RECRUITING NOTEBOOK – OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Player Lost – Senior Tyler Hansen. In his up-and-down career at Colorado, Hansen played in 33 games, starting 28. Hansen’s numbers, which will have to be replaced next fall: 872 pass attempts (3rd on the CU all-time list); 505 completions (3rd); 5,705 passing yards (4th); 36 touchdown passes (4th), and 6,183 yards of total offense (4th).

Players ReturningNick Hirschman (So.*), John Schrock (R-Fr.*), Stevie Joe Dorman (R-Fr.*), Brent Burnette (Sr.*), and Connor Wood (So.*) – Of the three, only Nick Hirschman saw any action in 2011. Hirschman played in five games, earning the first start of his career against Arizona State. Hirschman’s stats for 2011: 18-for-35 passing, for 192 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.  

*denotes status for the 2012 season.

Commitments for the Class of 2012

While technically not a member of the recruiting Class of 2012, transfer Connor Wood still deserves mention here. Wood was a member of the high school recruiting Class of 2010, committing to play for Texas. Wood did not play for the Longhorns, opting to transfer instead. Wood enrolled in school in Boulder in late August, and will be eligible (three seasons remaining) come the start of the 2012 season. While Wood has not thrown a pass in competition in two years, there are many in the Buff Nation who believe that Wood is the answer to many of the Buffs’ offensive issues. True, Hirschman, Dorman, and Schrock will give Wood a run for his money during spring ball – and perhaps into fall camp – but Wood appears to be the player most likely to take the field against Colorado State next September.

So, what do we know about Wood?

CONNOR WOOD – QB

Just the facts … Committed August 30th … Wood is a quarterback from Second Baptist high school in Houston. Wood is 6’4, 209-pounds, and reportedly runs a 4.6 in the 40. Rivals bio Scout bio  

What others say about Wood … Wood was considered by both Rivals and Scout to be a four-star player out of the Class of 2010. Rivals ranked Wood as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the nation, and the 113th-best player in the 2010 Class overall. Scout ranked Wood as the No. 9 overall quarterback prospect in the country.

Bart Simmons, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, had this to say about Wood coming out of high school:

On the Hoof: Physically, Wood has a great quarterback body. He has broad shoulders, is strong through the chest, has a sturdy base and should have the strength to take a college pounding. Wood is similar in size and build to current Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Needs Improvement: At times, Wood doesn’t consistently get good spin on his football, particularly on vertical routes. He has a tendency to hang the football in the air too long. He will need an adjustment period to deal with the speed of the college game after playing at a low level of football in high school.
Most Impressive: Wood has very good arm-strength, but what really makes him special is his athleticism. His high release combined with good size benefit him as a passer. Though he is a big, physical prospect, Wood can really run, is mobile in the pocket and is very comfortable throwing on the run and outside of the pocket. As far as the physical tools that you look for in a quarterback, there is very little that Wood is lacking.

Wood had other offers from … almost everywhere. In addition to Texas, Wood had offers from Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Alabama, Notre Dame, Stanford, Missouri, Arizona … you name the school, and Wood probably could have gone there if he had wanted to. Which makes Wood’s current status all the more exciting. Buff fans don’t have to wait until February to know if Wood will be wearing black-and-gold next fall … Wood is already a Buff, and spent this past fall running the scout team for the Buffs.

SHANE DILLON – QB

Just the facts … Committed May 12th … Dillon is a quarterback from El Cajon, California. Dillon is 6’5″, 185-pounds, and can run a 4.6 in the 40. Rivals bio Scout bio  You Tube highlights from Dillon’s junior year

What others say about Dillon … Dillon is considered a three-star quarterback prospect by Scout, is listed as a member of the Scout 300 nationally, and is rated as the No. 27 pro-style quarterback prospect in the country. Rivals earlier this summer rated Dillon as a four-star prospect, and has Dillon listed amongst its Top 250 nationally (No. 227). Dillon has since slipped out of the Top 250, and has been dropped to a three-star candidate. Rivals had Dillon as its 8th-highest rated pro-style quarterback, and its 11th-rated quarterback overall, but now sees Dillon as the 13th-best quarterback.

In 2010, Dillon threw for 2,978 yards and 19 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. This year, in leading his team to an 8-3 record, Dillon posted 2,510 yards passing yards, with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. A Scout.com player evaluation by Scott Kennedy notes that Dillon is tall and still thin, but has a quick release and a live arm. Despite his lack of overall size, Dillon shows toughness and the ability to stand tall in the pocket. “He’s not a zone-read guy. He’s a drop-back, sling it guy,” Christian offensive coordinator and athletic director David Beezer recently told AztecSportsReport.com, which is part of the Rivals.com network. “He manages games well, he’s excellent in the two-minute drill and he’s a team leader.”

Dillon had other offers from … a good number of schools, including Arizona, Cincinnati, Florida State, Ohio State, and Vanderbilt. Dillon made the rounds this spring, including a trip to Boulder in April. “It was my first trip to Colorado and I loved it. It was cool,” Dillon told BuffStampede.com on April 22nd. “[Colorado quarterbacks] coach [Rip] Scherer told me I was definitely a guy they would offer straight up just from watching my film, but they wanted to get me out there to talk to me in person. I took the trip out there with my dad and my brother and they offered. I loved the campus at Colorado. I love that it is a compact campus right by the mountains. It is beautiful. And [Buffs head] coach [Jon] Embree is way cool. He gave us a great tour. He made us feel like we were part of the family. So that was really great.”

