Spring Practices: Position Battles

 

Spring Practices … By the numbers

Spring Practices opened March 2nd, with the Spring Game on Saturday, April 9th (12:00 p.m., Pac-12 Networks, KOA radio). The final practice will be Monday, April 11th.

Teams are allowed 15 practices over 29 days (spring break doesn’t count).  Teams are allowed, per NCAA rules: three in shorts (no contact), four in pads (no tackling), four in pads (tackling allowed 50 percent or less of the practice and four in pads (with tackling throughout).

Previously posted … Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs (scroll down – they are in reverse order) …

 

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Kickers/Punters

Players lost: Wyatt Smith (long-snapper)

Seniors: Diego Gonzalez (K); Cameron Silzer (P)

Juniors: Chris Graham (K); Cutler Halverson (K)

Sophomores: Alex Kinney (P)

Red-shirt freshmen: J.T. Bale (LS); Nick Porter (P/K)

Coming this fall: none

bold = starter in 2015; italics = non-scholarship player

2015 statistics for returning players:

– Diego Gonzalez … 18-for-29 on field goal attempts … 35-35 on PAT’s … 3-of-7 from 30-39 yards out

– Alex Kinney … 66 punts for a 40.12 yard average … two blocked punts … net average of 38.1

What to Watch For this Spring

The issue for spring for the Colorado specialists is not so much who will be CU’s kicker and punter, but who will be coaching them?

Place-kicker Diego Gonzalez will be challenged by Chris Graham, but Gonzalez faced a similar challenge last fall, and won the job. Alex Kinney, the sophomore punter, faces only nominal challenges from walk-ons.

But here’s the thing … Gonzalez and Kinney don’t have a coach.

The Buffs did not hire a special teams coach to replace Toby Neinas, who left the CU staff and landed a job last month as Rutgers’ director of player personnel.

Coaching the Buffs’ special teams will be a “by-committee” endeavor, according to coach MacIntyre. “We’ll break up (responsibilities) among the staff,” MacIntyre said, explaining that kickoff coverage is basically a defensive segment of the game while kickoff returns is offensive.

So members of the defensive staff will spearhead kickoff coverage coaching and offensive staffers will take the lead on kickoff return responsibilities.

Who will further develop punters and placekickers and work with them on any possible mechanical issues? MacIntyre will … according to MacIntyre. Plus, he’ll also have a quality control person helping him.

That person, according to FootballScoop.com, is coming to Boulder from Bozeman:

Colorado: Per source, former Montana State tight ends coach / special teams coordinator Daniel DaPrato has been hired as an offensive quality control analyst. DePrato was described, on the Bobcats’ website, as a “mad scientist special teams coordinator whose exuberance in coaching is surpassed only by his brilliance in producing exciting and important plays”.

Okay, we’ll see.

And, lest we forget … The Buffs are also in the market for a long-snapper, with four-year starter Wyatt Smith having graduated. Walk-on red-shirt freshman walk-on J.T. Bale is on the spring roster, so we’ll see how that works out.

 

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Defensive Backs

Players lost: Kenneth Crawley; Jered Bell; Marques Mosley; John Walker; Yuri Wright; Evan White

Seniors: Chidobe Awuzie; Ahkello Witherspoon; Tedric Thompson

Juniors: Ryan Moeller; Afolabi Laguda; Andrew Bergner; Cameron Beemster

Sophomores: Isaiah Oliver; Nick Fisher; Jaisen Sanchez; Kyle Trego*; Lucas Cooper; Daniel Talley

* Junior college transfer. Will have four years to play three

Red-shirt freshmen: none

Coming this fall: Ronnie Blackmon; Trey Udoffia; Ca’Ron Baham

bold = starter in 2015; italics = non-scholarship player

2015 statistics for returning players:

– Chidobe Awuzie … 90 tackles (78 unassisted) … nine tackles for loss … four sacks … ten third down stops … ten passes broken up

– Tedric Thompson … 80 tackles (58 unassisted) … three interceptions … five tackles for loss … nine passes broken up

– Ryan Moeller … 47 tackles (37 unassisted) … played in only seven games in 2015, but a “full go” for spring

– Ahkello Witherspoon … 41 tackles (36 unassisted) … two interceptions … seven third down stops

– Afolabi Laguda … 21 tackles (17 unassisted) … two third down stops

– Isaiah Oliver … 19 tackles (16 unassisted) … five third down stops

What to Watch For this Spring

Addition by subtraction?

An argument can be made that the CU men’s basketball team is better this year without Askia Booker.

The Colorado secondary loses five players from its 2015 roster, and could be … better?

The necessary depth is not there, witness the late Class of 2016 signee Kyle Trego, but there is talent. Chidobe Awuzie is a bona fide NFL talent, a player who could have declared for the NFL draft as a junior but came back. Awuzie had 20 more unassisted tackles than any other player on the team, and had nine tackles for loss and four sacks.

The other cornerback position is not as set as it should be. Ahkello Witherspoon is the returning starter, but he has to look over his shoulder this spring. Isaiah Oliver and Nick Fisher, both sophomores who saw limited playing time in 2015, will be pushing Witherspoon for playing time, as well as vying for playing time at nickel back.

