There have been 2 comments, comment now

Depth Chart – A Closer Look (Offense)

Every depth chart comes with a caveat: “Subject to change without notice”. The first depth chart of the Mel Tucker era, issued Thursday, is no exception.

“We’ll go into the season and it’s going to be based on performance who gets the playing time and who doesn’t,” Tucker said earlier this week. “It’s going to be based on production and it’s going to be fluid. We’ll have our starters who will go into the game, our backups — but it’s going to be a compete-every-day situation and earn your playing time. They’ll get what they deserve. You’ll get the playing time you deserve to get by the way you work and the way you prepare and the way you compete every day and get better.”

Tucker expanded on his philosophy at the Front Range Media Huddle on Thursday, saying that he and his coaches would be taking special care of the scout team players. “Once you get into the game planning, and you have your starters and backups – the guys that go to the scout team, you have to make sure you don’t lose those guys”, said Tucker, going on to tell the story of a Georgia freshman defensive lineman who began last season on the scout team, but finished the season as a starter.

That being said, the CU depth chart for the Colorado State game has been released. After nine long months of waiting, the Buffs are about to take the field … and it’s worth a few minutes to see who will be taking the field first …

Offense

Quarterbacks:

  • Steven Montez – Sr.
  • Tyler Lytle – Soph. … or
  • Blake Stenstrom – R-Fr.
  • Josh Goldin – Sr.

Thoughts … It’s not a surprise that Steven Montez is atop the depth chart. Montez is a three-year starter, and, if he stays healthy, is primed to finish his career in Boulder as CU’s all-time leading passer.

And yet, there is intrigue at the position. Earlier this week it was announced that junior Sam Noyer was switching positions, going from quarterback to safety. Noyer, the presumed leading candidate to be the primary backup, will now be tackling for a living, leaving the backup position (and the race for starter for the 2020 starting position against CSU in Ft. Collins) to sophomore Tyler Lytle and red-shirt freshman Blake Stenstrom. It will be worth watching to see which backup enters the game late in blowouts … or if Montez goes down with an injury.

Running Backs:

  • Alex Fontenot – Soph.
  • Jaren Mangham – Fr.
  • Deion Smith – R-Fr.
  • Jarek Broussard – R-Fr.
  • Joe Davis – Fr.
  • Chase Sanders – Jr.

Thoughts ... Both Mel Tucker and position coach Darian Hagan have taken pains to remind Buff fans that there is no front-runner for the starting position. “When you have a number of guys that can play, you take a look at them and see what they do in a game,” Hagan said. “Then when one person gets hot, you ride that horse.”

Fontenot, the only back in the top five who isn’t a freshman, may get the starting nod because he has proven better at the all-around game, including blocking. “He’s gotten really, really good at handling blitzes, understanding what the defense is trying to do, things like that,” said Hagan of Fontenot. “He understands pad level. He understands that you have to go strike a guy and not let him strike you. He’s doing a lot of good things.”

It would not be a surprise, however, to see true freshman Jaren Mangham get some carries against Colorado State. “He’s a smart guy, but he’s still young,” Hagan said. “We have to get him more consistent.”

Once he proves himself capable of handling all aspects of the position, you may see Mangham take over the top spot on the depth chart later this season.

Wide Receivers

(X) Position

  • Laviska Shenault – Jr. 
  • Daniel Arias – Soph.
  • Vontae Shenault – Fr.
  • Clayton Baca – R-Fr.

(Z) Position

  • K.D. Nixon – Jr. … or 
  • Tony Brown – Sr. 
  • Maurice Bell – Soph.
  • Jake Groth – R-Fr.
  • Alex Smith – Fr.

(H) Position

  • Dimitri Stanley – Fr. .. or
  • K.D. Nixon – Jr. 
  • Jaylon Jackson – Soph.
  • Curtis Chiaverini – Soph.
  • Braedin Huffman-Dixon – Fr.

Thoughts … What an embarrassment of riches!  “They’re going to continue to push each other and we have a lot of depth,” said Darrin Chiaverini, wide receivers coach. “We can play a lot of numbers. With guys like Viska, who we know is a great player, K.D., who we know is a great player, Tony Brown, who is a consistent guy who’s going to show up every week, we can go after people. Then when you add guys like Daniel, who can run deep balls, run intermediate routes, and Dimitri —  and they’re fresh — you’re going to wear down some DBs.”

When you think about the CU wide receiver roster a few years down the road, you’ll be looking at Daniel Arias, Dimitri Stanley, and Maurice Bell as potential stars, and all three are playing backup roles this season. Oh, and by the way, that’s not even mentioning Vontae Shenault and Braedin Huffman-Dixon, two of the highest-rated recruits from the CU Recruiting Class of 2019.

