Grading the Class of 2014

The Class of 2014 is largely a matter of record (recall that CU has added players during the spring and summer every year the past few seasons). Colorado has 23 new players in the fold, including 19 high school seniors, three junior college transfers, and a gray-shirt holdover from the Class of 2013.

The CU Class has been ranked nationally anywhere from 64th (Rivals) to 77th (247Sports), with the Buffs ranked no higher than 10th in the Pac-12 conference. This being the case, the CU Class is objectively a disappointment. Most Buff fans realize, however, that the University of Colorado is not in position to compete for many of the four- and five-star prospects each season which raise national rankings, and that Mike MacIntyre & Co. must be more creative in seeking out the “diamonds in the rough”. With that in mind, let’s assess the CU Class of 2014:

Best Offensive signee

Shay Fields, wide receiver … The only four-star prospect in this year’s Class, Fields not only is the highest-rated new Buff, he also fills CU’s greatest need. With Paul Richardson taking his talents to the NFL, Colorado needed a play-maker at wide receiver, and Fields fits the bill. An All-State performer for a state championship team (St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calfornia), Fields was ranked by Rivals as the No. 44 wide receiver in the nation. As a senior, Fields had 82 catches for 1,617 yards (an average of 19.7 yards per catch) and 18 touchdowns. Fields has also lettered three times in track (with a fourth coming this spring), and is reigning league champion in the 100-meter dash, with a career-best 10.9.

“I’m not going to put too much pressure on him,” said coach MacIntyre of Fields, “but as you watch him, you can see him run right by people, kind of reminds me of the No. 6 (Richardson) that left us. Shay can really fly … he’s a really, really good player that I expect to see on the field this fall as a true freshman”.

– Honorable mention … Cade Apsay, quarterback … Donovan Lee, athlete … Lee Walker, wide receiver.

Best Defensive signee

Rick Gamboa, linebacker … A first-team All-State performer for Chaminade College Prep (Slymar, California), Gamboa put up big numbers as a senior. Gamboa was in on 170 tackles this past fall (102 solo), with 12 tackles for loss and five quarterback sacks, finishing as one of the top 100 players in the state of California. Gamboa had 20 or more stops in three games, and was in double digits in tackles on nine occasions. A three-year starter at inside linebacker, Gamboa had an impressive 442 tackles (285 solo, 34 for losses, 15 sacks). At 6’1″, 225-pounds, Gamboa will not be the outside pass rushing linebacker the Buffs need so desperately, but Gamboa will fill the middle and take care of business in the interior. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Gamboa was leading the team in tackles in 2016 and 2017.

“In our football, when you get all spread out, you’ve got to have some linebackers inside sometimes that can make plays in space,” said MacIntyre of Gamboa. “Rick is a young man who is very athletic. He is very strong, has a great lower body, has great instincts. You really can’t coach those instincts in linebackers, they can either do it or they can’t (and Gamboa is one who can)”.

– Honorable mention … Michael Mathewes, defensive end … Grant Watanabe, linebacker … Evan White, defensive back.

Most likely to succeed

Donovan Lee, athlete … The easier choices would be Cade Apsay or Shay Fields, as more eyes will be upon these prospects, and, yes, it is true that Apsay and Fields will be in given every opportunity to become fan favorites. Lee, though, has the chance to get on the field in any number of positions, and for that reason, has a very good chance at early and long-term success. Buff fans are lamenting the losses of running back prospects Jomon Dotson and Kalen Ballage to other Pac-12 schools, but the fact is that the Buffs did pick up a California first-team All-State running back in Donovan Lee. As a senior, Lee rushed for 1,979 yards on 247 attempts with 37 touchdowns (an average of 8.0 yards per carry), while also hauling in 29 catches for 610 yards and four more touchdowns. Playing for Chaminade College Prep (West Hills, California), Lee was a three-year starter on both offense (running back and wide receiver) and defense (cornerback). Why didn’t Lee, with all of these accolades and numbers, have more Pac-12 offers (only Colorado and Oregon State)? Well, he’s only 5’8″, 162-pounds, so size may have been a determining factor. Should that be a concern for Buff fans … yes, until you consider that CU’s all-time leading rusher, Eric Bieniemy, who came to Boulder at 5’7″, 175-pounds.

