2013 Final Grades – Offense

First, we must set the parameters.

If we are to judge the 2013 Colorado football team based upon its final record, the Buffs don’t measure up. A 4-8 record, by any objective measurement, is a failure.

If we are to judge the 2013 Colorado football team based upon its improvement over the 2012 team, the Buffs come out looking great. Measured against the worst team in the history of the school, it’s not hard to look good.

So, the way to judge the 2013 Colorado football team is based upon the expectations we had for this team back in August, and whether the Buffs met those preseason expectations.

Quarterback – B-minus

In my “Picking CU’s 2013 W/L Record“, posted the week before the season started, I wrote: “If Connor Wood doesn’t claim the starting job at quarterback, and doesn’t show command of the offense, CU will struggle”. The thinking was, with the loss of Jordan Webb, Nick Hirschman and John Schrock from the roster, that the offense was going to rise or fall on the back of Connor Wood, the only quarterback with any game experience of note. The other quarterbacks on the roster, sophomore Stevie Joe Dorman, red-shirt freshman Shane Dillon and true freshman Sefo Liufau were given opportunities in fall camp, but Connor Wood was the coaches’ choice to lead the team.

Connor Wood won his first two starts of the season, leading the Buffs (with the help of defensive scores in the fourth quarters) to comeback wins over Colorado State and Central Arkansas. Against Oregon State, however, Wood struggled (14-for-34 for 146 yards and two interceptions) in a 44-17 loss. It was more of the same against Oregon (11-of-33 for 205 yards and two interceptions) in a 57-16 rout. When Wood opened the Arizona State game 0-for-4 with an interception, the CU coaching staff had seen enough.

And so began the Sefo Liufau era at Colorado.

Liufau went 18-for-26 for 169 yards against Arizona State, with one touchdown and two interceptions in mop up duty (three quarters worth after the Sun Devils raced to a 25-0 first quarter lead), picking up a win in his first career start against Charleston-Southern the following week.

For the season, Liufau completed 59.4% of his passes (149-of-251), with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His 1,779 yards passing were the second most by a freshman in school history, second only to Cody Hawkins’ 2,693 yards in 2007 (and the most-ever by a true freshman).

How much Liufau improved over the course of the season is for the coaches to decide, but it certainly appears that Liufau made strides, both in his reads and in the respect of his teammates.

Compared to what the Buff Nation thought it would have from the quarterback position back in August, that’s not bad.

Running Backs – C-plus

The Buff Nation knew that the 2013 season would involve a “running back by committee” approach. Colorado had a number of good backs, but no great one.

A number of backs brought different skill sets to the table. Christian Powell, the bruiser who ran for 691 yards as a freshman, returned as the starter. Junior Tony Jones, second on the team in 2012 with 320 yards rushing, also returned.

After that, however, it was anyone’s guess as to which Buff would step up. Senior Josh Ford? Junior Malcolm Creer? Sophomore Donta Abron? Red-shirt freshmen Davien Payne or Terrence Crowder?

As it turned out, it was none of the above.

Christian Powell was about as productive in 2013 as he was in 2012, leading the team again, this time with 562 yards for the season.

Tony Jones was about as productive in 2013 as he was in 2012, going for 249 yards this fall.

The difference, and the difference maker, was true freshman Michael Adkins.

Adkins had 103 carries for 535 yards, leading the team with six rushing touchdowns. Adkins became just the seventh freshman in school history to post over 500 yards rushing to start his career.

Good news for the future, but it must be noted that the Buffs only rushed for 1,450 yards as a team on the season, up only marginally from the 1,323 posted in the disaster year of 2012.

Finishing the year ranked 108th in the nation in rushing … it’s hard to call the season by the running backs a success.

Wide Receivers – B-minus

The main concern for the CU coaching staff heading into the 2013 season was straight-forward: Would Paul Richardson stay healthy?

Richardson, who was impressive in 2011, struggled with injuries in 2012. If Richardson could stay healthy, the CU offense had a weapon other teams would have to prepare for and adjust to. If Richardson went down, there were few names on the roster which struck fear into the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators.

Paul Richardson opened the 2013 campaign looking not only like an All-Pac-12 candidate, but an All-World candidate. Back-to-back 200 yard games (208 v. CSU; 209 v. Central Arkansas) sent Buff fans flipping through the record books.

By the end of the season, Richardson had set the new single season standard at the University of Colorado for receptions (83), yards (1,343), with his ten receiving touchdowns the second most for a Buff in a single season.

After Richardson, though, the wide receiver corps was largely a disappointment. Nelson Spruce held up his end of the bargain, with the sophomore collecting 55 catches for 650 yards, but Spruce was merely filling his role as a possession receiver.

The Buffs spent much of the season looking for a second receiver to stretch opposing defenses, and were largely disappointed.

Tyler McCulloch? The 2012 starter disappeared in 2013, going from 34 catches to 14.

D.D. Goodson? Third on the team with 22 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns. Goodson showed signs of being a breakout wide receiver, but two catches per game on average did not cement him as the heir apparent to Paul Richardson.

Devin Ross? Six catches. Keenan Canty? Three. Gerald and/or Jeffrey Thomas? Neither played, with neither player remains with the team.