The safety positions should be set, with Tedric Thompson at strong safety and Ryan Moeller at free safety. Moeller was lost in an off-the-field incident on October 19th – he was hit by a car while riding his moped – and missed the remainder of the season.

Moeller is now back, participating in strength and conditioning drills, and is a “full go” for the spring. Excellent at run support, Moeller has a game plan for this spring. “Man-to-man coverage ability is a tough part of the job of being a defensive back, but it is a crucial part, too,” Moeller told BuffStampede.com. “I definitely want to be seen as someone that can do well in all the aspects of being a defensive back.”

Pushing for playing time at safety – both for 2016 and beyond – are junior and sophomore Jaisen Sanchez. This spring is important for these players, as junior college transfer Kyle Trego will be in Boulder this fall, ready to challenge for a spot in the two-deep.

With three talented freshmen coming this summer to help fill the voids left by the departure of five players, this spring is all about getting Laguda, Oliver, and Fisher sufficient reps to determine a pecking order come August.

 

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Linebackers

Players lost: Hunter Shaw

Seniors: Kenneth Olugobode; Jimmie Gilbert; Jaleel Awini*; Ryan Severson; Travis Talianko; Deaysean Rippy

* – Will be seeing time on the offensive side of the ball this spring

Juniors: Derek McCartney; Timothy Coleman; Addison Gillam; Christian Shaver; Trent Headley

Sophomores: Rick Gamboa; N.J. Falo; Terran Hasselbach; Drew Lewis#; Griffin Hansen

# – Junior college transfer, won’t be on campus until this summer

Red-shirt freshmen: none

Coming this fall: Pookie Maka; Akil Jone

bold = starter in 2015; italics = non-scholarship player

2015 statistics for returning players:

– Rick Gamboa … 96 tackles (58 unassisted) … led the team in tackles .. six third down stops

– Kenneth Olugbode … 80 tackles (43 unassisted) … led the team in tackles in 2014 … ten third down stops

– Derek McCartney … 70 tackles (47 unassisted) … led the team in quarterback pressures (16) … five sacks

– Jimmie Gilbert … 47 tackles (34 unassisted) … led the team in sacks (six) … ten third down stops

– Jaleel Awini … 21 tackles (13 unassisted) … played in nine games (139 plays)

– N.J. Falo … 17 tackles (12 unassisted) … played in seven games (116 plays)

– Addison Gillam … six tackles (five unassisted) … led the team in tackles in 2013 … played in only two games in 2015

What to Watch For this Spring

Let’s start with who won’t be on the field for spring practices:

– Addison Gillam, who led the team in tackles as a true freshman in 2013, but has been plagued by injuries since, will not be on the field this spring. Gillam suffered a torn meniscus against UMass last September. He underwent an arthroscope but then needed additional surgery. Gillam is on track to be ready for fall camp and the 2016 season, but will be out this spring.

– Two other part-time players, Terran Hasselbach (shoulder) and Travis Talianko (knee) are also on the “out” list for spring.

– Jaleel Awini, the Air Force transfer who played on offense late in the 2015 finale against Utah, is slated to return to the offensive side of the ball for his senior year.

– Junior college transfer, Drew Lewis, expected to make a push for immediate playing time this fall, will not be on campus until this summer.

… and that does not take into account some attrition for the roster, which is anticipated but not yet announced …

So, whose left?

Well, the good news is that Colorado will have its leading tacklers from the past three seasons on the field in 2016. Addison Gillam (2013), Kenneth Olugbode (2015) and Rick Gamboa (2016), all will be available for the opener against Colorado State.

Or, at least it should be good news.

When linebacker position groups are reviewed, Colorado does not receive high marks. Even though Colorado cut the points allowed total from 39.0 points per game in 2014 to 27.5 points per game in 2015, there was inconsistent play from the Buff defense, particularly from the linebackers.

The perception, if not the reality, was that CU’s linebackers were not able to effectively stop the opposition’s best runners, cover their tight ends, or get to the quarterback on a blitz.

Colorado was 96th in the nation in tackles for loss last fall, 67th in sacks, and 94th in third-down conversion defense. These stats cannot all be pointed to as lapses by the linebacker corps, but they are an indication of the overall (in)effectiveness of the defense.

The 2016 season would be a good year for a breakthrough, as CU currently lists no fewer than six senior linebackers on its roster. In addition, Gillam and McCartney will be juniors this year, along with contributors Timothy Coleman and Christian Shaver.

While the Buffs are heavily laden in upperclassmen, this spring might be an opportunity to see what the likes of N.J. Falo can add to the mix. Falo has a tremendous upside, and it will be interesting to see if his name gets mentioned by the coaches early and often this spring.

Colorado has no red-shirt freshmen linebackers on the roster, and only two incoming freshmen – Pookie Maka and Akil Jones (and Maka is slated to take a two-year Mormon mission after playing this fall).

This leaves a significant gap in the roster down the road, but, for the spring of 2016, all Buff fans want to hear is that the linebacker corps has coalesced under second year defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jim Leavitt into a unit which can dominate Pac-12 games this fall.