Despite the Buffs’ overall record in 2011 – and the signing of Connor Wood – Dillon has indicated on several occasions that he is firmly committed to the Buffs. Dillon took an unofficial visit to Boulder for the Oregon game, and plans an official visit in December.

Players still being courted by Colorado

Quite frankly, Colorado is done recruiting quarterbacks for this cycle. Connor Wood is already in the fold, and Shane Dillon remains firmly committed to becoming a Buff. While the Buffs still have other offers out there, the only quarterback who has not committed at this point is the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation, Gunner Kiel out of Columbus, Indiana. The Buffs are not really on Kiel’s radar, so it is highly unlikely that the Colorado quarterback roster is going to change between now and February 1st.

If Shane Dillon were to de-commit … the Buffs might still take a run at Cyler Miles out of Mullen high in Denver. Miles, though, has committed to Washington, and both Miles and the Buffs seem content with that arrangement at this time.

Running backs

Players Lost – Senior Rodney Stewart. A “thrown-in” recruit, committing on signing day, 2008, Stewart went on to out-shine the more highly rated running backs of his class, Darrell Scott (transferred to South Florida) and Ray Polk (now a starting safety for the Buffs). Despite his 2* status – or perhaps inspired to overcome it – Stewart leaves CU with his name scattered all over the Colorado record books. The returning running back corps will have to address these losses: 809 rushing attempts (1st on the all-time list at Colorado); 3,598 yards (2nd); 25 touchdowns (10th); 93 receptions (best-ever by a running back); 969 receiving yards (best-ever by a running back); 3,635 yards of total offense (11th); 4,567 yards from scrimmage (1st), and 4,828 all-purpose yards (1st).

Also lost are two fullbacks, Tyler Ahles and Evan Harrington. Both were converted linebackers, and neither were counted upon for much in the way of yardage. Harrington had two carries in 2011, going for three yards, though he did have a one-yard touchdown catch in the season finale against Utah. Ahles had one catch on the season, going for six yards.

Players Returning – Josh Ford (Jr.*), Tony Jones (So.*), and Malcolm Creer (So.*). None of the returning players on the list saw extensive action in 2011, though Tony Jones gave coaches a good audition tape, going for 72 yards in the second half against Utah after Rodney Stewart was injured. On the season, Jones had 78 carries for 297 yards and two touchdowns, chipping in 27 catches for 168 yards and two more scores. Josh Ford, while he played in almost every game, posted only 22 carries for 128 yards on the season. Malcolm Creer, who had his red-shirt torn off mid-season, only to be injured and miss the rest of the campaign, had only two catches and two receptions in his two games.

Other possibles: D.D. Goodson (So”) (played defensive back this fall); Alex Wood (Jr.*) (fullback); Cordary Allen (So.*)(fullback)

* denotes status for the 2012 season.

Commitments for the Class of 2012

DAVIEN PAYNE – RB

Just the facts … Committed July 9th, then really committed August 9th … Payne is a running back prospect from Perrius, California. Payne is 6’0″, 212-pounds. Payne reportedly runs a 4.6 in the 40. Rivals bio Scout bio YouTube highlights

What others had to say about Payne … Payne is considered to be a three-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout. Payne is seen by Rivals to be the 43rd-best running back in the nation; while Scout rates Payne to be the 56th-best running back in the nation. “Davien is a big, strong, downhill runner with real good agility and real good vision,” said Citrus Hill head coach Eric Zomalt. “He can hit it inside and outside. We knew early on when he joined our team that physically he can do some things.” Here’s what a Rivals scout had to say about Payne: “Payne is cut from a slightly larger mold than former Citrus Hill-great, Deontae Cooper (now a red-shirt freshman at Washington), but the otherworldly production is still there. Payne rushed 318 times for 1,928 yards and 27 touchdowns (as a junior). Some will say that Payne played against a lower level of competition, and while that’s true, there’s no doubting the talent this 5-foot-11, 215-pound back possesses. UCLA, Arizona State and Washington have offered, and USC is interested”.

In 2011 (as of this writing, Citrus Hill is 12-0, and is still alive in the California state high school playoffs), Payne has 133 carries for 1,382 yards (a nifty 10.39 yards per carry average), and 26 touchdowns.

Payne had other offers from … Nebraska, as well as from at least five other Pac-12 schools, including both Washington schools, UCLA, and both Arizona schools. The leader, though, for Payne’s services, was Boise State. “Boise State is still my leader,” Payne told BroncoCountry.com on July 8th, the day before he committed to Colorado. “They’re going to be tough to beat,” he added. “I was up there in April for the Junior Day. It was great,” said Payne. “I got to meet everyone, talk to the other RBs, and it just felt like my kind of environment. I could see myself out there.” As it turned out Boise State, which already has three other commits from running backs (surprisingly enough, all from Texas), asked Payne to grey-shirt, and Payne didn’t want to wait another year to suit and play college football.

In his own words … “I started playing football in 8th grade was told I would never be good enough, make varsity, earn a scholarship, or anything like that” said Payne. “Well, now look at my offers and those that said that to me don’t have any. I’m obviously doing something right.”

TERRENCE CROWDER – RB

Just the facts … Committed June 13th … Crowder is a running back prospect from Galena Park, Texas. Crowder is 5’10″, 212-pounds, and runs a 4.48 in the 40. Rivals bio YouTube highlight video Scout bio

What others say about Crowder … Crowder is rated as a two-star prospect by Rivals, and a three-start prospect by Scout (when Crowder committed in June, though, Crowder did not even show up in Scout.com’s database). Now, Crowder is listed as the No. 96 running back in the nation by Scout.

In his junior year, Crowder rushed for 1,338 yards and 15 touchdowns, helping his team to a 7-4 record. Crowder was named first-team all-district in his junior season. “Terrence is a big kid at 5-foot-10, 212-pounds and he is extremely strong,” Ray Zepeda, Crowder’s high school coach, told BuffStampede.com. “He is a 315-pound bench presser. And his ability to run through tackles and combine that with a little bit of shiftiness as well, a little bit of a burst, it is a combination that you don’t see in too many big backs. He can get around the corner when he has to but obviously his natural strength is getting his pads turned north and south and getting vertical. But he does have the burst and the top-end speed to get away from people and run around the corner as well and I think that is what makes him an attractive Division-1 running back recruit.”

Just five carries into his senior season, Terrence Crowder tore his ACL, and was lost for the season. Crowder had his surgery in September, and began rehab in October. Crowder will likely be limited in his participation in fall camp, and will likely, barring injuries to other backs, be a red-shirt candidate in 2012.

Crowder had other offers from … only a handful of schools. Crowder did have scholarship offers from Texas-San Antonio, North Texas, and Louisiana-Lafayette, though Crowder’s coach believed that other offers were imminent. “He had some other offers and he is still getting a lot of attention from some of the Big 12 schools without a formal offer,” said Zepeda. “I know that Nevada was real interested in him as well. He is a kid that rushed for 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. We have a pretty good amount of coaches that come through our campus each year but in particular, we had quite a few this spring come through and I think that they were very pleased with what they saw in Terrence, both on film and in person. His stock is rising. I think that Colorado got in there early to their benefit and I think that has a lot to do with the decision that he has made. I think that he would have seen quite a few more offers come through for him, especially as we got closer to his senior season.”

In his own words … “Colorado said they love the way I run the ball,” Crowder told BuffStampede.com just before he committed. “They think I could be someone that could come in and help lead them to being a dominant team in the Pac-12 … I am an up-field runner. I don’t run to the side, but rather between the tackles and up the field. I am working on my blocking right now because my coaches said that is something I need to improve on.”

Players still being courted by Colorado

Colorado had committments from two other running backs, but they have already de-committed. Benjamin Catalon committed to Colorado in March, but in May switched his commitment to TCU. Erich Wilson, meanwhile, committed to Colorado in August, but de-commited on November 1st, giving his commitment to Washington.

Clearly, then. the Colorado coaching staff is still in the market for running backs.

There are at least eight – and probably a dozen or more – running backs out there who have not committed who still carry offers from Colorado. One of the names – Barry Sanders – is very familiar to Buff fans, but Barry Sanders, Jr., is not a likely candidate to become a Buff. Another name which is familiar, Chris Brown, though, is a name worth keeping an eye on. While not related to the Chris Brown who scored six touchdowns against Nebraska in 2001, Brown, a three-star running back from Fresno, California, has shown interest in the Buffs.

Wes Brown, a four-star running back from Olney, Maryland, still has Colorado on his wish list, as does three-star running back Ryan McDaniel, from Torrence, California (who is also being recruited by some schools as a middle linebacker). Another three-star still considering Colorado is Jeffrey Coprich, from Stevenson Ranch, California.

At this time, however, the only running back showing up on the official visit list is Ryan Lewis, from Redmond, Washington. Lewis is not rated by Rivals, and is only showing up as a two-star prospect on Scout … as a cornerback. The only offer Lewis has to date from a BCS school is from Colorado, though there is reported interest from other Pac-12 schools.

If Colorado is going to be competitive in the Pac-12, there has to be a few more hits and a few more misses when it comes to running back recruiting. Darrell Scott was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation in 2008, and he spent this past fall posting 722 yards rushing for the South Florida Bulls. Ray Polk, the other highly rated running back from Rodney Stewart’s class, finished the second on the Buffs in tackles from his safety position. Josh Ford, Tony Jones, Malcolm Creer and D.D. Goodson show promise, but it will take more than that for the Buffs to post winning records in the near future.

The running back Class of 2012, not yet filled, will be closely watched over the next two months …

Wide Receivers 

Players Lost – Seniors Toney Clemons, Logan Gray, and Kyle Cefalo. While former high school standout and Michigan transfer Toney Clemons may not have completely lived up to the hopes and expectations of the Buff Nation, he did fill a void in the second half of the 2011 season when sophomore sensation Paul Richardson was injured. Clemons had 18 catches for 195 yards and three touchdowns through the first eight games of the season, but came on in the final five games, catching 25 balls for 476 yards and five touchdowns. Clemons posted three 100-yard games in the final four games of 2011, and came within a replay review in the Utah game of becoming only the second player in CU history to post at least one touchdown catch in five consecutive games.

