Spring Practices … First Look: Running Backs

Program Note … Spring practices will begin February 16th (Spring Game: March 17th). Leading up to spring ball, previews will be posted for each unit of the 2018 Colorado roster.

Previously posted: QuarterbacksWide ReceiversTight Ends/FullbacksUp next: Offensive Line

The roster: 

Players lost (with 2017 season stats) … Phillip Lindsay (50 career games; 30 starts … 1,474 rushing yards; 14 touchdowns … 23 receptions; 257 yards; one touchdown) … Michael Adkins (32 career games; four starts … 11 rushes; 25 yards … one reception; four yards) … Tanner Grzesiek (walk-on; no stats)

RUNNING BACKS (7 scholarship):

Seniors: Kyle Evans; Donovan Lee; Travon McMillan (transfer)
Juniors: Beau Bisharat
Sophomores: none
Redshirt freshmen: Alex Fontenot
True freshmen: Jarek Broussard; Deion Smith

The stats (2017):

Beau Bisharat … Played in all 12 games … 21 carries for 61 yards; one reception for six yards … Led the team in special team points, with 29, including nine unassisted tackles (no other player had more than four)

Kyle Evans … Played in eight games … Two carries for two yards … one reception for six yards … one special teams point (one tackle)

Donovan Lee … Suffered a broken ankle during spring practices, missed the 2017 season … Had 28 carries for 97 yards in ten games during the 2016 season

Travon McMillan … Played in 12 games, with eight starts, for Virginia Tech … 104 carries for 439 yards and two touchdowns … 12 receptions for 173 yards and three touchdowns




Two words which often define a successful team.

They are intangibles, and they can’t be bought or falsely created.

The 2016 Colorado football team had it.

The 2017 Colorado football team did not.

Sefo Liufau, the quarterback for the 2016 Pac-12 South championship team, is back in Boulder to earn his degree, having retired from football after the 2017 season. Liufau was asked by Brian Howell from the Daily Camera about the current team, and what Liufau had to say was telling:

“I don’t know if there’s a whole lot of leadership in that team right now,” said Liufau. “There’s a lot of new faces, I’ve heard; a lot of new JUCO kids; a lot of kids that I’ve heard through the grapevine that feel like they’ve accomplished something based off of what we did as seniors (in 2016). If that’s the mentality they’re going to have, they’re not going to be successful, and that’s kind of worrying to me. The biggest thing is leadership, and it can’t be a coach. A coach can only do so much for a team. It has to be the players.”

With the departure of Phillip Lindsay – and his 24 school records – there was a known void in the backfield heading into the 2018 campaign. Lindsay led the nation in rushing attempts in 2017, with 301, leaving precious few carries for his backups.

Spring football, 2018, was to be about who would take over as the leading rusher for the Buffs:

Beau Bisharat was third on the team in rushing last season (behind Lindsay and quarterback Steven Montez). As a sophomore last season, Bisharat earned his stripes leading the team in special team points. At 6’2″, 215-pounds, Bisharat is more of a bruising back (a la Lawrence Vickers) than what Phillip Lindsay (5’8″, 190-pounds) brought to the lineup;

Kyle Evans (5’7″, 175-pounds), a senior this fall, is more in the Lindsay mold, and had the 2018 season to look forward to as his chance to step into the spotlight;

Donovan Lee (5’9″, 180-pounds), another senior to be, spent last fall practicing with the team, but knowing that he was taking the year off after breaking his ankle last March. The move made sense. If Lee took the field in 2017, it would have been in a limited role, wasting his senior season. The red-shirt season gave Lee the chance to be a star in 2018; and

Alex Fontenot (6’0″, 190-pounds) a true freshman in 2017. Spring ball, 2018, was to be his first chance to make his pitch as CU’s next great running back. Fontenot rushed 91 times for 642 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior in high school, averaging 7.1 yards per carry, and there were many Buff fans who believed the 2018 season would be his grand introduction to the college football world.

It was shaping up to be an interesting spring … and it still will be.

Except for the fact that the above players, in addition to knowing that two true freshmen Jarek Broussard and Deion Smith were joining the team this summer, now have an all-new specter hanging over the Champions Center.

Travon McMillan.

The Virginia Tech senior transfer will be graduating as a Hokie this spring, becoming a Buff this fall. McMillan won’t be on campus for spring practices, but his name will often be mentioned.

McMillian played quarterback in high school before moving to running back at Virginia Tech. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored eight touchdowns during his red-shirt freshman campaign in 2015. After Frank Beamer retired, the past two seasons, McMillian received less carries in Justin Fuente’s by-committee tailback system, prompting the move to Boulder.

McMillan rushed for over 2,000 yards in his three seasons at Virginia Tech, and, as they say, you don’t bring on a senior graduate transfer to ride the bench.

So, how will the spring play out for the running backs currently on the roster?

Will the seniors – Donovan Lee and Kyle Evans – fight to show that they deserve the carries this fall, newcomer be damned? Or … will they assume that the writing is on the wall, and sulk into the background (it’s worth mentioning that Donovan Lee is on pace to graduate in May, and could transfer to another school if decided to choose a path similar to the one McMillan is taking).

Will Beau Bisharat, the heir apparent at starter, take the courting of Travon McMillan as a challenge to be met? … Or as a slight?

Chemistry … and leadership.

The 2016 CU team, which finished 10-4, had both in spades.

The 2017 CU team, which finished 5-7, was lacking in both categories.