“He makes all kinds of plays,” said coach MacIntyre about Lee. “He’s really, really quick and physical … He is a heckuva football player. He played all over the place … Donovan is a tough little guy; we’ll find a place for him to play. We just want guys who will make people miss, who can do things in space”.

– Honorable mention … Lee Walker, wide receiver … Ahkello Witherspoon, cornerback …Dylan Keeney, tight end

Most underrated

Hayden Jones, tight end … Of the players given only two stars by both Rivals and Scout, Jones has the best chance of having a significant impact for the Buffs. Jones was a two-year starter at both tight end and linebacker for Christian Brothers high in Sacramento, California (he also handled the kicking chores). A first-team all-conference performer, Jones caught 35 passes for 499 yards and two touchdowns (14.3 yards per catch), while also posting 14 pancake blocks. On defense, Jones had 35 tackles (15 solo), and had four quarterback sacks. Jones is 6’6″, 245-pounds (currently playing center for the basketball team), and once he gets to Boulder and focuses in on a position, he could turn into something special. The only problem for the CU coaches is where to play Jones. Mike MacIntyre called Jones a “big athlete”, so Jones could turn into an offensive tackle, a defensive lineman … or remain at tight end. Wherever he plays, Jones has an excellent opportunity to overcome the doubts associated with his two-star rating.

“He’s currently playing basketball, been a starter for three years,” said MacIntyre of Jones. “This past fall he played both ways. He played tight end, as well as defensive end/defensive tackle. We think he can play tight end, but with a big young man who is 18 years old that plays multiple sports, and he does track … When we get him, and get him in the weight room for a twelve month, 18-month period, he might be 300-pounds (currently 250). He might be a phenomenal offensive tackle or a phenomenal defensive tackle, or he might be a 270-pound tight end who can knock people off the ball. We’ll just see where he fits”.

– Honorable mention … Jaisen Sanchez, defensive back … Christian Shaver, defensive end … Josh Kaiser, offensive lineman

Best story

Terran Hasselbach, defensive end … It’s hard not to cheer for a player who only was able to play one year of high school football … and in that one season turn in an All-State performance. Right before the start of his freshman season, Terran Hasselbach was in a car accident, preventing him from playing for the next two years. Hasselbach was finally cleared by his doctors to play as a junior, only to suffer a shoulder injury in practice, keeping him out of action for another six months. Finally, as a senior, Hasselbach was able to show what he could do. Playing in nine games (he missed two), Hasselbach posted 78 tackles (57 solo), with 24 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback sacks, earning “Comeback Player of the Year” honors from the Denver Post. Hasselbach’s father, Harald, played for Washington in college, and was a member of two Super Bowl championship teams as a member of the Denver Broncos, so lineage is not an issue for Hasselbach.

“He’s built really well,” said MacIntyre of Hasselbach. “He can really rush the passer. He’s healthy, and I am really so excited that we were able to get Terran … He will be a heckuva pass rusher for us. In our type of football that we’re playing a lot right now, he’s right between a linebacker and a pass rusher. He’s got a great first step. He’s already 238-pounds, and is strong as an ox. We look forward to him helping us next year rushing the passer”.

– Honorable mention … Sam Bennion, offensive lineman … Wyatt Tucker Smith, long-snapper … Sully Wiefels, offensive lineman

These are my thoughts on the CU Recruiting Class of 2014, but it’s just one opinion. Let me know your thoughts …

 

19 Replies to “Grading the Class of 2014”

  1. Stuart,

    As always you have presented a reasoned, thoughtful analysis. Ignore the haters. HATERS GONNA HATE! Sorry about the caps.

    It seems to me from what I have read about our newest Buffs, it seems we did pretty well. If anyone thinks we are going to get the top recruits in the country to come here right now, we are crazy. I agree that the campus can sell itself but recruits don’t care about the campus. They want to feel like they have a chance of being a superstar and making it to the next level. I think we will be pleasantly surprised by these players and what they will accomplish. That is coaching.

    I like what we have seen from the coaches so far. At least the players seem to give a darn. They seem want to work and give their all on the field. I can’t explain why they didn’t before except to say that the previous coaching staff just didn’t know how to get that out of the players.

    Anyway, if you have the ability to block BH, I would if I were you. I doubt that those of us who check this website regularly want to hear the ramblings of a jerk who appears to not really care about the Buffs.

    Thank you for your continuous efforts to keep us informed of all things Buffalo.

    NavyBuff

    1. Last two staffs recruited players who “want to play football”. Heck, everybody “wants” to play, but this staff seems to recruit flexible, multi-sport, multi-position players who “need to play” and have a chip on their shoulders. That makes a world of difference in strength training, film study, practice habits, everything related to winning.

      No more “Thursday night is Ladies night” guys for HCMM!(That he referenced that habit as late as the Cal post-game speech last season, is telling about past recruiting.)

  2. I agree with all of the posts below, except for what appears to be the first one. BH, it’s pretty clear what your initials stand for, and it rhymes with Putthole.

    I’m not an expert by any means, but I think the one player we may be overlooking (probably due to residual from the Hawkins era) is Jay MacIntyre. I just get the feeling that four years from now, we are going to be very happy that he decided to stay home with Dad.

    Stuart you do a GREAT job with this site, and I really appreciate all of your efforts. It’s clearly a labor of love for you, and we all benefit from it, KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!

  3. Hmmm, what was that rant all about? Stuart publishes insightful, and researched information on his site. Perfect? Probably not, but pretty darn close! I don’t usually post, but I appreciate the information, and layout of his CU-site. He writes articles as a reporter, but refreshingly as a totally impassioned CU FAN (notice the capitol letters! Am I being too loud? lol). I for one value your information about the BUFF nation, and should say thank you more often. THANK YOU (being loud again, sorry). 😉 And it’s usually Stuart that brings to light the successes of the other programs that are not in the limelight like; National Champion Cross Country Team; National Champion Ski Team; our Volleyball team making it to the BiG Dance; Girls Soccer’s success; Golf, and Tennis success. 1st PAC 12 Basketball Champions; the resurrection of the Women’s Basketball Program…, I guess I’m ranting now….

  4. BH needs to go somewhere else , Stuart does this all on his own time and does not get paid anything. BH shut up and get your own facts straight before you go blasting others.

    Thanks Stuart for all your hard work on keeping us Buff fans up to date.

  5. Ahkello Witherspoon seems like he might be tbe player that slipped under everybodys radar screen. I have a feeling he will be a monster LB in a couple of years, we might even see him get some snaps as a center this season.

  6. Stuart
    I am the guy who usually can’t find the brand he wants on the supermarket shelf when its right in front of his face
    but
    I also can’t find any names or information on this year’s walk ons. Is that something that hasn’t leaked out yet or is it something else that just flew by my head?

    1. EP,
      I don’t think you’ve missed anything. I don’t know if a list has been released.
      There are a number of walk-ons that we do know about (from BuffStampede.com), including: SENIORS: DE Andre Nichols; DB Harrison Hunter; JUNIORS: FB Jordan Murphy; FB Clay Jones; WR Wesley Christiansen; WR Devin Grimes; OL James Carr; DT John Tuso; LB Thor Eaton; LB Hunter Shaw; DB Brandan Brisco; DB Richard Yates; SOPHOMORES: QB Trent Sessions; FB Jesse Hiss; OL Ed Caldwell; OL Vincent Ariva; LB Tim McLaughlin; LB John Genova; CB Gavin Andrews; and RED-SHIRT FRESHMEN: RB Ryan Moeller; WR Robert Orban; WR Joseph Hall; TE Brian Boatman; OL Connor Darby; LB Garrett Gregory; DB Austin Woodard; K Chris Graham; and LS Blake Allen.

  7. Hey, anyone’s thoughts on kids coming out of hs and projecting forward is educated guesswork. I like stu’s perspective as much as anyone’s bit certainly trust Mac and co’s perspective more than any of us fans.

    Yogi Roth pointed out an interesting fact during the PAC 12 recruiting recap. The Seahawks have two former four and five star recruits and 7 two stars.

