa, who was suspended last season for off-field altercations, is still struggling to gain eligibility. “We’re spending a lot of time mentoring him as a person and as a student,” said Dan Hawkins of Katoa. “We’re looking forward to seeing Lynn mature as a person and as a student. When those things happen, then he’ll be a great football player.” Still, if the season started today, Katoa would not be eligible academically (spring practice is just that, practice, and academically ineligible players are still eligible to practice). The word at Scout.com is that Katoa will not only have to do well in classes this spring, but in summer school as well. We may not know if the red-shirt freshman linebacker will be eligible for 2009 until August ….
The Oklahoma State receiving corps has been depleted this off-season. Wide receiver Dez Bryant is everything to the OSU passing game. Bryant was a first-team All-Big 12 wide receiver in 2008, and was also named the Big 12 special teams player of the year. After Bryant, though, there is little help, and the list of those who would have tried to take the heat off Bryant in 2009 got shorter this week. Senior Bo Bowling was suspended indefinitely by the team after being arrested on drug possession charges (based upon the reports, don’t look for him to come back). Bowling was 4th on the OSU charts last fall, and joins the 2nd-leading receiver Damian Davis (kicked off the team for unspecified violations of team rules) and Artrell Woods, who is seeking a transfer, as casualties from the Cowboy receiving unit. To make matters worse, OSU also loses tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who declared himself eligible for the NFL draft. (Cowboy fans will not e able to look for too much help from the 2009 recruiting class. Oklahoma State only had one wide receiver commit this year, a two-star performer out of Dallas) ….
Another opponent took a hit to its receiving corps this week. Jock Sanders, West Virginia’s leading receiver last season, has been removed from the team after a DUI arrest. Sanders, who will be a junior in 2009, was not only the Mountaineers’ leading receiver (53 catches for 462 yards and seven touchdowns) he was the team’s 3rd-leading rusher in 2008, with 48 carries for 250 yards (behind only Patrick White and Noel Devine). Sanders, who is 20, was arrested for DUI after blowing a .125. This is Sanders’ second brush with the law, having been involved in a bar fight last February. Still, head coach Bill Stewart has not ruled out Stewart’s return. “If he’s serious about doing something and turning this thing around, he deserves a chance to do it,” said Stewart of his best receiver. “But this is his second time. He has to prove to me that he is willing to do things the right way.” Don’t be surprised if Sanders, a valuable commodity in the WVU offense, is ultimately “punished” by a one-game suspension – the Mountaineers’ opener against Liberty ….
Schedule changes which will affect the Buffs. Two Big 12 games were moved this past week, and both have some implications for the Buffs. The Texas/Texas Tech game was moved up to September 19th, making it the first Big 12 conference game of the 2009 campaign. The impact for CU is two-fold. First, it gives Texas more time to prepare for the Red Raiders’ offense (games against Louisiana-Monroe and Wyoming notwithstanding), an offense which will be breaking in a new quarterback. Also, there is now a two-week gap between the Texas/UTEP game on September 26th and the Texas/Colorado game on October 10th. With the rivalry game against Oklahoma slated for October 17th, followed by road games against Missouri and Oklahoma State, perhaps the Longhorns will spend at least part of their layoff looking past their game with the Buffs ….
Also changed for television was the kickoff date for the Nebraska/Missouri game. The Cornhusker/Tiger match-up will now be played on a Thursday night, October 8th. While the movement does not directly affect the CU schedule (the Buffs play Missouri on Halloween; Nebraska on the Friday after Thanksgiving), look for ESPN to tout the NU/MU game as the de facto Big 12 North championship game. With CU set to open its Big 12 campaign against Texas two days later, there may be some motivational fodder in that ESPN ramp up for the Buff coaches to use ….
Speaking of Texas …. remember how much internet play the recruitment of Darrell Scott received last season? Remember how anxious everyone was as Scott chose between CU and Texas? And how the Texas fans were livid at Scott’s decision? Well, perhaps the reason the Longhorn fans were so involved in the Scott drama is that had little else to do. Texas head coach Mack Brown’s philosophy of recruiting is diametrically opposed to that of Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins. While Hawkins believes in giving players their entire senior year to decide what school they wish to attend, believing that informed choices are better ones for the player, Brown believes in locking up talent as soon as they become available. Under NCAA rules, high school juniors can commit to their school of choice the day after national signing day for their senior classmates, and Texas, once again, took little time in closing deals. The Longhorns already have ten verbal commitments for their 2010 class, most of whom will be considered four- and five-star players when the recruiting services get around to their rankings of the upcoming class. So, there’s your answer to the Darrell Scott saga: Texas fans were so intense last February because, simply, the rest of their class had been sown up for almost a year, and they were feeling left out!
