Rating the Colorado Roster – Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Note … This is the third in a series of weekly unit reviews for the Colorado roster, which will lead us up to the start of Fall Camp on August 4th.

Previous posts: Quarterbacks, Running Backs

Colorado Wide Receiver Roster

Players lost: Tyler McCulloch; D.D. Goodson; Wesley Christensen

Seniors: Nelson Spruce

Juniors: Colin Johnson

Sophomores: Shay Fields; Bryce Bobo; Donovan Lee; Devin Ross; Robert Orban; Danny Galloway; Joseph Hall; Sean Grundman

Redshirt-freshmen: Lee Walker; Jay MacIntyre; Xavier Cochrane; Bradley Garcia

Coming this fall: Justin Jan

bold = starter in 2014; italics = non-scholarship player

Colorado Tight End Roster

Players lost: Kyle Slavin

Seniors: None

Juniors: Sean Irwin

Sophomores: Connor Center; Chris Hill; Brian Boatman

Redshirt-freshmen: Dylan Keeney; Hayden Jones

Coming this fall: Chris Bounds

bold = starter in 2014; italics = non-scholarship player

 

2014 Statistics for returning players – Wide Receivers

– Nelson Spruce … 106 catches (school record) for 1,198 yards and 12 touchdowns (school record) … two pass completions for 24 yards and one touchdown

– Shay Fields … 50 catches for 486 yards and four touchdowns … four rushes for 24 yards and one touchdown

– Bryce Bobo … 23 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns

– Donovan Lee … 13 catches for 78 yards and one touchdown

2014 Statistics for returning players – Tight Ends

– Sean Irwin … Seven catches for 67 yards and one touchdown

 

Spring/Summer news

A pair of wide receivers who will be looking to fill the shoes of the departed Tyler McCulloch and D.D. Goodson were out of service this spring:

– Bryce Bobo had post-season shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrium, missing the entire spring (Bobo has also been dealing with academic issues, so his status will have to be monitored this summer);

Lee Walker suffered a subluxiation in practice on September 17th, undergoing surgery in October. Walker was already using his red-shirt season last fall, but this spring was to be his first chance to make his case for playing time this fall. Walker practiced on a limited basis this spring, and should be a “full go” for Fall Camp.

Over the course of three spring scrimmages, Shay Fields had the best numbers, with eight catches for 141 yards. The second-highest totals in the scrimmages was posted by the head coach’s son, as red-shirt freshman Jay MacIntyre collected six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. In the spring game, Devin Ross had the only catch of note, scoring on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Sefo Liufau.

Amongst the tight ends, Connor Center had one catch (for 18 yards) in the three scrimmages, with walk-on sophomore Chris Hill collecting three catches for 20 yards in the spring game.

What others say about the Colorado wide receivers and tight ends

Lindy’s … “Sefo to Spruce” will once again be the Buffs’ mantra. Add in Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross, and Colorado has a formidable passing game that could cause problems for defenses … Sefo Liufau and Nelson Spruce formed one of the more underrated quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the Pac-12 last season … Nelson Spruce: First team, All-Pac-12 … No. 8 wide receiver in the nation.

Athlon’s … Wide Receivers … Nelson Spruce was on the other end of almost one-third of Liufau’s completions last season, hauling in 106 passes for 1,198 yards and 12 touchdowns. Spruce is likely to own every major receiving mark in the Colorado record books before midseason. Shay Fields complemented well as a true freshman, catching 50 passes and scoring four touchdowns. “I think the sky is the limit for him,” Liufau says. “It’s just how much effort he puts into it.” Liufau will have other capable receivers in Bryce Bobo and Donovan Lee. Both saw the first action of their careers last season. The coach’s son, Jay MacIntyre, will be in contention for playing time as a slot receiver. … Nelson Spruce: First-team, All-Pac-12

Athlon’s … Tight Ends … CU hasn’t had a tight end catch more than 25 passes in a season since 2009. That should change this fall. Redshirt freshmen Dylan Keeney and Hayden Jones are capable pass catchers who need to work on their blocking. Sean Irwin is the incumbent. Known more for his blocking, Irwin caught seven passes in 12 games last season.