 

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Defensive Line

Players lost: Justin Solis; Grant Watanabe; De’Jon Wilson; Clay Norgard; Bryan Wyman; Garrett Gregory

Seniors: Jordan Carrell; Samson Kafovalu; Tyler Henington; Blake Robbins; Josh Tupou*

* not enrolled at CU for the spring; scheduled to return to school for summer session

Juniors: Leo Jackson

Sophomores: Jase Franke; Eddy Lopez; Michael Mathewes

Red-shirt freshmen: Lyle Tuiloma; Frank Umu; Brett Tonz;

True freshman: Sam Bennion (enrolled in January after completing Mormon mission)

Coming this fall: Terriek Roberts

bold = starter in 2015; italics = non-scholarship player

2015 statistics for returning players:

– Jordan Carrell … 784 plays … 52 tackles … three sacks … 11 quarterback pressures (second on team)

– Leo Jackson … 586 plays … 33 tackles … two sacks … five third down stops

– Samson Kafovalu … 331 plays … 33 tackles … three sacks … four third down stops

– Jase Franke … 118 plays … 14 tackles … one forced fumble

– Michael Mathewes … 84 plays … eight tackles … one sack … one third down stop

 

What to Watch For this Spring

No unit lost more players this past off-season than did the defensive line, even though only one player, Justin Solis, exhausted his eligibility.  Clay Norgard, De’Jon Wilson and Grant Watanabe – all scholarship players with a year of eligibility remaining – are no longer with the team.

Add into the equation the fact that two other seniors – Tyler Henington (shoulder) and Blake Robbins (shoulder) – are not participating this spring, and you begin to wonder whether this will be another spring practice where the spring game will not be possible because there are not enough healthy bodies along the defensive line to make up two rosters.

Not to worry.

There are plenty of bodies with which defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat can run drills this spring.

For starters, there are a numbers of cross-over players who are considered defensive ends/linebackers on the CU roster (see: Derek McCartney; Jimmie Gilbert; Timothy Coleman). For our purposes, we will be discussing these players when we discuss the linebackers later this week.

As for the rest of the defensive linemen, there is a clear break between the present and the future. We know what Jordan Carrell can do. We know what Samson Kafovalu is capable of. We know that we will have to wait until fall to get Tyler Henington and Blake Robbins back.

So let’s find out which of the younger players can make a name for themselves this spring.

Sophomores Michael Mathewes (84 plays) and Eddy Lopez (21 plays) have some 2015 game film to review, but three other players have a clean slate.

Frank Umu (6’4″, 280-pounds) and Brett Tonz (6’3″, 285-pounds) sat out their true freshman seasons last fall, and will have their first opportunity to contribute in 2016.

And then there is Sam Bennion.

A member of the Recruiting Class of 2014, Bennion went on a two-year Mormon mission, and enrolled at Colorado this January. Bennion will still have five years to play four, and may not be ready to contribute in 2016. Bennion is 6’5″, and was at 243 pounds two years ago. In the roster released on Signing Day, however, Bennion was down to 225 pounds.

The 2016 starting lineup along the defensive line will be loaded with senior talent. Assuming Josh Tupou will be back at school this summer, Colorado will have five seniors – all with plenty of experience – to rotate along the line.

This spring will be about finding players to rotate into the lineup this fall … and take over in 2017.

The more positive stories we hear this March and April about the development of Eddy Lopez, Michael Mathewes, Frank Umu, and Brett Tonz … the better CU’s future.

ESPN’s view … “We’ll see” … Colorado: Justin Solis is the only member from last year’s three-man front to leave. Defensive tackle Jordan Carrell and defensive end Leo Jackson III return, giving the Buffs a bit of experience on a defense that improved drastically last season. The question is going to be finding depth and a viable rotation. That could involve any number of guys, including Eddy Lopez, Michael Mathewes, Tyler Henington and Jase Franke.

 

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Offensive Line

Players lost: Stephane Nembot; Connor Center; Vincent Arvia; Ed Caldwell

Seniors: Alex Kelley; Shane Callahan; Sully Wiefels

Juniors: Gerrad Kough; Jonathan Huckins; Sam Kronshage; Jeromy Irwin; Colin Sutton

Sophomores: John Lisella; Josh Kaiser

Red-shirt freshmen: Isaac Miller; Dillon Middlemiss; Tim Lynott; Aaron Haigler

Coming this fall: Chance Lytle; Colby Pursell; Hunter Vaughn*

* (gray shirt – will enroll in December)

bold = starter in 2015; italics = non-scholarship player

2015 statistics for returning players:

– Alex Kelley … 956 snaps … PPP* – 58.1% … led team in Perfect plays on passing touchdowns, with 13

– Shane Callahan … 721 snaps … PPP – 46.9% … second on team in touchdown blocks, with 8

– Jonathan Huckins … 625 snaps … PPP – 61.8% … led the team in Plus Play Percentage

– Gerrad Kough … 562 snaps … PPP – 53.8% … tied with Stephane Nembot for most penalties, with five

– Sam Kronshage … 504 snaps … PPP – 56.9% … led the team with 37 knockdown blocks (2nd on team, Nembot, had 25)

– John Lisella … 361 snaps … PPP – 52.9% … started four games in 2015 as a red-shirt freshman

* (Plus Play Percentage – not a game grade. Plus plays are divided by total plays; other plays are neutral or minus)

What to Watch For this Spring

This off-season, the Buffs have added four-star fire power to the lineup at quarterback (transfer Davis Webb), at running back (incoming freshman Beau Bisharat) and wide receiver (transfer Juwann Winfree).

But those players might not have much impact if the Colorado offensive line play does not improve.

Granted, injuries took their toll on the line (CU used nine different starting lineups in 2015), but the numbers for the offense as a whole were down …

2014 … Total offense: 439.2 ypg. (37th nationally) … Scoring offense: 28.5 ppg. (64th nationally)

2015 … Total offense: 396.8 ypg. (67th nationally) … Scoring offense: 24.6 ppg. (97th nationally)

… and much of the blame fell to inconsistent offensive line play.

Perhaps no greater loss to the lineup was that of starting left tackle Jeromy Irwin, who tore his ACL in the CSU game and was lost for the season. With Irwin out, Stephane Nembot moved from right to left tackle … with mixed results, at best.

The task of reformulating the offensive line for the 2015 season falls to assistant coach Klayton Adams, who takes over the position after coaching running backs and tight ends the past three seasons.

Adams played center at Boise State — under former CU coach Dan Hawkins — from 2003-04 and earned second-team All-WAC honors.

From 2007-08, he coached the offensive line at Western Washington, and then coached linemen at Sacramento State from 2009-10. He coached tight ends for two years for MacIntyre at San Jose State before coming to Boulder.

“When you’re asked to do a job, you have to be who you are,” Adams told the Daily Camera. “Your personality kind of dictates your coaching style. I don’t think the way that I teach or the way that I coach would ever change just because of a responsibility change.

“I want to try to make sure I’m doing as good a job as I can and I’m totally prepared for it.”

Adams will be without Jeromy Irwin this spring – Irwin is still recovering from his ACL surgery last September, but is expected to be a “full-go” by this fall – but there is plenty of returning talent.

Four of the five starters who were on the field for the 2015 finale against Utah – center Alex Kelley; guards Gerrad Kough and Jonathan Huckins; and tackle John Lisella – return, along with Sam Kronshage, who started six games at tackle last fall.

Those players alone are sufficient to give Klayton Adams a starting lineup for the opener against Colorado State in September, so this spring may be as much about building quality depth as it is forging new starters.

And, for a change, Colorado is in a position to do just that.

The Buffs red-shirted four freshman offensive lineman last fall, and one or more of them could press for playing time this fall. Tim Lynott was the most highly-rated player signed in the CU Recruiting Class of 2015, and is poised (all 6’2″, 300 pounds of him) to challenge for a starting position. Isaac Miller, as you may recall, was a gray-shirt from the Class of 2014. Miller has now been with the team for over a year now, and has gone from 250 pounds to 270 pounds. Aaron Haigler is 6’7″, 270-pounds, while Dillon Middlemiss is 6’5″, 290-pounds.

That’s over half a ton of red-shirt freshmen who are the future of the CU offensive line.

On paper, then, the Colorado offensive line roster is in good shape. The Buffs are loaded with upperclassmen who have starting experience (67 combined career starts from the projected starting lineup for 2016), and have significant raw talent available to compete with the starters for playing time going forward.

The challenge for new offensive line coach Klayton Adams … to translate his inherited personnel into a cohesive unit which can increase the production of the Colorado offense.

ESPN view of CU’s offensive line: “We’ll see“:

Colorado: The Buffs lose only one starter on the offensive line. But he’s a big loss (literally and figuratively): Stephane Nembot appeared in 44 games at either left or right tackle, so that’s a lot of experience out the door. The good news is the Buffs return left guard Gerrad Kough, center Alex Kelley, right guard Jonathan Huckins and right tackle Sam Kronshage, Jeromy Irwin should be back from injury, which will help them fill some holes at tackle — probably on the left side, where he started last season before a torn ACL in September cost him the rest of the year. Normally, four returning starters would put you in at least the “Good shape” category. But the Buffs have to show improvement in pass protection.

 

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Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Players lost: Nelson Spruce; Hayden Jones (TE); Colin Johnson; Peter Lynch

Seniors: Sean Irwin (TE)

Juniors: Shay Fields; Devin Ross; Donovan Lee; Bryce Bobo; Robert Orban; Joseph Hall; Sean Grundman; Danny Galloway; Chris Hill (TE): Brian Boatman (TE)

Sophomores: Lee Walker; Jay MacIntyre; Dylan Keeney (TE): Xavier Cochrane; Kevin Dement

Red-shirt freshmen: Justin Jan; Chris Bounds

New to the team this spring; Kabion Ento (junior college transfer, already enrolled)

Coming this fall: Juwann Winfree (JC); Johnny Huntley; Anthony Julmisse; Derrion Rakestraw

bold = starter in 2015; italics = non-scholarship player

2015 statistics for returning players:

– Shay Fields … 42 catches for 598 yards and four touchdowns

– Donovan Lee … 26 catches for 128 yards and no touchdowns

– Devin Ross … 25 catches for 324 yards and two touchdowns

– Bryce Bobo … 24 catches for 207 yards no touchdowns

– Sean Irwin (TE) … 15 catches for 248 yards and no touchdowns

– Jay MacIntyre … 8 catches for 84 yards and one touchdown

– Dylan Keeney (TE) … 6 catches for 71 yards and no touchdowns

What to Watch For this Spring

The most obvious question – and perhaps the most difficult – how can the Buffs replace Nelson Spruce?