Logan Gray, the senior transfer from Georgia, and Kyle Cefalo, a former pitcher for Oregon State, who walked on to CU and was awarded a scholarship in August, both contributed, but were not major factors in the Colorado offense. Gray finished his senior year with 18 catches for 300 yards, while Cefalo had ten catches for 85 yards, scoring two touchdowns.

Players ReturningMarkiri Pugh (Sr.*), Dustin Ebner (Sr.*), Paul Richardson (Jr.*), Jarrod Darden (Jr.*), Keenan Canty (So.*), Tyler McCulloch (So.*), Austin Vincent (R-Fr.*), Nelson Spruce (R-Fr.*). Of the group of returning scholarship receivers, only Paul Richardson is a proven starter and star. Richardson set a school record for receiving yards with his 284 yard effort against Cal (breaking the school record by 62 yards). The rest of the season, though, Richardson was either injured or held in check. The sophomore wideout finished the season with 39 catches for 555 yards and five touchdowns, but, taking away the Cal game, Richardson had only 271 yards receiving in the eight other games in which he played.

Neither of the two returning seniors caught a pass in 2011. Pugh moved to defensive back, but was mainly a special teams performer (and there have been rumors that he would leave the team after the season, but head coach Jon Embree stated in his season-ending press conference that he did not believe there would be any defections from the team). The only other wide receiver production came from red-shirt freshman Keenan Canty (14 catches, 161 yards), and true freshman Tyler McCulloch (ten catches, 96 yards, one touchdown). Whether Austin Vincent or Nelson Spruce, both of whom were red-shirted in 2011, will be able to make an immediate impact in 2012, is a question for spring ball to answer. 

Commitments for the Class of 2012

JEFFREY THOMAS – WR

Just the facts … Committed June 18th … Thomas is a wide receiver prospect from Duncanville, Texas. Thomas is 6’3″, 180-pounds, and runs a 4.66 in the 40. Rivals bio Scout bio YouTube video highlights

What others say about Thomas … Thomas is considered by both Rivals and Scout to be a three-star prospect. Scout rates Thomas to be the 107th-best wide receiver in the nation.

Thomas had other offers from … a number of schools, but only one other from a BCS conference team, Iowa State. Thomas did also hold offers from schools like Boise State, Memphis, Tulsa, Wyoming and North Texas. Thomas had attracted attention from Georgia, Cal, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas A&M.

In his own words … Colorado used wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy’s seven years of service as the recruiting coordinator at Texas to its advantage. “I met (coach Kennedy) at a Texas camp and when he changed schools he kept up with me,” Thomas told BuffStampede.com when he committed. “He came out to spring ball (in May) and offered me on the spot. I was excited about that.” Thomas said he’s intrigued by Colorado and the prospect of playing in the Pac-12. He also likes the idea of playing in a pro-style offense. ”I think my biggest strength is my ability to go up and make plays, I’d consider myself a physical receiver and I definitely like to use my size and strength to my advantage,”  Thomas told the OldCoach.com.

“Out of all the schools that I talked to and possibly could get an offer from, Colorado just had everything right to offer and I see no downside to it. Now was a better time than ever,” Thomas told BuffStampede.com. “When I committed, I talked to every coach on their staff and they all loved me and can’t wait to get me out there. They were excited.” Thomas grew up in the Richmond area of Northern California. He moved to the Lone Star State prior to seventh grade. “I have a lot of family still out there in California and they can come see me play in the Pac-12,” Thomas said. “I wanted to play in the Pac-12 my whole life. Knowing that I am going to play against USC and Oregon and all those schools, it is just great.”

GERALD THOMAS – WR / KR

Just the facts … Committed July 5th … Thomas is a wide receiver prospect from The Colony, Texas. Thomas is 5’10″, 175-pounds. Thomas reportedly runs a 4.37 in the 40. Rivals bio Scout bio

What others had to say about Thomas … Thomas is considered to be a three-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout.  Thomas is rated by Scout to be the 136th-best wide receiver this fall.

Thomas had other offers from … at least ten other schools. From the Pac-12, there were offers from both of the Arizona schools. From the Big 12 came offers from Iowa State and Kansas. Iowa and Minnesota from the Big Ten had also extended offers. “I cut it down to four schools – Iowa, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado – and then I eliminated two of them,” Thomas told BuffStampede.com upon his commitment. “I narrowed Iowa because I just didn’t want to live in Iowa, to be honest. I didn’t think it would be a good fit. And I narrowed Arizona State because they have four wide receiver commitments from my class already.

“So it was down to Arizona and Colorado. Both coaching staffs are awesome. I analyzed what each school had to give and I liked Colorado better. They have a brand new coaching staff. I talked with [Buffaloes wide receivers] coach [Bobby] Kennedy and he said I have a good chance to come in and play early my freshman year. He said I could make a difference in their program and help get the program back on track.”

In his own words … “My speed and quickness help separate me from the average high school receiver, and my competitiveness also separates me. I want to win every game,” Thomas told BuffStampede.com. “I want to go undefeated. I am great in one-on-one matchups and my route running has gotten a lot better since my sophomore year. “I used to play running back and I think that helps me as a receiver, too. After I catch the ball, I turn into a running back. I can make people miss in the open field. Every time I have the ball in my hands, I have a chance to score.”

Plus, Thomas won’t have to get used to a new set of school colors … “I was black and gold in middle school, black and gold in high school, and now in college,” Thomas told Scout.com. “Now I have to go on and play for the Saints, so I can keep it going!” Few Buff fans would be upset if, five years from now, Thomas is suiting up for the New Orleans Saints …

PEYTON WILLIAMS – WR

Just the facts … Committed July 14th … Williams is a wide receiver prospect from Southlake, Texas. Williams is 6’1″, 185-pounds, and runs a 4.4 in the 40. Rivals bio Scout bio

 What others had to say about Williams … Williams is considered to be a three-star prospect by Rivals, but only a two–star prospect by Scout.  In Scout’s ratings, Williams comes in as the No. 174 wide receiver nationally.

Williams had other offers from … a diverse collection of schools, including Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Memphis, Tulsa, Wyoming, and North Texas. Other schools reportedly showing interest were Kansas, Texas Tech, Iowa and West Virgnia. Why Colorado? Thank CU wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy. “I call Coach Kennedy every week,” Williams told BuffStampede.com back in April. “I love Coach Kennedy. He was at Texas, now he is there. Colorado seems like a really cool place. I need to go see it. I am going to visit sometime. From what I see on the internet and from what Coach Kennedy tells me, Colorado is very nice.”

In his own words … “My personality is that I’m not satisfied with anything,” Williams told Pantherlair.com. “I’m trying to work on everything. I’m not happy with anything yet.” As far as his game skills, Williams told BuffStampede.com: “I am not afraid to go across the middle and make plays and I am a good blocker. I like to think I have the whole package.”

Players still being courted by Colorado

Once upon a time, the No. 2 wide receiver prospect in the nation, Stefon Diggs, from Olney, Maryland, had Colorado on his radar. Diggs has offers from over three dozen BCS conference schools, and the Buffs do not appear to be in the mix. The No. 6 wide receiver in the nation, Bryce Treggs, from Bellflower, California, also has an offer from Colorado, but seems to have now narrowed his choices down to Cal (soft verbal), Notre Dame, and Arizona State.

Any top receivers still interested in Colorado?

Of those who have not committed, the highest rated is Javon Williams from Chandler, Arizona. Williams is considered to be the No. 36 wide receiver nationally by Rivals, the No. 51 wide receiver by Scout. In October, Williams named his top five, and Colorado was still in the mix. along with Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Oregon, and Arkansas. Williams has taken an official visit to Arizona State (to watch the Sun Devils destroy the Buffs – ouch!), and has trips planned to Arkansas and Oklahoma State. No word on whether he will take an official visit to Colorado.

Another possibility is Jonavaughn Williams, who is taking his official visit to Colorado this weekend. Williams is considered to be a three-star prospect by Scout, but is as of yet unrated by Rivals. Williams sees Williams as the No. 139 wide receiver nationally, while Rivals lists Williams as an athlete.

Tight Ends

Players Lost – Seniors Ryan Deehan and Matt Bahr. There were great expectations for the tight end position for the Buffs coming into the 2011 season. After all, Colorado had a number of returning players at the position, and had Jon Embree, a former collegiate and NFL tight end, coming in as head coach. The position was not utilized as much as expected, however, as the combination of pass catching and blocking proved difficult to find in any one player. Ryan Deehan did have 24 catches for 322 yards and one touchdown, while Matt Bahr contributed one catch for 11 yards.

Players ReturningNick Kasa (Sr.*), DaVaughn Thornton (Jr.*), and Kyle Slavin (So.*). Thornton was the player in which the Buff Nation had the most hope, but Thornton, while he played in every game, and started against Arizona State, did not prove to be a game-changer, with only four catches for 15 yards on the season before collecting a 52-yard pass against Utah in the finale. Kyle Slavin, meanwhile, saw action in only seven games (earning a start against Washington State), but did not record a catch. Walk-ons Scott Fernandez and Alex Wood (both sophomores in 2011) also contributed, with Wood likely to move permanently to the offensive line in 2012.

* denotes status for 2012 season

Commitments for the Class of 2012

SEAN IRWIN – TE

Just the facts … Committed August 28th … Irwin is a tight end prospect from Cypress, Texas. Irwin is 6’4″, 220-pounds, and has a 4.85 recorded time in the 40 (Sean claims he can run a 4.7). Rivals bio Scout bio

 What others say about Irwin … Irwin is considered by both Rivals and Scout to be a three-star prospect. He is rated by Scout to be the No. 44 tight end in the nation.

Irwin had other offers from … at least ten schools, including Boise State, Louisville, Wake Forest, and Rice. Other schools reported to have interest in the twins include Arkansas, LSU, and TCU. As the Irwins (Sean and offensive lineman Jeromy) wanted to be a package deal, the number of offers may have been more limited than they would have otherwise. The Irwins were recruited by Kanavis McGhee, who used his Houston roots to secure  the Houston area natives.