Spring ball, 2014, may see the emergence of Bryce Bobo or Elijah Dunston.

But 2013 was about what was expected … Paul Richardson was dazzling; the remainder of the roster was, well, underwhelming.

Tight Ends – D-plus

Little was expected from the CU tight ends coming into the 2013 season.

And little was delivered.

Vincent Hobbs, perhaps the most athletic of the tight end corps, left the team before the season started, leaving it to senior Scott Fernandez, a former walk-on, and junior Kyle Slavin, who had 14 catches in 2012, to carry the load.

Fernandez and Slavin had nine catches apiece on the year, with Fernandez going for 97 yards; Slavin 68. Each player had one touchdown.

The only other tight on the roster to see action was Sean Irwin. The freshman saw action in all 12 games, but had only one catch on the year.

Perhaps it was the system as employed which led to anemic production from the tight end position.

Perhaps it was the personnel.

Regardless, it would be hard to argue that CU received significant production from the tight end grouping this fall.

Offensive Line – C-minus

Depth along the offensive line was a major concern in fall camp.  The Buffs would be playing without David Bakhtiari, who left early for the NFL, and Alex Lewis, who left for Nebraska (and legal issues). The Buffs did have returning starters along the line, but very little experience behind the starting five.

The good news? The Buffs – remarkably – were able to start the same five all season long. In the starting lineup for the opener against Colorado State were senior Jack Harris at left tackle, junior Kaiwi Crabb at left guard, senior Gus Handler at center, junior Daniel Munyer at right guard, and sophomore Stephane Nembot. All five were still there for the Utah game at their respective positions.

The bad news? The group was not all that productive.

While skill position players get the headlines, it is the “hogs” in the trenches which make or break an offense.

Colorado had a freshman at quarterback, a freshman (for much of the season) at running back, and only one real weapon at wide receiver … but a solid offensive line makes up for deficiencies and hides weaknesses.

The numbers speak for themselves:

Colorado finished the season 108th in rushing offense (120.8 ypg).

Colorado finished the season 88th in total offense (369.9 ypg).

Colorado finished the season 87th in scoring offense (25.4 ppg).

The offensive line did make significant strides in sacks allowed (41st nationally), but the Buffs had only ten rushing touchdowns all season, and had only 14 touchdowns in 32 red-zone opportunities (43% – opponents scored touchdowns 68% of the time in red-zone opportunities against the Buffs’ defense).

Better than what might have been feared … but still not good enough.

Offense Overall – C-plus

Colorado entered the 2013 season with any number of question marks on offense:

– Would Connor Wood give the Buffs a strong leader at the quarterback position?;

– Could Paul Richardson stay healthy all season, and, along the way, return to 2011 form?;

– Would the Buffs be able to pick up the new offensive system of Coach MacIntyre?;

– Could the offensive line avoid injuries, and gel into a strong, cohesive unit?;

– Would a new star emerge, either in the backfield, or from the wide receiver corps?

As noted, with a team that finished 4-8, it would be easy to see the production by the CU offense this season as a failure.

As noted, with a team which was markedly improved from 2012, it would be easy to see the production by the CU offense this season as a huge success.

The reality, however, is somewhere in between. The Colorado offense wound up with a freshman starting at quarterback and a freshman getting many of the carries at running back. The Colorado offense made strides in 2013, but not enough to make CU a true contender in many of its Pac-12 games.

Which is about what we figured back in August.

4 Replies to “2013 Final Grades – Offense”

  1. Mark, no offense, but I can’t see where you can illuminate anything Stuart has evaluated or his rationale…. I know I can’t. But, I will keep my mouth closed and look forward to your comments as I have always liked what you have had to say.

    Have a great and blessed Christmas.

    And, Ralphie caretakers,take care of Ralphie. By the way, does she get to interact with any other Buffaloes or does she have to stay in a pen??? Always wondered…. and, will she ever get the opportunity to become MaMa Ralphie. Hmmmm

    Go Buffs.

  2. Gerald Thomas transferred before the season began, so I doubt he will emerge for the Buffs next year. If we grade ourselves against the other PAC 12 offenses, we have a below average offense. When we can be an average or above average PAC 12 O, we will be on our way.

  3. Stuart,
    Nice post. It will be interesting to see what the Buffs can do with offensive linemen who can control a game. Right now, they do not have it. Paraphrasing ex Buff player Matt McChesney in an interview, he noted that the Buff tackles were getting “beaten like drums” every week. I have to agree. Just about every conference head coach knew that the Buffs could be beaten with pressure and blitzing and they did just that.

    Until we get some decent offensive linemen to control the trenches, guys that play as a unit, Liufau and the other skill guys will be at the mercy of the big boys up front. Since Harris is graduating, I’m particularly concerned about Nembot. The guy looks the part of a dominating football player, but he doesn’t play like it. Don’t know if he’s not mean enough or would be better suited to playing defense. Blocking does not seem to be his thing.

    Another thing the Buffs will have to work on is play calling. It’s way better than it was under Embree and Bieniemy, but not nearly as good as it could be. Fortunately, we were able to get all the frosh linemen redshirted since everyone stayed healthy. Hoping that Dave Forman will have those guys significantly stronger by next season.

    I’ll be doing my own review soon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *