CU Season Preview – Wide Receivers


Wide Receivers


— Seniors: None

— Juniors: Shay Fields; Devin Ross; Donovan Lee; Juwann Winfree; Bryce Bobo; Kabion Ento; Robert Orban; Joseph Hall; Sean Grundman; Danny Galloway

— Sophomores: Lee Walker; Jay MacIntyre; Xavier Cochrane; Kevin Dement

— Red-shirt freshman: Justin Jan

— True freshman: Johnny Huntley; Anthony Julmisse; Derrion Rakestraw

bold (returning starter) … italicized (walk-on)


Reasons to be excited:


Safety in numbers

This just in … Nelson Spruce won’t be playing for the Buffs this fall.

Spruce and his dozens of school records are off to southern California, with CU’s all-time receptions leader now trying to make the roster of the Los Angeles Rams.

For those who do not spend much attention to Colorado football (i.e., preseason pundits), it would be easy to conclude that the Buffs’ receiving corps without Spruce in the lineup will take a step back in 2016 (Athlon, for example, rated the Colorado wide receivers as no better than seventh in the Pac-12).

But that may prove to be a premature conclusion.

Shay Fields, a junior with a huge upside, is the best bet to become the Buffs’ featured receiver. In the past two seasons, Fields has hauled in 92 catches for 1,084 and eight touchdowns. Last year, his catches dropped slightly (from 50 to 42), but he had more yards (598 to 486) and his 14.2-yard average per catch was the best of any CU wideout.

Also back from last year are receivers No. 4, 5 and 6 from last season (running back Phillip Lindsay was third on the team in receptions last year). Donovan Lee had 26 catches last fall (for 128 yards); Devin Ross had 25 (for 324 yards) and two touchdowns); and Bryce Bobo had 24 receptions (for 207 yards).

Bobo is Spruce’s choice for a successor. “He’s like me — really sure-handed,” Spruce told “He’s kind of a bigger frame. For him, if he stays focused he has all the tools to be successful. I’m hoping he’s the guy who steps into my shoes and has a bigger year.”

All this … and that’s before we consider adding two junior college transfers (Kabion Ento and Juwann Winfree) and three talented freshmen (Johnny Huntley, Anthony Julmisse, Derrion Rakestraw) to the mix this fall.

Shay Fields feels he is primed to take over as the Buffs’ No. 1 receiver

As noted, Fields was the Buffs’ No. 2 wide receiver last year, with 42 catches for 598 yards and four touchdowns … but those numbers could have been even better.

Fields was coming into his own last October – five catches for 103 yards against Arizona State; eight catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona – before suffering an ankle injury which dogged him the rest of the season. In the final six games of the season, Fields was held to ten total catches for 94 yards and no touchdowns.

When healthy, Fields also has proven big-play ability. He’s had the Buffs’ longest play from scrimmage in each of the last two seasons, and last year had three of the four longest: catches of 72, 67 and 65 yards.

Ten pounds heavier, Fields is ready to take on a starring role. “If the team needs me to catch more balls than I did last year, then so be it and I’ll be ready,” Fields told the Daily Camera. “I feel I could have done much more (the past two seasons), but I just have to worry about the future, and I feel like I can do much more with the time that I have.”


Exciting new options … Unless you have been on sabbatical for the past five months, you are probably heard the name Darrin Chiaverini mentioned a few times.

Chiaverini came to Colorado in January from Texas Tech, where he spend the last two seasons as the special teams coordinator and outside wide receivers coach for the explosive Red Raider offense.

In addition to a full slate of returning receivers, Chiaverini will have several new players to utilize this fall. Three true freshmen represent the future of the corps (note the six scholarship juniors on the roster above). Johnny Huntley, Anthony Julmisse, and Derrion Rakestraw have a chance to make an impression as true freshmen, but – with all of the players in front of them – it would not be a surprise if a red-shirt or two were utilized this fall.

More likely to see the field in 2016 are the two junior college transfers, Kabion Ento and Juwann Winfree. A four-star recruit, Winfree will garner a great deal of attention from the Buff Nation during fall camp … but don’t count out Ento. The only January enrollee from this new Class, Ento has already had 15 practices under the CU system.


Reasons for concern:

Buff receivers haven’t been able stretch the field 

Recall the quote from the Pac-12 defensive coach in the preseason ESPN magazine. Concerning the struggles of the CU offense, the anonymous coach said, “They didn’t have anyone who really scared us” … and that was an offense with the Pac-12’s all-time receptions leader.

The stats seem to lend credence to the quote. In the “explosiveness” category, defined as yards per play, Colorado, with a 5.1 yards per play average, was ranked 100th in the nation in 2015.

Shay Fields, as noted, had three of the four longest catches last year, and has recovered from his ankle injury. Juwann Winfree also has the potential to demand attention from opposing defenses. A four-star prospect coming out of high school, Winfree played in eight games as a true freshman at Maryland in 2014. He landed at Coffeyville Community College and caught 55 passes as a sophomore after being dismissed from the Terrapins’ program.

Until the Buff receivers, though, prove it on the field, they are not going to command respect from opposing defenses.


It’s a brave new world 

The Buffs will be learning a different offense from a new wide receivers coach. Darrin Chiaverini is not only the new co-offensive coordinator, he is the new wide receivers coach.

And it’s not as if Troy Walters was an unpopular coach. “There were some things I took from coach (Darrin Chiaverini), some things I tried to incorporate from (former CU receivers coach Troy) Walters”, said Shay Fields.

Read into what you will from the following Chiaverini’s quotes about Fields.

“I think Shay has tons of ability,” said Chiaverini. “He has to learn how to consistently bring that to the practice field. I think he sometimes takes it for granted, but he has the ability to be a big-time Pac-12 receiver. He has to learn it’s the little things that make you great.”


There’s only one football

Colorado is blessed/cursed with a long list of good … but not great … wide receivers.

Colorado has six junior wide receivers who all will believe that they are next in line to acquire some of the receptions Nelson Spruce posted over the past few seasons.

While the Buff offense will often have three or four wide receivers on the field at any given time, there will be plenty of down time for many of the CU wideouts. Will the lack of playing time lead to discontentment/friction in the corps?

Then there is the potential conflict between the old guard and the new. Colorado is bringing in no fewer than five new scholarship wide receivers this fall. Will the large influx of new players be a positive or a negative this fall?

Football is a game of team chemistry, and for new wide receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini, building a cohesive unit is job one in 2016.


Bottom Line … 

There are those who believe that it will be very difficult for the Colorado offense to replace Nelson Spruce.

Many of those same observers felt it would be very difficult for the Colorado offense to replace Paul Richardson a few years ago, but Nelson Spruce did just fine.

Will it be Shay Fields who will take up the mantle as the next great CU wide receiver? Will it be Bryce Bobo? Juwann Winfree? Or someone else?

Perhaps the biggest problem for the CU wide receivers is that they do not ply their trade in a vacuum. Success for the Buff offense is dependent upon quality quarterback play, a strong running game, and an offensive line which can hold its own.

The talent appears to be in place. The Buff Nation has good reason to be excited about what new wide receivers coach/co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini brings to the table.

Colorado ranked 49th in passing yards last year, but 97th in scoring. If the Buffs are to post a winning record and go bowling in 2016, both of those numbers will have to improve.



One Reply to “CU Preview – Wide Receivers”

  1. i noticed two things about the wide receivers during the spring:
    1. The route tree always had at least one short route. Often a crossing route. There were at least 5 sacks last years and untold number of throw always were the route tree didn’t have a receiver making a break for at least 8 yards. As bad as our protection was last year we never should have had that case. I think that often the outlet route in the cases was the running back who was probably audibled into protection instead of a route. From what I can tell the new offense does not do this. It either lets the running back into the route and relies on the ab to get the ball to him fast or it has a receiver on a short route.
    2. They seem to have figured out that Devin Ross has real talent so long as you don’t throw it over his shoulder. He is very fast and has great hands so long as he can look the ball all the way in. This was true last year as well but they consistently threw to him over the shoulder and he dropped the ,Amorites of them. When they threw to him where he could watch the all him he demonstrated great hands. From what I could see in spring his route tree is emphasizing these routes more often and he is shining. I think he is going to have a special year especially if Shay and Ento can stretch the field successfully.
    Sorry I came up with a 3rd while I was writing this. I am not as sure about this one because the defense played vanilla during the spring practices we saw and did not really stack the line of scrimmage as much as we saw in games but I like the wide receiver screen better. I cannot really say why yet, I haven’t figured out if they made a change in the structure, when they call it or if they are just executing better, or if the defensive backfield was just playing off the line more often in the spring practice. But it was working a lot better for some reason.

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