Phillip Lindsay is taking with him to the NFL not only his talents, but his leadership.

This spring will be an interesting test for the running back corps. Not only to see which back has the most talent, and is most likely to be atop the depth chart heading into Fall Camp.

But also whether there is chemistry in the unit, and whether a leader might emerge.


16 Replies to “Spring Ball First Look: RB’s”

  1. Spring ball first look.

    Always liked this little series you do.

    You gonna do a final one right?

    Spring Ball First Look: Coaches


    Note: Just looking at my Cu At The Game hat. Between coffee blasts Good looking hat.

    How many of you bums own a Cu At The Game hat e?

    Note 2: Someday I’ll tell ya all the story how Stu came in hard (looking for readers) on the BuffZone and someone I know jumped his arse about all the “little Trackers” on his site.

    Note 3: Okay back to turbo-tax Gotta get it knocked out

    1. turbo tax? I figgered a guy with your means would have half an accounting firm working fulltime.
      We finally have a D line coach. Stu may have been waiting for that part of the roster to be filled out

      1. Don’t trust bankers or accounting firms. Especially bankers. Always want more and give less. i.e. The Earache hisself.

        Turbo tax is a blast. Enjoy it. The guys who did this did a nice job. Don’t know if I ever mentioned my accounting and statistics background and that would be of course in addition to my dynamic personality which allowed me to excel in the executive sales ranks, where the money is to be made.

        Anyway I like this guy………..new blood………..young blood………..

        1. My wife just told me to “Shut Up” and stormed outta my office. So there ya go.

          Hey I’m like Stuart…………”My office and I decide how it is played in here”

          Always considered to be the “OutRider”

          A story. Once a long time ago in a faraway job where I was starting off in a low level position I saw some stuff I didn’t agree with being done by some coworkers. Hey I stepped up and made it known Caused some issues. Boss called me in and said.

          “You’re right, I know you’re right but you aren’t in charge here”

          What a great teaching moment eh………………

          So until this day……………………..I still continue to speak what I believe regardless if the person is one who thinks they are, wants to be, or is in charge. So there is that.

          Cost me some stuff………..made me some stuff…….

          Oh well Now you know the rest of the story.


          1. Gentlemen … any chance you could use this forum to discuss, oh, I don’t know … CU athletics?

            The management

  2. Even when Phil was around the RB position behind him was subject to some drama.
    I sure would like to have the inside story on the Borghi negotiations. Was there a Leavitt type personality conflict with Mac? I have an “e”nquiring mind that wants to know. I know earache (good one VK) will be rooting for the beavers to stick 45 or more on the Buffs to prop up his ego but I have a feeling Max may haunt the Buffs more.
    Also like to hear a candid assessment by Hagan of what he has seen so far from Fontenot. Alex thinks a lot of himself but thats not always a bad thing. I liked what I saw in his high school hilites.
    I have to go with Howell in his chat today when he said he hopes Mac isnt stifling some of the young talent by plugging perceived holes with transfers.
    Too bad we didnt have enough comfortable leads last year to give Bisharat more carries. Seems like the few times he did get in his number was called immediately up the middle…something I’m sure the DC was expecting, and then yanked after he only got a couple. The guy needs a chance to get in a rhythm and gain some confidence.
    None of these guys will make much of a difference if the O line doesnt improve. I am hoping the combo of more diverse play calling together with improved blocking schemes to go along with it benefits the big uglies (there ya go Keith).
    Start McMillan if you have to. He has that “overwhelming advantage” of experience but dont ignore what else might be cookin. If no one else gets any development do we go for another grad transfer next year?
    I doubt if Mac ever goes into a bar but maybe this ignorant arm chair QB will stalk some of his assistants that do with free drinks until…..the info flows 🙂

  3. Again from Rivals.

    Chiaverini: “I think Jarek Broussard is probably one of those guys because he’s such a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. He can play running back; he can play receiver. He’s really got some natural ability. Deion Smith is also a guy that can take it to the house any time you give him the ball. I’m really excited about those two guys. They really fit what we were looking for at the tailback position and they’re both explosive players. I’m really, really excited about getting those guys in our offense.

    Good job Stu. Seemed a little shorter than the others eh?

    Really hoping that tranfer has the goods.

    1. It’s all guesswork at this point, and probably will continue to be guesswork throughout the spring, as it is likely that we will have little to no access to practices.
      With a quarterbacks coach being replaced by an offensive line coach at co-offensive coordinator, you could speculate that the run game will be more of a focus. That being said, Phillip Lindsay did have a 1,400-yard season last year.
      It wouldn’t be a surprise if the CU offensive attack is largely kept under wraps until September 1st …

    2. Chev says in rivals

      What did you think about the hire of Kurt Roper and how is working with him so far?

      Chiaverini: “It’s been really good. He’s obviously a proven play caller that has been in this business for a long time. It’s good for me too because I can bounce ideas off of him. At the end of the day, it’s going to be my decision of what we’re going to do, but it’s good to have someone there that’s been through it. That’s important and he’s made a name for himself working with his development of quarterbacks. I’m excited. He has a really good personality and we mesh well. I look forward to working with him.”

      This says to me that “I am in charge” Roper will focus on qb’s.

      And he said the focus will be up tempo not just fast but uptempo.

      He will want that running game to work to make his pass game work. It will look different though on types of running plays……….Better……..At least I hope so.

      Damn I want the O to be what they said they were gonna be last year…………not what they ended up being.


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