In his own words … “They have a great coaching staff,” Sean told BuffStampede.com in July. “We like the coaches and everything we’ve heard so far has a good feel to it and sounds interesting. Now we want to make a visit to check out the school and the student body and see what it’s like (the Irwins’ official visits will take place September 30th) … Coach McGhee says they like the way we play. We just go out there and get the job done. We don’t lead by doing a lot of talking. We just do what we have to do for the team on the field. We’re both physical players, and they like that about us.”

Another reason Colorado likes the Irwin brothers is they’re already well schooled in a pro-style offense similar to what Colorado is playing now under new head coach Jon Embree, a former Washington Redskins assistant. “At Cy-Fair, we run out of an I-formation 80 percent of the time,” Sean said. “We don’t play any spread offense. We run a tailback, a fullback and run the tight ends tight. We run power traps and counters and smash it down their throats. We definitely prefer playing in a pro-style offense.”

AUSTIN RAY – TE

Just the facts … Committed November 22nd … Ray is a tight end prospect from Columbia, Missouri. Ray is 6’6″, 234-pounds, and reportedly runs a 4.6 in the 40. Rivals bio  Scout bio

What others say about Ray… Ray is rated as a three-star player by both Rivals and Scout. On the Scout board, Ray is listed as the No. 34 tight end prospect in the nation. Ray has 24 receptions for 388 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Here’s what ESPN had to say about Ray:  Ray displays the tools that could allow him to develop into a productive and well-rounded college tight end. He possesses good overall size for the position. He looks best suited as an in-line tight end in a pro-style type attack. He is an active part of his high schools passing attack and can contribute as a receiver.  He needs to deliver more of an initial pop and roll his hips and generate better power from his lower body. Ray has some areas to improve on, but can be a good and well-rounded tight end.

Ray had other offers from … Most notably, Mississippi. Ray committed to Ole Miss back in July, but de-committed when Rebel coach Houston Nutt was not retained. Ray reportedly had offers from at least six other BCS conference schools, including Nebraska, Stanford, Louisville, Kansas State, Iowa, and Kentucky. Ray took an official visit to Boulder on November 11th-12th for the Buffs’ home game against Arizona.

In his own words… “Even though he just let Ole Miss know (Monday) that he was de-committing he had been seriously considering Colorado since his official visit there there the weekend before last (for the Arizona game). He just felt like going ahead and committing,” Randy Ray, Austin’s father, told Mississippi Scout. ”He cited Head Coach Embree being a former tight end in college and the NFL as being a big influence in his decision along with the possibility of early playing time. Austin went ahead and committed to Coach Embree right after lunch when they spoke on the phone. He wants to be a part of a rebuilding process at Colorado and feels like they are about to be very competitive in the PAC 12 within the next couple of years. I think being a part of the rebuilding process is exciting to him as it was going to be at Ole Miss.”

Players still being courted by Colorado

The fact that former defensive end Nick Kasa not only switched to tight end mid-season, but caught a pass against Utah, is a fair indication that the Buffs are still looking to shore up the tight end position. Having Irwin and Ray in the fold is nice, but don’t count out the Buffs signing a third tight end prospect in February.

The prize would be Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, rated as the No. 4 tight end in the nation. Cope-Fitzpatrick has taken an official visit to Cal, and has another scheduled for Oregon, but is likely to sign with USC if the Trojans can fit him into their 15-player class.

The best bet for Colorado to land a highly rated tight end is Taylor McNamera. Rated as the No. 19 tight end in this year’s recruiting Class by Scout, the No. 2 tight end nationally by Rivals. McNamera took an official visit to Colorado … for the Oregon game. McNamera has already visited Colorado, Washington, and Notre Dame, and has Cal and Oklahoma on his list.

Offensive Line

Players Lost – Seniors Ryan Miller, Ethan Adkins, Blake Behrens, Shawn Daniels, David Clark, Sione Tau and Mike Iltis. Colorado loses both of its starting guards from the 2011 team, with Ryan Miller and Ethan Adkins starting all 13 games this fall. Miller, who was named to the second-team All-American team, led the team in career starts (with 48), and concluded his senior season with 28 consecutiver starts. Adkins, meanwhile, had 33 career starts, including the last 23 in succession. The other five seniors were non-factors in 2011, mostly due to injury. Mike Iltis suffered the second torn ACL of his career in the 2010 season finale against Nebraska, and did not return for the fall. Sione Tau was in for 101 plays over four games, earning a start against CSU. Blake Behrens, David Clark and Shawn Daniels each made it in for just one play from scrimmage all season, getting in for one play at the end of the Arizona game on senior day.

Players ReturningRyan Dannewitz (Sr.*), David Bakhtiari (Jr.*), Gus Handler (Jr.*), Jack Harris (Jr.*), Daniel Munyer (So.*), Kawai Crabb (So.*), Paulay Asiata (So.*), Alex Lewis (So.*), Stephane Nembot (R-Fr.*), Marc Mustoe (R-Fr.*), Brad Cotner (R-Fr.*). Colorado will return three starters who all started the final ten games of the 2011 season. Starting with the Ohio State game, and continuing on for the remainder of the fall, David Bahktiari took ahold of the left tackle position, Ryan Dannewitz the right tackle slot, with Gus Handler settling in at center. Bakhtiari was recognized for his efforts, becoming the only Colorado Buff named to the All-Pac-12 team, being named to the second squad.

So who will step up next fall at the guard positions? On the depth chart, sophomores-to-be Paulay Asiata and Daniel Munyer are next in line, but the battle for the starting positions should be one of the better stories to follow this spring. Also of interest to the Buff Nation: Will Jack Harris, who was the starter at right tackle before injuring his ankle in the second game of the season, be able to come all the way back? Is Gus Handler the answer at center, or will Daniel Munyer try to reclaim the starting job, or will incoming (January enrollee) Alex Kelley or red-shirt freshman Brad Cotner be ready to challenge for playing time? Will the move by Stephane Nembot from defensive line to offensive line pay long term dividends for the Buffs?

* Denotes status for 2012 season

Commitments for the Class of 2012

ALEX KELLEY – C … From the Class of 2011 – A January enrollee

Just the Facts … Committed October 4, 2010 … Kelley is an offensive line prospect from Vista High school in Vista, California. He is 6’3″, and weighs 295 pounds. Rivals bio  Scout bio YouTube video highlights

What others say about Kelley … Alex Kelley was considered to be a three-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout. Kelley was listed as the 22nd-best center prospect in the nation by Scout.com, and the No. 2 center in the west. Kelley was a SuperPrep All-Far West team member, the 98th-best player in the region, and the 15th-best offensive lineman. Kelley was a two-time all-league player for the Vista offensive line, and was also an all-league wrestler. Kelley helped Vista to a 12-1 record and a CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship. In the title game, the Panthers gained 313 yards rushing. In his senior year, Kelley totaled 108 pancake blocks.

Kelley had other offers from … Boise State, Minnesota, San Jose State, Nevada, San Diego State and New Mexico State. Kelley also had interest from Iowa State, USC, Kansas and UCLA. Kelley took only one official visit, to Colorado for the Georgia game, and committed that weekend.

In his own words … Kelley committed to Colorado when Dan Hawkins was still head coach. Though Kelley had ties to Colorado (his father, Karry, played along the CU offensive line from 1976-79), the change in regimes gave Kelley pause. “(Interim head coach Brian) Cabral said they still want me 100 percent, and I am still one of their main guys,” Kelley told BuffStampede.com on December 10, 2010. “I am still taking a wait-and-see approach. I still haven’t decided where I am going from here.” After hearing from new head coach Jon Embree, though, Kelley stayed with the Buffs. “I didn’t know who Colorado was going to hire, and I was worried they might not get the right person,” said Kelley. “But now I have gotten a chance to talk to coach Embree for a good amount of time, I know I am going to Colorado now … They said I would fit in perfectly with their offense since I absolutely love to run block. They said they are going to do lots and lots of running and that got me excited.”

GERRAD KOUGH – OL

Just the facts … Committed July 1st … Kough is an offensive line prospect from Pomona, California. Kough is 6’4″, 265-pounds. Rivals bio  Scout bio YouTube highlights

What others had to say about Kough… Kough is considered a two-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout. Kough plays tackle for Pomona, but is being recruited by Colorado to play guard.  Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Eric Bieniemy was responsible for Kough’s recruitment from the Buffaloes’ staff. Kough had also been in contact with head coach Jon Embree and offensive line coach Steve Marshall. Here is what an ESPN analyst had to say about Kough: “Kough is a tough run blocker who displays the upper body playing strength to dominate his present level of opponent. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition. Will need to work on initial quickness and explosion as well as adding body mass to his frame. Playing out of a three point stance we detect some hip and ankle stiffness however it does not appear to affect his ability to play on his feet in space; comes off the ball aggressively but too high when establishing initial contact; does tend to narrow his base but is able to get movement and sustain due to his persistent leg drive. Flashes good pull around ability; we see the potential to set the edge and maintain leverage on “5″ technique defenders. With improved initial quickness and pad level we see the potential to consistently get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders. Additional body mass along with the nasty finishing attitude this guy plays with, we see a lineman capable of making the necessary run blocks at the next level. Flashes nimble feet and along with his arm length and quick hands he should be an effective pass pro blocker. Shows the ability to quick set but must work on bend and balance; plays too high and gets caught up on his toes at times. Demonstrates good initial punch and placement, working to re-locate the hands inside the frame. Kough does not appear to be an immediate starter at the BCS level of play, rather a prospect in need of some time and perhaps a red shirt year to grow physically, improve his athleticism while polishing his technical skills.”

Kough had other offers from … only Army and Portland State. However, Kough was drawing interest from Arizona State, UCLA, Washington and Fresno State.

In his own words … “Colorado said they like me because I finish, I play through the whistle. And I have good feet, I can move,” Kough told BuffStampede.com back in July when he committed. “I know (red-shirt freshman) Jered Bell who plays for Colorado so when Colorado offered me, I looked it up and that pretty much sold me. Colorado is going into a new conference and they seem like an up-and-coming team, like they are about to win. And Colorado seems like a nice place with a good environment.”

JEROMY IRWIN – OL

Just the facts … Committed August 28th … Irwin plays guard in high school, but projects as an offensive tackle. Irwin is from Cypress, Texas, and is 6’5″, 295-pounds. Rivals bio Scout bio 

What others say about Irwin … Irwin is considered by both Rivals and Scout to be a three-star prospect. He is rated by Scout to be the No. 90 offensive tackle in the nation.