Spruce leaves Colorado with team career records in receptions (294), receiving yards (3,347) and touchdown receptions (23) … along with several dozen other school records.

That being said, here is a stat which may surprise you … last season, for the first time in school history, CU had six players with 200-plus yards rushing with at least six players catching passes for 200 yards.

Yes, CU has lost perennial rushing and receiving leaders Christian Powell and Nelson Spruce, but there is a significant number of players returning with quality game experience.

The real question for the spring now becomes: which of those players who have been on the field the past few seasons will step up their games and take control of the receiving corps?

Shay Fields will get the first look at following in the footsteps of Paul Richardson and Nelson Spruce. Fields was coming into his own last season, with back-to-back 100-yard games against the Arizona schools before suffering a high ankle sprain against Oregon State. In the final five games, Fields was limited, posting only 10 catches for 104 total yards. Fields still led the team in yards per catch, and tied Spruce for the team lead in touchdown receptions.

If not Fields, it could be Devin Ross who will become the next great Buff receiver … if he can learn to hang onto the ball more consistently.

Bryce Bobo is another receiver who has shown signs of greatness … but only signs.

Donovan Lee has been all over the field for the Buff offense … third on the team in rushing and fourth on the team in receiving last fall … and could be the player who brings CU fans out of their seats most often in 2016.

The underclassmen also give reason for the Buff Nation to be optimistic in the post-Spruce era. Sophomores Lee Walker and Jay MacIntyre have different skill sets – Walker the burner; MacIntyre a slot receiver – but both played last fall and will be vying for playing time in 2016.

And we haven’t discussed the newcomers.

Red-shirt freshman Justin Jan and junior college transfer Kabion Ento will receive their first opportunities this spring to prove that they belong and can contribute.

That’s a long list of bodies.

A long list of players who have potential to become elite Pac-12 players.

They will have the spring to demonstrate to their new coach, Darrin Chiaverini, that they should be a starter come September.

And they had better take advantage of the 15 spring practices, because … the future of Colorado receiving corps may not be on the field this spring.

Four-star junior college recruit Juwann Winfree won’t be on campus until this summer. Johnny Huntley, Anthony Julmisse and Derrion Rakestraw, three true freshmen from the Recruiting Class of 2016 are also awaiting their chance to show their skills.

One, two, or perhaps all four of these recruits could compete for playing time come Fall Camp in August.

As a result, it will be an interesting – and competitive – spring for CU receivers.

And a word about the CU tight ends … Mike MacIntyre had a future NFL draft pick at tight end in his last season at San Jose State. The thinking when MacIntyre was hired at Colorado was that the tight end position would become a focus of the offense at CU as well.

In the first three seasons of the Mike Macintyre era at CU … not so much.

Sean Irwin led the tight ends last fall, with 15 catches for 248 yards. Irwin should get more help this fall from sophomore Dylan Keeney (six catches for 71 yards last season) and red-shirt freshman Chris Bounds.

At least that’s the theory … we’ll see if it starts to become a reality this spring

 

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Running Backs

Players lost: Christian Powell

Seniors: none

Juniors: Phillip Lindsay; Michael Adkins; George Frazier (FB); Joey Tuggle; Tanner Grzesiek

Sophomores: Patrick Carr, Kyle Evans

Red-shirt freshmen: Dino Gordan

Coming this fall: Beau Bisharat

bold = starter in 2015; italics = non-scholarship player

2015 statistics for returning players:

– Phillip Lindsay … 140 carries for 653 yards, six touchdowns … 26 catches for 211 yards and one touchdown

– Patrick Carr … 66 carries for 286 yards, one touchdown … five catches for 52 yards

– Michael Adkins … 42 carries for 212 yards, three touchdowns … three catches for seven yards

– George Frazier … zero carries … six catches for 31 yards and one touchdown

What to Watch For this Spring

As the Buffs bid farewell to Christian Powell, who led the team in rushing for three of his four years in Boulder, the Buffs welcome back Michael Adkins.

You remember Michael Adkins, don’t you? He opened the 2015 season with a 90-yard, two-touchdown effort against Hawai’i, followed by a 119-yard, one touchdown game against UMass.

Adkins’ line against Colorado State? One carry, three yards … and out for the season.

Adkins suffered a severe pulled hamstring early on in the game against the Rams, and never returned the rest of the year. For spring ball, however, Adkins has been declared to be a “Full Go”.

Otherwise, spring practices will be about which back/backs fit into the new Darrin Chiaverini offense, and which can make a statement before four-star prospect Beau Bisharat hits town.