Colorado announces graduate assistants for 2009. Paul Creighton, who played tight end for the Buffs from 2003-06, has joined the program as a defensive graduate assistant. Creighton joins former Arizona State wide receiver Skyler Fulton, who recently was named as the Buffs’ offensive graduate assistant for this fall. Creighton, who was with the Buffs during the tough final years of the Gary Barnett era, as well as the 2-10 debut of the Dan Hawkins regime, was very complimentary about coming back to Boulder. “The difference between when I left here and coming back”, said Creighton, who was a graduate assistant at Auburn the past two seasons, “don’t get me wrong. I love Gary Barnett to death, but that whole scandal just cut him off at the legs in terms of recruiting. It’s exciting to see the kind of athletes we’ve got here.”
Just a reminder – there is still a great deal of material concerning the CU recruiting class of 2009 still posted here on the site. In addition to a look at the CU class breakdown by position (just below this update), there are articles about the CU recruiting classes of 2003 and 2004, as well as an essay about the mystical use of the number 85 as it relates to scholarship limits.
Keep in touch – more postings as events warrant!
Recruting Class of 2009 –
Impact of the Class on the 2009 starting lineup
The 2009 recruiting class is seen as one which may be short on glamour, but is long on filling needs. Which of the 19 new Buffs are most likely to have an immediate impact?:
Colorado received two new commits at the quarterback position, Clark Evans, a 6′5″, 230-pound prospect from Los Alamitos, California, and Josh Moten, a 6′1″, 190-pound athlete from Harbor City, California. Evans, described by head coach Dan Hawkins as a “bruiser”, brings a new element to the quarterback battle. At 6′5″, he looks down at all the other CU quarterbacks, but is far from a statue in the pocket. Evans rushed for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and is sufficiently mobile to play center for his 20-1 high school basketball team. Moten is a wild card. While coach Hawkins clearly indicated when introducing Moten that the athletic quarterback would be given every shot at being a quarterback at CU, there is certainly the possibility that this gifted athlete, who runs a 4.6 40, will find another way to get on the playing field.
Impact on the 2009 roster: Unlikely. Junior Cody Hawkins has two full seasons under his belt, mostly at starter. His main challenger would appear to be sophomore Tyler Hansen, who started a pair of games last fall as a true freshman. Sophomore Matt Ballenger, seen as the main threat to Hawkins last spring, hasn’t gone anywhere, and will have another chance to impress coaches this spring. With all three players having time in the system, it would seem unlikely that either Evans or Moten would see time at quarterback as true freshmen. But then again, I said the same thing about Hansen last February – and we know how that turned out.
For the first time in recent memory, the Buffs did not recruit a running back. (In looking back at the recruiting classes of this decade, I couldn’t find a year in which the Buffs did not sign at least two running backs). As close as this year’s class comes to a running back are quarterback/athlete Josh Moten and safety Parker Orms (who led the state of Colorado in rushing last fall).
Impact on the 2009 roster: Easy call – none. Still, there are few, if any, in the Buff Nation who are concerned. Colorado is loaded with young talent at the running back position. Let’s start with the class of 2008. Coach Hawkins indicated at the recruiting luncheon that both Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart, injured during the season, are making full recoveries. Ray Polk, who red-shirted last season, will also be in the mix for playing time. Throw in senior Kevin Moyd, juniors Demetrius Sumler, Corey Nabors and Brian Lockridge, and sophomore Arthur Jaffee, and you have the makings of a dominating rushing force. (Senior Jake Behrens and senior transfer Matt Burgner will return at the fullback position, though fullbacks have largely given way to the tight end / H-back position in the CU offense).
The wideout position was perhaps the most closely watched as signing day approached, and the Buffs landed three wide receiver prospects in 2009. Andre Simmons, a junior with three seasons to play two, comes to Boulder by way of Independence Community College in Kansas). Simmons is 6′3″, and originally hails from Blackville, South Carolina. Joining Simmons are a pair of Texans. Jared Darden, from Keller, Texas, was the first verbal for the Buffs, committing back in June. Darden, though, did not have the opportunity to play last fall, injuring his ankle before the season started. According to Darden, his rehabilitation is progressing well, and he should be ready for fall practice. The third new member in the receiving corps is Terdema Ussery from Dallas. Ussery played only five games last season, though, being held out for precautionary reasons due to a concussion he suffered in mid-season.
Impact on the 2009 roster: Should be immediate – but may not be. Each of the three recruits has question marks which may affect their ability to suit up this fall. Simmons, coming from a junior college, still must qualify for admission to Colorado, a factor which cannot be overlooked given the Buffs’ difficulty in the past in getting JC players on the field. Both Darden and Ussery missed playing time their senior seasons, so the likelihood that they will be able to step in as true freshmen and play in the Big 12 is not guaranteed.
While the new trio may not be able to deliver the immediate impact Buff fans were hoping for, it does not mean that the Colorado passing game will not improve in 2009. The Buffs lose Patrick Williams and Cody Crawford, but plenty of talent returns. Scotty McKnight, who has led the Buffs in receiving each of his two seasons in Boulder, returns alongside fellow junior Josh Smith. Joining the starting two will be no fewer than four wideouts who have yet to have the chance to make their impact felt. Tops on this list is sophomore Markques Simas, who was ineligible last season (academics), but is reportedly on pace to be a factor this fall. Joining Simas on the field for the first time will be redshirt-freshman Chance Blackmon, the three-star recruit from the class of 2008. Other players who will be given the opportunity to crack the starting lineup are sophomore Jason Espinoza (injured for much of 2008), and sophomore transfer Ryan Maxwell.
The Buffs picked up one new tight end in this recruiting cycle, DaVaughn Thornton from Denver East High. Thornton is a “skinny” 220 pounds, according to Dan Hawkins, with plenty of opportunity to expand on his 6′5″ frame. Thornton is also an accomplished basketball player, currently leading his team with 19 points and nine rebounds per game.
Impact on 2009 roster: Not likely. While Thornton was a valuable pickup this recruiting cycle, it would be a surprise if he was not a red-shirt candidate this fall. In addition to the need to put some bulk on his significant frame, there is the added element that the Buffs are top-heavy with tight ends. There will be six other tight ends on the roster this fall, including four seniors. Riar Geer and Patrick Devenny will likely see the most playing time, with sophomores Ryan Deehan and Ryan Wallace the primary backups. (Senior Luke Walters is also available, having sat out last season with a leg injury).
The Buffs picked up four more offensive lineman this fall. Tops on the list is tackle Jack Harris from Parker. The #2 player in the state of Colorado in 2008, Harris is 6′6″, 270. Joining Harris are three other large young men: David Bakhtiari (6′4″, 270); Gus Handler (6′4″, 280), and Shaun Simon (6′2″, 305). Handler and Simon are potential centers for the Buffs, while Bakhtiari projects out as a tackle.
Impact on the 2009 roster: Possible, but not likely. Seen two years ago as a major liability for the Buffs, the offensive line is now a position of strength. Only center Daniel Sanders was lost from the two-deep roster, and there are any number of players who were not on the field last November who could be in the starting lineup in September. Let’s start with tackle Ryan Miller and guard Max Tuioti-Mariner, starting on the line in the first three games last fall before being injured in week four. Both were granted medical red-shirt seasons by the NCAA, so Miller will return for his sophomore season, and MTM will again play as a freshman. Two other excellent players did not see a down last fall, but will be in the mix now. Mike Iltis was injured during fall practice, and will compete for both a guard – and possibly center – positions. Bryce Givens was a four-star recruit in 2008, and is prepared to compete for playing time this fall as a red-shirt freshman. Ryan Dannewitz is another 2008 recruit who will be a factor this fall, as will be Sione Tau (academically ineligible in 2008).
All that talent! Who did I forget? Oh yeah – how about the starting lineup for much of last season!
In addition to Sanders, the lineup for the second half of 2008 included Nate Solder and Matthew Bahr at tackle (Solder will be a junior in 2009; Bahr a sophomore), senior-to-be Devin Head and sophomore-to-be Blake Behrens at guard. In addition there are a host of backups who will be back, including two players who compete to replace Sanders at center, junior Keenan Stevens and junior transfer Evan Eastburn.