Irwin had other offers from … at least ten schools, including Boise State, Louisville, Wake Forest, and Rice. Other schools reported to have interest in the twins include Arkansas, LSU, and TCU. As the Irwins wanted to be a package deal, the number of offers may have been more limited than they would have otherwise. The Irwins were recruited by Kanavis McGhee, who used his Houston roots to secure  the Houston area natives.

In his own words … “I would definitely say that I would take education over a good football program. Education gets you further in life,” Irwin told InsideTheUtes.com. “I’m just looking for a school that has a good educational program. If the football team is good on top of that, it’s just a bonus.” 6-5, 290 pound Jeromy would also like a school that runs the ball, which he feels feeds his biggest strength. “The run game is my strength. I really like to get out and push people backwards.”

As for Jeromy’s style of play? “They like his athleticism and coordination,” Sean told BuffStampede.com about his brother. “They like how he can keep his feet when he pulls. You see a lot of linemen get tripped up and go down, but Jeromy can catch himself and keeps his feet and finishes the play. He’s athletic and really a big guy without any fat on his body.”

Players still being courted by Colorado

While Colorado has three new players coming to Boulder for the 2012 season, and were able to red-shirt three others from the Class of 2011, recruiting the “Big Uglies” never stops. One need look no further than the attrition rate from this year’s seniors – Mike Iltis, Sione Tau, Blake Behrens, Shawn Daniels – to see that the offensive line is, almost every season, a veritable M*A*S*H unit (with a tip of the cap to the late great Harry Morgan, who passed this week).

So who is still out there? For the dreamers, there is Kyle Murphy, from San Clemente, California. The 6’7″, 275-pound offensive tackle is rated by Rivals as the No. 5 offensive tackle in the nation, and the No. 22 prospect overall, while Scout lists the five-star propect as the No. 6 offensive tackle nationally. Murphy does have Colorado on his list of possibles (along with half the schools in the nation), but does not have CU in his top five (with four of the top five – Stanford, USC, Oregon, and Cal – being Pac-12 rivals).

Also on the dream list (but not likely to become a Buff) is Joey O’Connor from Windsor, Colorado. O’Connor was a Penn State commit until the Sandusky scandal broke. Now “back to square one”, the 6’4″, 295-pound offensive tackle has opened up his recruitment. O’Connor is a four-star prospect, considered by Rivals to be the No. 15 offensive tackle prospect (and the No. 4 overall prospect from the state of Colorado this fall), while Scout sees O’Connor as the No. 12 offensive guard in the country. While O’Connor has opened up his recruitment, CU is still seen as a long shot, as it has been widely reported that O’Connor wants to leave the state of Colorado for school. Iowa, Oregon, Minnesota, TCU, Cal and Boise State are all on O’Connor’s radar right now.

Another local star, Alex Kozan, has not completely written off the Buffs. Kozan, at 6’4″, 295-pounds, plays for state powerhouse Valor Christian, and is considered by Rivals to be the No. 30 offensive tackle nationally (and the No. 5 player in the state), while Scout sees Kozan as the No. 18 offensive guard. Kozan has taken official visits to Ohio State and Iowa, and will visit Auburn next weekend (where he is being recruited by former CU offensive line coach Jeff Grimes). For his remaining two official visits, Kozan told HawkeyeInsider.com this past week that he will choose from amongst Michigan, Oregon, Colorado and LSU. Kozan did not rule out the possibility of taking official visits to other schools, then taking an unofficial visit to Boulder.

A number of offensive line prospects have already taken official visits to Boulder, including:

Shane Brostek – a three-star guard from Kamuela, Hawai’i. Brostek has taken an official visit to Oregon, but does not have an offer. He does have an offer from Washington, but has not taken an official visit. Brostek was in Boulder for the Arizona game in November.

Steven Moore – a three-star tackle from Elk Grove, California. Moore was in Boulder this past weekend (December 2nd), his second official visit. Moore, a former Arizona commit, has visited UCLA, is in Boise this weekend, and has a trip still planned to visit Cal next weekend.

Alexandru Ceachir – a three-star junior college prospect from Santa Monica Community College. Ceachir visited last weekend, and is visiting Utah this weekend. He is reportedly going to make a decision between the two schools this upcoming week;

Josh Tupou – an unrated guard by Rivals, a two-star defensive tackle according to Scout. Tupou is from Buena Park, California, and has already taken official visits to San Jose State and Nevada.

Other offensive linemen who are highly rated, and who at least have Colorado on their radar, include:

Colby Cyburt – a three-star tackle from Mission Viejo, California;

Nico Siragusa – a three-star tackle from Chula Vista, California (who was scheduled to visit Boulder December 2nd, but signals got crossed. He may still visit Boulder in January);

Kyree Oliver – a three-star tackle from Brentwood, California. CU was the first to offer Oliver, back in July;

Tavita Taito – a three-star guard prospect from Antioch, California.

While not the most glamorous of recruiting battles to watch, the work of the Colorado coaches to secure quality offensive linemen for the future is just as important as any other unit. Without a quality line, no quarterback will shine, no running back will reach 1,000 yards, and no wide receiver will have time to get open.

As a result, work needs to be done before the book on the offensive line Class of 2012 can be closed.

 

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