“Spring football will be huge to see what we do well,” Chiaverini said. “You can’t do everything. The important thing will be to see what we do well, what we have the personnel to do and how can we be most productive on game day”.

And better productivity is certainly necessary …

This past year, Colorado averaged 156.2 yards per game rushing … 86th in the nation.

This past year, Colorado had five different runners with over 100 yards rushing in a game … but four of those five games were posted against either UMass and Nichols. The one 100-yard game against a defense with a pulse was posted by Patrick Carr, who had 100 yards on 19 carries against UCLA.

It was far from a November to remember for the CU rushing attack. The Buffs posted rushing totals of 83 (Stanford), 59 (USC), 85 (Washington State), and 49 (Utah) to close out the season. Some of the deficiencies can be attributed to poor quarterback play, a patchwork offensive line, and/or poor play calling.

But it is also true that the running back corps failed to carry its weight.

The Beau Bisharat era begins this fall.

This spring will be about which running back(s) will compliment CU’s latest “can’t miss” running back prospect.

 

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Quarterbacks

Players lost: Cade Apsay

Seniors: Sefo Liufau, Jordan Gehrke

Juniors: T.J. Patterson

Sophomores:

Red-shirt freshmen: Steven Montez, Tyler McGarry 

Coming this fall: Sam Noyer, Chris Helbig

bold = starter in 2015; italics = non-scholarship player

2015 statistics for returning players:

– Sefo Liufau … 11 games … 214-of-344 (62.2%), 2,418 yards … 9 touchdowns; 6 interceptions … sacked 23 times

– Cade Apsay … 5 games … 59-of-92 (64.1%), 582 yards … 3 touchdowns; 5 interceptions … sacked 14 times

– Jordan Gehrke … 3 games … 12-of-24 (50%), 116 yards … 1 touchdown; 1 interception … sacked four times

What to Watch For this Spring

The first two months of the off-season have been anything but boring when it comes to the quarterback position at the University of Colorado.

Spring practices, however, could be a bit anti-climatic in comparison.

First, let’s take a look at who will not be participating in spring practices:

Sefo Liufau … The starting quarterback for Colorado for much of the past three seasons, Liufau will not be participating in spring practices, and may not be available at all in 2015. Injured during the first half of the USC game in November, Liufau’s future status remains uncertain. CU head coach Mike MacIntyre used the word “serious” no fewer than four times to describe Liufau’s injury during his Signing Day press conference: “I’ve been through six lisfrancs and all of them are different. It’s called lisfranc for a reason, it’s a serious injury … He has a broken lisfranc, that is a serious, serious, serious injury”.

So I guess it’s serious.

Davis Webb … The Texas Tech senior transfer technically is not a Buff just yet. Webb did not sign a Letter of Intent on Signing Day, but a financial aid agreement. While it is doubtful that Webb will be anything other than a Buff this fall, he still has to graduate from Texas Tech in May before becoming a Colorado student in June. Webb is nine credits away from graduating, and, as a result, will be spending this spring in Lubbock, not Boulder.

Sheriron Jones … The former four-star quarterback was a Buff … for about two weeks in January. The Buff Nation was excited about the possibility of having Jones join the team, but Jones decided to return to his first school, Tennessee.  “My job is to work with the whole person,” MacIntyre said.  “Each player is unique and comes with unique needs and concerns.  Throughout the past couple of weeks, Sheriron and I have spent a lot of time trying to sort out his circumstances.  We have concluded that it is in his best interests for him to return to Tennessee.”

Sam Noyer … Noyer is a three-star quarterback who signed with the Buffs this February. Noyer had only a handful of scholarship offers before he committed to Colorado last June. Arizona State, Oregon, Nebraska and Oregon State continued to recruit Noyer even after his commitment, but he stuck with the Buffs. “He’s big, close to 6-4, and he’s been hitting the weight room hard”, said MacInytre of Noyer on Signing Day. “Being able to improvise when the play breaks down, and still look down the field and throw the football is something you saw over and over in his high school films”. Noyer will report to Colorado this summer, but will be enjoying prom and graduation in Beaverton, Oregon, during CU’s spring practices.

So, who’s left?

The only scholarship players who remain at quarterback for Spring practices are senior Jordan Gehrke, sophomore Cade Apsay, and red-shirt freshman Steven Montez.

Both Gehrke and Apsay have had starts at quarterback during their careers in Boulder, so there is at least a book on those two.

As a result, many eyes this spring will be upon red-shirt freshman Steven Montez.

A three-star recruit from the Class of 2015, the 6’5″, 230-pound Montez sat out his red-shirt season last fall, and still has all four years of eligibility remaining. “It’s a huge opportunity for all of us, really, to go out there and show what we have, show what we’ve got,” Montez told the Daily Camera when asked about spring practices. “That’s going to be a great time for competition and just to go out and do the thing we love and play football.”

“Steven is big, strong, athletic and has a big arm,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I think Steven has a good future ahead of him. He just needs to keep getting experience.

“He needs to keep working on all the different attributes of the quarterback position and get more and more well-rounded. That takes time of getting reps and he’s going to get a ton of reps this spring, which is going to help him accelerate that.”