    Yes, some kids are easy to project at 18 into the nfl- see clowney etc. – but recruiting always has been and always will be about finding and developing talent, regardless of ratings. See how bsu and other mid majors sneak up in performance.

    Looking forward to seeing this class in action.

    Go Buffs.

  8. Take it easy BH. Stuart supplies us with terrific information and insight about our Buffaloes every day, even when he is on vacation, FOR FREE! If you can’t show some appreciation, please find somewhere else to visit.

  9. It was I Don Brenner the host of the show that got bad info from a certain high school coach as well as ex CU Assistant Coach who told me Ballage was coming. Sorry thought two good sources could not be wrong

  10. Yo Stuart,

    Considering that Gillam and Adkins made the greatest impact of CU freshman last (outside of Sefo), and that both were considered 2-star athletes by the recruiting services, I think it goes to show that amateurs don’t know what they are talking about when giving star ratings.

    It keeps being mentioned that Embree had classes ranked in the top 35 in the country. Those self proclaimed experts were wrong again. On top of that, 15 of those very valuable scholarships handed out by Embree went to guys who have already left the program. That means almost 1/3 of his recruits were a waste of time and taxpayer money.

    Many recruits are rates solely by who they get offers from. And early commitments to CU mean those players are disregarded by the “services”. Fact is that recruiters do not use the services at all, they’re just a play thing for fans.

    Mark my words, once CU starts winning regularly again, their recruits will once again be held in higher regard.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

  11. ERIC B. WAS NEVER,EVER 175 LBS, YOUR OUT OF YOUR MIND. WHAT ARE U SMOKING. THE TRUTH THE BUFFS TOOK A BIG HIT NOT SIGNING A RUNNING BACK WHO CAN CONTRIBUTE NEXT YEAR. THEY MADE A MISTAKE ONLY HAVING TWO “MAYBES” ON THEIR BOARD. SHORT SIDED TO SAY THE LEAST.
    ALTHOUGH THE CLASS FILLS A FEW NEEDS IT WAS DEAD LAST IN THE PAC 123. EVERYONE ONE ELSE DID BETTER. REALITY IS HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL,THAT IS ALL BUFFNATION HAS THESE DAYS.
    175 LBS MY ___. ALSO YOU SAID ON YOUR SHOW YOU HAD INSIDE INFORMATION BALLAGE WAS LOOKING GOOD TO BE A BUFF THEY YOU SAID IT WAS BETWEEN CU AND UCLA, ANOTHER GREAT INSIGHT.

    1. I never said that Ballage was a good bet to be a Buff … it was the host of the show who had the inside info on Ballage signing with CU. Go listen to the tape.

      The 175-pound reference was to Bieneimy’s weight when he came to Colorado in 1987 (he was also, ironically enough, listed as being 5’9″ at the time). Over the course of his time at CU, his listed weight went up to 195, and his height went down to 5’7″.

      Thanks for typing in all caps – apparently you are pretty passionate about not believing in your Buffs.

      1. “Apparently you are pretty passionate about not believing in your Buffs.”

        LOL! Best laugh I’ve had all day. Thanks, Stuart!

    2. WOW, what a total jerk this BH is. Thanks Stuart for a wonderful and very informative article on the newest Buffs. You are very much appreciated by those of us who care about the Buffs and all the folks in and behind the program. We’re in a very tough conference – a good thing – and that tough competition will only serve to make us better. More important though is the integrity of the program and the positive life changes it makes in all those who participate – both on the field and in the classroom. No doubt in my mind that Coach Mac and his staff are building this program the right way. It will take time – but there is light at the end of this long dark tunnel we’ve been in. GO BUFFS!

    3. Is this the guy who posts as “J-R-K” on AB? Or maybe he should adopt “S-M-R-T”, instead of “BH”??? He’s obviously a couple cans short of a six pack!

      I remember EB siging day weight at 175 and I don’t see a need for a RB for next fall, with all the people stacked there, including Phillip Lindsay, who I think could really surprise.

      I like this class alot: Fills needs and brings in players who will avoid “Ladies Night” in favor of film study and extra time with Forman.

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