Hard to get through all of those names in one breath. Coach Hawkins has stated that he will start the best five players, so look for some great position battles during spring and fall practices!
Overall – Offense
Of the 19 recruits signed in 2009, ten were from the offensive side of the ball. The three wide receiver recruits will receive the most attention, as the wideout position was seen as the one in greatest need of upgrading this spring. The three recruits coming in have a good opportunity to play this fall, but do not be surprised if the incumbents hold on to their starting jobs.
Overall, the depth added to the offense is the most impressive aspect of these ten players. The two quarterback recruits, Josh Moten and Clark Evans, are intriguing. The new tight end, DaVaughn Thornton, along with the three offensive line recruits, provide welcome depth, with the best chance for cracking the lineup being for one of the center recruits.
With three seniors leaving the defensive line, and a junior, Jason Brace, leaving football due to repeated concussions, the defensive line was a clear area of need for the Colorado program in 2009. Four new players were added to the CU lineup to address this concern, led by all-everything defensive end Nick Kasa. By now, you know the story well. The #1 player in the state of Colorado, and one of the top defensive line prospects in the nation, Kasa plied his trade just nine miles down the turnpike in Broomfield. Sought after by any number of schools, Kasa first committed to play for Florida, but two days after the Gators won the national championship, Kasa de-committed and threw his lot with the Buffs.
Equally important to the future of the program, but coming in with less fanfare, are: Nate Bonsu, a 6′2″, 280-pound tackle from Allen, Texas; Edward Nuckols, a 6′3″, 295-pound tackle from San Marcos, California; and Forrest West, a 6′2″, 230-pound end from Canton, Connecticut.
Impact on the 2009 roster: Immediate, but not as dramatic as many believe. Yes, it is likely that two or more of the above recruits (most likely Kasa and Nuckols) will see action in 2009. However, it may be a good thing if we do not see much playing time from this quartet. Remember, for as much hype as there is surrounding the signing of Nick Kasa, he will still be just a freshman. Junior Marquez Herrod returns as starter, but there are others who have logged significant playing time. Sophomores Conrad Obi, Eugene Goree, and Curtis Cunningham will have much to say about who starts on September 5th against CSU, as will senior Taj Kaynor. At the recruiting luncheon February 5th, Dan Hawkins made the remarked that this group, after some serious weight training so far this off-season, had “gone up a shirt size”. Strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pittman reported at the luncheon that the previous two weeks had been the best he had seen in terms of weight training production in his four years in Boulder.
Colorado fans are, justifiably, excited about the defensive line recruits of 2009. In order for the team to be successful in 2009, however, it will largely come via the efforts of those already in the lineup.
Two new linebackers joined the Buffs this February. Liloa Nobriga is a 6′3″, 235-pound physical marvel out of Las Vegas, who is dominant not only on the football field but on the basketball court. Joining Nobriga in donning the black and gold is Derrick Webb from Memphis. Webb, checking in at 6′, 230 pounds, was rated the best linebacker prospect in the state of Tennessee for 2008.
Impact on the 2009 roster: Unlikely, and, once again, that is a good thing. The Buffs should be loaded at linebacker this fall. Colorado was primed to have a dominating linebacking corps in 2008, before injuries and suspensions decimated the group. Only Brad Jones was lost from a unit which includes starters Jeff Smart and Shaun Mohler (both seniors in 2009). Other linebackers who logged significant time in ‘08 were upcoming juniors Michael Sipili and B.J. Beatty, along with senior Marcus Burton and sophomore Josh Hartigan.
Also new to the lineup in 2009 will be 2008 recruits Jon Major and Lynn Katoa. Major, the highest rated player in the state of Colorado in 2008, was injured in August, and never played a down. Also out of action last fall, but returning in 2009, was highly recruited prospect Lynn Katoa. Katoa was suspended last spring, but should be eligible for the fall. “We are spending a lot of time mentoring him as a person and a student,” said Dan Hawkins of Katoa, “but we expect him back on the field.”
With so much talent on the depth chart, it would be a surprise (actually, a disappointment), if either Nobriga or Webb had to burn their red-shirt season this fall.
Seen as a liability in the Colorado roster for much of the decade, the defensive backfield actually had a better year than most of the rest of the team in 2008. While certainly not much to brag about, the CU pass defense, though ranked in the 70’s nationally, did muster out as the best unit in the Big 12 last season. Joining the group this fall are cornerback Deji Olatoye and safety Parker Orms. Olatoye hails from Dublin, Ohio, while Orms, from Wheat Ridge, was the Colorado state offensive player of the year (leading the state in rushing).
Impact on the 2009 roster: Unlikely. Defensive back was not a great priority for the Buffs in 2009, despite losing three starters, including both safeties. The reason for the lack of panic is that there is considerable young talent ready to put on the field this fall. Sophomores Patrick Mahnke and Anthony Perkins filled in for injured Ryan Walters and D.J. Dykes the last two games of 2008, and will be favored to earn starts this fall. Two Browns, Cha’pelle, who will be a senior, and Jalil, who will be a junior, are good bets to start at cornerback (along with junior Jimmy Smith and sophomores Jonathan Hawkins and Anthony Wright).
Olatoye and Orms may have to wait their turn in the defensive backfield, but Orms may see time as a freshman in other capacities. As mentioned, he led the state of Colorado in rushing last season, and is also a noted kick returner. He reminds me a great deal of Ryan Walters, who he is, in essence, replacing. Walters was also a two-way star (coming to Boulder as the 23rd-rated quarterback recruit in the country). Walters was a leader on the field, a student of the game, and a team captain. I see a similar fate for Parker Orms.
The Buffs got a great two-for-one deal in kicker/punter Zach Grossnickle. Grossnickle, listed as the #10 kicker prospect in the country by Scout, made 12-of-13 field goal attempts in 2008, with his only miss coming from 58 yards out. In addition, Grossnickle averaged 40 yards per punt for East High in Denver.
Impact on the 2009 roster: Immediate. While Grossnickle has indicated that he would be willing to red-shirt in 2009, look for a great deal of attention to be paid to the practice fields in Boulder this August. Dan Hawkins has all but indicated that the jobs of kickers Aric Goodman and Jameson Davis, along with that of punter Matt DiLallo, are open for competition. It will be interesting to see how the spring, sans Grossnickle, unfolds. It would be beneficial for the team’s psyche to know that a quality kicking option exists long before August drills open. If no clear cut winner is settled between Davis and Goodman this spring, look for a number of articles this fall documenting each placekicker’s statistics on the practice fields.
Defense – Overall
There will be much written about the development of Nick Kasa this August, and indeed he is a quality recruit at the position of greatest need in the Colorado defense. Still, if Kasa’s development – as well as that of his fellow defensive recruits in 2009 – can be nutured instead of forced, it will bode better for the team overall. Yes, it would be great if these players helped the Buffs to more victories in 2009.
It would be even better if Colorado could win without them this year!
The impact of the Class of 2009 might not be felt in 2009, but it is certainly a quality class!
2009 Impact – Who is likely to be the first on the field from the Class of 2009:
1. Nick Kasa. DE. Pretty obvious choice here. The highest rated player in the class, in a position of need for the Buffs.
2. Andre Simmons. WR. Ditto. If Simmons qualifies, he has the greatest chance of the three receiver recruits of playing early.
3. Edward Nuckols. DT. The Buffs really don’t want to have to true freshmen on the defensive line when Big 12 play begins, but they may have no choice.
4. Terdema Ussery. WR. A quality receiver and a quality individual. Could soon become a fan favorite.
5. Zach Grossnickle. K/P. Mason Crosby set a freshman scoring record right out of high school. Crosby’s 2003 mark of 52 points could be in jeopardy in 2009.
6/7. Nate Bonsu / Forrest West. OL. See Edward Nuckols, above. Both of these players could use a year of seasoning, and a year in the weight room with Jeff Pitman. Circumstances, though, may keep this desire from becoming a reality.
8. Parker Orms. S/KR/RB. It will be hard to keep this talented player off the field. You may see him in the offensive backfield, or returning kicks, in addition to seeing time at safety.
9. Josh Moten. QB/Ath. Another talented athlete. Not likely to see playing time at quarterback, but may find his way onto the field nonetheless. Wildcat formation, anyone?
10/11. Shaun Simon / Gus Handler. C. Both are projected to play center, the one position lost (Daniel Sanders) from the 2008 lineup. While it is more likely that Mike Iltis, Keenan Stevens, or transfer Evan Eastburn will be given the assignment this fall, either or both of these players may see the field in 2009.
12. Jared Darden. WR. This 6′5″ receiver would be ranked higher if he hadn’t sat out his entire senior year with an ankle injury. Darden says he’ll be ready by August. We’ll see.
13. Liloa Nobriga. LB. Another talented player, but Nobriga is coming in at linebacker, where the Buffs are loaded. Best to save Nobriga for 2010.
14. Jack Harris. OT. The second-best player in the state of Colorado. Why is Harris ranked so low? Bryce Givens held the same title last season, and in 2008, despite all of the injuries to the offensive line, Givens was red-shirted.
15. Derrick Webb. LB. See Liloa Nobriga, above. Building depth at linebacker is never a bad idea.
16. Clark Evans. QB. I like what I have seen in Clark Evans, but if this 6′5″ specimen is on the field in 2009, it means that the Buffs have gone through four other options at quarterback. If Evans is playing, we may be looking at another losing season in 2009.
17. Deji Olatoye. CB. Colorado has young and talented cornerbacks. Olatoye brings height (6′2″) to the position, but not much experience.
18. David Bakhtiari. OL. The most likely offensive lineman to red-shirt. Bakhtiari does not have the reputation of Harris, and does not figure into the mix at center, the only position with immediate need of help.
19. DaVaughn Thornton. TE. Down on Thornton? Hardly. However, this “skinny 220-pounder”, as Dan Hawkins referred to Thornton, is looking up at a depth chart with three senior tight ends. He’ll play in Boulder - just not in 2009.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts ….
How do the Buffs’ rate? A look at the ‘09 classes in the Big 12
Signing Day – 2009 – Big 12
While Buff fans were focused on February 4th on who will be wearing black and gold for the next four to five years, CU’s rivals were also loading up for what they hope will be successful runs to Big 12 titles before the end of the decade. A breakdown of how the rest of the Big 12 fared on signing day:
Big 12 North
In 2008, three schools in the Big 12 North (Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado) posted their highest rated recruiting classes in five years. In 2009, however, the North returned to what those in the Big 12 South may consider to be their rightful place – well below the South. The four lowest ranked classes, at least according to Scout, all came from the North, while the four highest ranked classes in the Big 12 all came from the South.
Let’s take a look at see how our Big 12 brethren fared ….
Signing day rank: Scout.com – 33rd; Rivals.com – 28th
Highest ranked recruiting class (2004-’09): Scout.com – 10th (2005); Rivals.com 5th (2005)
Lowest ranked recruiting class (2004-’09): Scout.com – 38th (2004); Rivals.com – 30th (2008)
It always begins and ends with Nebraska, doesn’t it?
After all we have heard from our friends from Corn Country about how Bo Pelini has restored order in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers, under Pelini, have still come away with two classes rated lower than anything that Bill Calahan signed 28th in 2009, up only slightly from 30th in 2008).
The most talked about recruit from this cycle is quarterback Cody Green. Green, from Dayton, Texas, is seen as the seventh-best quarterback in this cycle. Green chose Nebraska over LSU, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M. The only other four-star recruit signed by Nebraska was Jason Ankrah, a defensive end from Maryland.
While the ‘Husker fans may be bragging about their 9-4 record in 2008, the successs on the filed didn’t really carry over onto the recruiting trail in 2009.
Signing day rank: Scout.com – 38th; Rivals.com – 41st
Highest ranked recruiting class (2004-’09): Scout.com – 36th (2004); Rivals.com – 29th (2004)
Lowest ranked recruiting class (2004-’09): Scout.com – 58th (2006); Rivals.com – 47th (2006)
For all of the success on the field of late (back-to-back Big 12 North titles), and the high rankings achieved (Missouri rose as high as 3rd last season before faltering), one would expect that Gary Pinkel to be reaping in a harvest of new recruits.
Not so much. Missouri did land a five-star defensive tackle in Sheldon Richardson from St. Louis, and, like Nebraska, picked up a highly rated quarterback (Blaine Dalton, also from Missouri). Otherwise, the class of 2009, which included 25 signees, was fairly lacking in highly regarded players, with 11 of the 25 recruits meriting only two stars from Scout.
Signing day rank: Scout.com – 50th; Rivals.com – 31st
Highest ranked recruiting class (2004-’09): Scout.com – 47th (2006); Rivals.com – 31st (2009)
Lowest ranked recruiting class (2004-’09): Scout.com – 78th (2007); Rivals.com – 51st (2004)
There was quite a significant gap between what Rivals thought of the Jayhawks’ 2009 class, and what Scout saw – 31st to 50th is not particularly close. Scout saw only two four-star players in the class of 24; Rivals saw four (including defensive back Bradley McDougald, who visited Boulder last fall).
The main difference of opinion, though, came in how each service viewed the depth of each class. Rivals felt that there were only two two-star players in the ‘09 lineup, while Scout sees ten of 24 meriting no better than a two-star ranking.
Time will bear out whether this KU class is a boom or a bust.
Signing day rank: Scout.com 111th; Rivals.com 95th
Highest ranked recruiting class (2004-’09): Scout.com – 46th (2005); Rivals.com – 18th (2004)
Lowest ranked recruiting class (2004-’09): Scout.com – 111th (2009); Rivals.com – 95th (2009)
The sound you hear coming from out of the eastern plains is the sound of rationalization. Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, and a host of apologists from Manhattan, are trying to put a positive spin on a recruiting class which is off the charts bad. In the team rankings at Rivals (the higher ranking of the two), KSU is wedged in between Arkansas State and Tulane. Only Syracuse from the Big East saves the Wildcats from being the lowest ranked BCS school in recruiting this season.
The class is not small – 21, 23, or 27, depending on which list you look at, but almost devoid of highly recruited talent. Scout gives out only one three-star grade, to safety Thomas Ferguson, who had only one other offer – from Kansas.
Signing day rank: Scout.com – 79th; Rivals.com – 72nd
Highest ranked recruiting class: (2004-’09): Scout.com – 50th (2005); Rivals.com – 42nd (2004)
Lowest ranked recruiting class: (2004-’09): Scout.com – 79th (2009); Rivals.com – 72nd (2009)
New Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads can largely be given a pass on his first recruiting class. No one saw Gene Chizik, he of the 5-19 record in two years in Ames, being lured away by Auburn. As a result, the Cyclones played catch-up for most of the recruiting season.
Only one player on the list received a four-star rating from either service, junior college quarterback/athlete Darius Reynolds (by Rivals). According to Scout’s tabulations, 15 members from the class of 23 players deserved no greater than a two-star ranking.
Overall – Big 12 North
So, while the Buff fell in the eyes of the recruiting services, the rest of the Big 12 North fared little better. Nebraska held steady, which doesn’t mean much because last year the excuse was that Pelini didn’t have time to build a full class. Missouri failed to cash in on its recent success, and Kansas, depending on who you listen to, is either rising, holding steady, or slipping. Kansas State and Iowa State, meanwhile, had their worst recruiting class rankings in years.
There. Feel better? A little, maybe, but not much …
Big 12 South
Oklahoma won its seventh Big 12 South title in 2008, and its sixth Big 12 championship overall. The Sooners’ recruiting class reflects OU’s status amongst the nation’s elite. Texas, despite not being able to dethrone Oklahoma the past few seasons, nonetheless continues to pile up the tens (ten win seasons; top ten rankings; top ten recruiting classes), or at least close to tens. The ugly step-sisters to the Sooners and Longhorns are Texas A&M and Texas Tech. Both are fine programs, but the two own only division titles between them (both by A&M; the last in 1998). The status of the Aggies and the Red Raiders is often reflected in their recruiting classes. Close to the second tier is Oklahoma State, with Baylor quickly gaining ground on the field.
Signing day rank: Scout.com – 6th; Rivals.com – 5th
Highest ranked recruiting class: (2004-’08): Scout.com – 3rd (2007); Rivals.com – 5th (2007)
Lowest ranked recruiting class: (2004-’08): Scout.com – 13th (2005); Rivals.com – 20th (2005)
Another year, another great recruiting haul for the Longhorns. Included in this year’s class are no fewer than five players rated by Scout to be in the top five in the nation at their position (Rivals has nine of the Texas recruits in the top ten nationally in their position). Amongst those considered in the top five are recruits at wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive end, and middle linebacker.
The headliner from the 2009 class may be quarterback Garrett Gilbert, an Austin boy who stayed home to play for the Longhorns. Gilbert is rated as the fifth-best quarterback in the nation by Scout, the #2 quarterback prospect in the country