And don’t forget …

Former Air Force quarterback Jaleel Awini saw some action behind center in the season finale against Utah, and may be asked to take some reps this spring. Awini was in for 139 plays as a linebacker last fall, recording 21 tackles. Considering the lack of available bodies the CU coaching staff has on hand for the spring, however, it would not be a surprise to see Awini play some quarterback this spring.

… Okay, so perhaps spring practices will not be anti-climactic for the quarterback position after all …

——

 

25 Replies to “Spring Ball: Position Battles”

  1. Get some contract kickers from days of old to come in as consultants…. like Barry Helton and/or Tom Rouen for the punting and someone who was successful at FG kicking. Perhaps Mason Crosby for a day or two before he has to get involved with the Packers.

    1. As I read it, that coach from Mont. State will be the asst. upon which HCMM will rely to assist with the kickers. Wouldn’t hurt to have some alums “drop by” to offer their advice, though.

      Biggest thing is the infusion of enthusiasm on both sides of the ball, first with Leavitt on “D”, now with Chiv on “O” and Wilson at S&C, there are no excuses left.

  2. I am so psyched about the team, the players, and the coaching changes this year. The Buffs should honestly be better at every single position this year, and they finally have an O line crew that gets you excited rather than scares the beejesus out of you. The only loss was Nembot, and he honestly never lived up to potential. I’m excited to see how this group shapes up, and the offense performs, with them plowing some holes and giving the QB some time…under Chiav’s simplified, but better drilled, offensive scheme. The only question mark on offense is QB. It really sounds like Liufau might have to take the year off, so I see this coming down to Webb, Montez and Apsay…in that order. I liked some of the things Apsay did last year, but I’ve heard several times that Montez was a beast on the Scout team last year and Webb’s credentials speak for themselves. It makes for an interesting Spring battle between Apsay and Montez and a then an even more interesting Fall Camp, when Webb is thrown into the mix.

    Go Buffs!

  3. I find the PPP (Plus Play Percentage) stat very interesting for the O-Line review. The problem is I have no context around what a good PPP is, only what the CU guys did. Can you add some average grades for the Pac-12 or CU opponents, or post where those numbers are found? Thanks, and appreciate everything you do here!

    1. Thanks for the kind words about the website!
      I would love to be able to get a better handle on PPP, but every school has their own way of grading their linemen, so it is really comparing apples and oranges (plus, the grades are very subjective. What you or I may see as a “plus play” – a long gain on a pass play – might be a neutral or minus grade for a particular lineman, if, for example, that lineman missed a block and forced the quarterback to scramble).

      The stats sheet for CU for last year and previous years can be found here. It contains not only the PPP grades for each player, but the highest grade for each lineman during the season. It doesn’t give you insight as to how CU’s linemen stack up against other schools, but it does give insight as to how the coaches perceive the abilities of the team’s players with relation to each other.

  4. Yo Stuart,

    I don’t intend to defend the offensive line play for last year… but I think everyone will find that better play calling will allow the QB to get the ball off faster. Being able to read the D before the ball is snapped is also huge. Not sure if our QB’s (Sefo, that is, before he got hurt) got the proper amount of training there in years past.

    All of a sudden, quick hitting pass plays will open up the running game. This will force opposing defenses to be more honest. The Buffs will score more points, and all of a sudden (again), folks will start talking about how much better the offensive line is.

    It’s all connected, and the offensive coaches last year did not do what was necessary to mitigate the damage. Mac knows that and that is why there are so many changes this year.

    The D is going to be awesome. I’m glad that Leavitt appears to love it here in Boulder. He will be a hot commodity by the end of the year. Tumpkin too. Hope we can keep them.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

  5. I still can’t believe the “reporters” are listing players the KNOW ARE GONE. No stones in journalism will get you surely stuck where you are.

    1. There are reasons why information is not officially disclosed, and why timing must be respected.
      When the school – or the player – announces a change in status, it will be duly noted.
      Good thing I’m not a “reporter” … never have been. Never claimed to be.

    2. Scott errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Doug. Please give us your dissertation on how before signing day all the high ranked JC players had already signed the LOI and were already on campus. I would like to hear it again so I can be humored.

      the “they know are gone” You said you know who they are. Why don’t you put it out there buddy?

      1. Everyone in Boulder and who follows CU knows who they are. Except you. Typical,rule breakers get protected and probably will have the bleeding hearts throw them a parade. Everyone scared stiff of a lawsuit as even though they break the rules, they get more rights than the dedicated, hard working student athletes that adhere to what the rules are. MM and RG didn’t want to disclose the same time the sex assault reports came out, as it could have disrupted our 12th out of 12 recruiting class. They may not give out their stories if posted. As if the two game suspentions last year were kept hush hush all year and swept under a rug. Any Power 5 program would have reported who, what, and where. No question. Gag orders here, no question. Can’t cause a ripple on a successful 2-25 HC, can we? LOL! The inmates run the asylum under MM, no question. We have a HC that checks with the a 2-19 conference starter QB, that just broke a 100 year record of worst win percentage as a starter with 20 or more starts in then Pac, if it’s “OK” to recruit a QB that can lead us to a bowl, for gosh sakes! What a circus.