The Sporting News … Most Likely to Succeed (Off the Field), Nelson Spruce, Colorado … If the Fortune 500 had a draft board, the finance whiz would be on that, too … Nelson Spruce: First-team, All-Pac-12

The Bottom Line

In 2012, Colorado was 96th in the nation in passing, going for 2,310 yards.

In the first season under Mike MacIntyre, Colorado passing yards moved up to 2,989, climbing to 47th nationally.

This past season, the CU passing game was good for 3,415 yards, 19th in the nation. Wide receiver Nelson Spruce became the first Buff in school history to collect over 100 passes in a season (the “old” record, set in 2013 by Paul Richardson, was 83), setting over a dozen school receiving records over the course of the 2014 campaign.

Spruce returns for his senior season, and is on the first team on almost every All-Pac-12 teams, and has made his way onto several All-American teams.

Both Spruce and his quarterback, Sefo Liufau, return, ready to set even more school records.

So what’s not to like in the Colorado passing game?

Well, it’s not all good news.

Colorado was 19th in passing last season, but only 64th in scoring. In the “Explosiveness” category, measuring yards per play, Colorado was 91st in the nation.

Other stats … Colorado had seven pass plays going for over 40 yards last year, while CU opponents had 13 such pass plays … CU’s average per completion was 9.8 yards per completion last year, while CU opponents went for 12.6 yards per completion.

While some of these numbers can be attributed to CU’s weak pass defense, you get the idea.

Sefo-to-Spruce has been a record-setting combination, but the Buffs are going to need even more from the passing game if the Colorado win total is to rise in 2015.

The best bets to make a difference this fall are Shay Fields (50 catches, 486 yards, four touchdowns last season) and Bryce Bobo (23 catches, 215 yards, three touchdowns), with Buff fans hoping that Devin Ross or Donovan Lee can have a break-out sophomore campaign.

Opposing defenses are going to key on Nelson Spruce this fall, and there is evidence that teams have begun to figure out the Liufau-to-Spruce combo (Spruce had four 100-yard games and ten touchdowns in the first five games last season, then one 100-yard game and two touchdowns in the final seven games), so there needs to be other alternatives out there if CU is to be successful.

“Spruce had a big year last year, but I think a lot more guys will step up this year,” Liufau said. “I’m not saying that Spruce can’t do what he did last year, but I just think if other guys step up it and also make plays – which I expect them to do given their spring improvement – it means Spruce might not have to do as much in the passing game”.

And then there is this … for the first time in a long time, CU’s tight ends could contribute. Junior Sean Irwin has proved competent in the position, but had only seven catches for 67 yards in 2014. There is a great deal of optimism concerning the futures of Hayden Jones and Dylan Keeney, but both red-shirt freshmen missed time this spring with shoulder injuries. As a result, the optimism has been tempered, at least for now.

 

CU Wide Receiver Roster Grade … B+ … It’s difficult to grade down the wide receiver corps when there is a senior on the roster who will likely own almost every significant receiving record in school annals by the end of 2015 season. But Nelson Spruce’s bid for All-American status in 2015 will not be enough if Colorado is to go bowling. There is plenty of potential up and down the CU wide receiver roster … we’ll see who can step up.

CU Tight End Roster GradeD+ … In the first season under Mike MacIntyre, the CU tight ends posted 18 catches. In the second season under Mike MacIntyre, the CU tight ends posted 18 catches. In the third season under Mike MacIntyre, the CU tight ends … will need to post more than 18 catches. Hayden Jones and/or Dylan Keeney may prove to be the future at the position, but it’s unlikely that they will become stars as red-shirt freshmen.

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