        1. Sheesh, Scott………….nice cut and paste. You posted that under doug on buffzone. Sorry scott……………….er douggie, but your ol troll loser whiner self just ain’t cutting it. Your hatred for Sefo and Mac2 has made you into a split personality………….with different names……………One problem…………….they are the same personalities doug/scott which means you failed.

          Your hate is not good bub. If you are so concerned about it, pop it out there. I am sure you would get the “whistle blowers” protection and come under the witness protection program. Come on quit beetching and be somebody.

  6. Looking forward to DChiv’s impact on WR’s. For all his ballyhoo, Walters did very little to develop any WR, other than solidify Spruce and Fields.

    Plus, with any portion of the TT “O” inserted, all the WR’s should be looking for the ball. No more dead-eye stares for Spruce alone, when other guys are running free and open.

  7. We also had a great effort at RB last year by Donovan Lee with 49 Carries – 286 Yards – 3 TD’s – 5.8 Yds/Carry – playing “out of position” for injured players. He is naturally a good RB with speed and runs to daylight. With good speed and nice Pass Catching skills he is a nice dual threat out of the backfield. Looking forward to big improvements with all the players in 2016. #GoBuffs #CUin16 #CUin17

  8. Yo Stuart,
    Position battles should be a whole lot more interesting this year with the retooling of the coaching staff. Bernardi is out as O-Line coach, and Klayton Adams is in. Bernardi moves to tight ends and fullbacks. Darian Hagan takes over for running backs.

    Let’s hope Adams can get the O-Line to play together as a team, because they haven’t done it for a while now. I expect Mac will be much more hands on this year as well.

    Excited that Hagan (one of my favorite Buffs ever) gets a chance to back on the field coaching.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

    1. Adkins played as a true freshman and sophomore in 2013 and 2014, so the 2015 season effectively was his red-shirt season.
      He is listed under the CU Letter of Intent Notes as having two years left to play two.

  9. Very excited about the running backs this year. Phillip Lindsay is a fantastic role model for his work ethic and his love for being a Buff. He is the exact right guy for the youngsters to emulate…

    And what a trio of youngsters that the Buffs have. Patrick Carr, Dino Gordon and Beau Bisharat are all 4* running backs. When was the last time the Buffs had three 4* RBs as underclassmen? It’s been a long, long time. Things are looking good in the backfield for several years to come.

    Hoping that Mac gets a RB coach in so that Adams can focus on the tight ends and helping out with the offensive line. And since Chiaverini is talking about streamlining the offense, it should make things simple for the hogs up front to focus on doing fewer things really well instead of too many things at a lower level.

    I’s also hoping that Michael Adkins can finally get a full season without injury. He’s certainly paid his dues.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

  10. Yo Stuart,

    Adam over at Rivals is reporting that QB Chris Helbig has decided to become a preferred walk-on at Colorado. He may have played ball at a 3A school, but watch his tapes. If he can grow his body mass into his 6 foot 4 inch frame, he may turn out to be the surprise of this class in a couple of years. More than 6600 yards and 72 touchdowns against only 16 interceptions his junior and senior year. Plus, he’s a Colorado kid who wants to be a Buff.

    Welcome to the University of Colorado, Chris!

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

    1. I listed Helbig in the roster in the QB spring roster.
      I hope he works out, if for no other reason than to help with the Scout offenses. I do like that there is a Colorado player who would rather pay-to-play at CU than get a scholarship elsewhere.

    1. Hey Rob.

      Lucky for the Mighty Buffs and the fans, the Lindgren offense is dead. It is the Chiv offense……………..

      “………….“It’s been great,” Chiaverini said. “He’s got good energy, he’s a good person and he’s really open to ideas. We’ve been sitting down, going over stuff and we’re getting on the same page……………….”

      Rob, that is a great statement eh? With a couple of word changes it could be what you have said to your best friend (me?) about this blind date you wanted to set them up with.

      Don’t be fooled by the “sweet talking” boy from Texas………….Things have changed…………and for the better……………

      “……..“You can’t do everything. The important thing will be to see what we do well, what we have the personnel to do and how can we be most productive on game day………….” Well there ya go.

      Now isn’t that smart. And you can bet it will be looked at before each game and “customized” to put the Buff players in the best position to win and take advantage of the opponents weaknesses. This “CO” thing is a lot bigger than just the title. Darrin ain’t waiting for nobody…..And don’t forget, Lindgren didn’t ask for this “help”………..he was told he was getting it.

      Go faster………..? You bet.
      Simplified offense..?……….Yup
      TT and CU ran the same stuff?…….heheheheheh…….Darrin is so polite. I guess if ya say tt and CU both passed and ran the football……….well then yup.

      And the most important issue, along with the play design, and overall scheme/plan IMHO for the offense, is what plays are called when and why.

      I am hoping that at some point, and for the first time in a decade, the Mighty Buffs, actually get a REAL OFFENSIVE IDENTITY. A kick arse one. None of that twirppy stuff from the last 3 years.

      Go Buffs……….Buffalo Up…………Uh Oh Buffalo…………..

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