Laviska Shenault, if he stays healthy, will live up to is preseason All-American status. What will make the CU offense go, however, is the ability of the other talented wide receivers in the lineup to make plays when Shenault is being double- and triple-teamed by opposing defenses.

Tight Ends 

  • Brady Russell – Soph.
  • Jalen Harris – Sr.
  • Beau Bisharat – Sr.
  • Darrion Jones – Sr.
  • Jared Poplawski – Soph.

Thoughts … Is it a surprise that sophomore Brady Russell is listed ahead of graduate transfer Jalen Harris on the depth chart? Well, yes and no.

For Buff fans hoping that the 2019 will finally be the year that tight ends are utilized in the offense, there was the desire to see Harris, the Auburn transfer, atop the depth chart. After all, Russell played significant minutes last year, but primarily as a blocker.

Fear not. “I would definitely say that the group has taken a step,” coach Tucker said of the tight ends during Fall Camp. “We’re going to use our tight ends and you see them in practice. First and foremost they have to do a great job blocking for us. In the passing game we target all of our tight ends. … We’re going to have three or four guys that we can use in the run game and in the pass game. I’m happy with that position.”

What Buff fans should take from the current depth chart is that Tucker & Co. want to establish the running game at Colorado, and the better blocking tight end (i.e., Brady Russell) is going to be the first player on the field. But … the Buff offense will also use a number of two tight end sets, which brings Harris – and his desire to impress NFL scouts with his pass-catching abilities – onto the field.

Offensive Line

Left Tackle

  • Arlington Hambright – Sr.
  • Frank Filip – Soph.
  • Hunter Vaughn – Jr.

Left Guard

  • Kary Kutsch – Jr.
  • Jack Shutack – Sr.
  • Austin Johnson – Fr.

Center

  • Tim Lynott, Jr. – Sr.
  • Joshua Jynes – R-Fr.
  • Heston Paige – Soph.

Right Guard

  • Colby Pursell – Soph.
  • Casey Roddick – R-Fr.
  • Chance Lytle – Soph.
  • John Deitchman – R-Fr.

Right Tackle

  • William Sherman – Soph.
  • Kanan Ray – R-Fr.

Thoughts … There has been a question throughout the off-season as to whether Colby Pursell, who started every game at center last season, would return to that position. As it turns out, Tim Lynott will be your starting center, with Pursell moving over to guard.

Coach Tucker had this to say about Tim Lynott: “He’s very decisive, he’s tough, mentally and physically and that’s what you want right in the middle of your offense. It all really starts with him. Not just carrying out his assignment, but making the guys next to him better by making the right calls and playing fast. Those are all things that he’s done and he has position flexibility. I feel really good about him at that spot.”

“We have a couple goals,” offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic said of the O-lines priorities in August. “Number one we have to find the five guys that will play together the best and hope that we have at least three backups that can fill in or share time with those guys. In a perfect world you have to have three guards and three tackles and at least two centers. That’s the one thing, finding that combination that works the best.”

The tackle positions appear to be solid, with star-in-the-making William Sherman moving over to right tackle to make room for graduate transfer senior Arlington Hambright (who played for Oklahoma State last season). The only position with a starter who was not a regular in a starting lineup last season is left guard Kary Kutsch. Kutsch, a junior, has been on the field for 12 games in his career (but just 64 total snaps), but will make his first career start against the Rams. Kutsch’s backup, senior Jack Shutack, was on the field for only four snaps last fall.

Overall … Colorado has a wide receiver depth chart which is as good as any in the Pac-12, and is one of the top receiving units in the nation. The running backs have talent, but lack experience, so the 2019 campaign will be one of thrills … and possibly chills. The offensive line has strong starters at four of the five positions. Depth, however, is a concern as the new coaching staff tries to cobble together a decent unit out of a roster which has been a liability for the past few seasons.

As is almost always the case, however, the offense goes only as far as the quarterback takes them. Steven Montez is a fifth-year senior and a three-year starter. If we’re being honest, a quarterback with that much experience should be considered one of the top signal callers in the nation. Instead, Montez is ranked as only the seventh- (Athlon’s) or eighth- (Phil Steele’s) best quarterback in his own conference. Part of that has to do with poor offensive line play. Part of it has to do with how Montez was utilized by the former coaching staff. But also part of it is the inconsistent play of Montez himself.

It’s a new season for Montez and the Colorado offense. If … and it’s a pretty big “if” … the offensive line finds new life under Coach Kapilovic, Colorado has the skill position players to have a very good offense.

Bring on the Rams!

—–

2 Replies to “CU Depth Chart Deep Dive – Offense”

  1. Since Center is a better paying and more desirable position in the NFL, wonder if they gave Lynott the senior the chance to improve is draftability by playing center not guard.

    1. DB, Tucker’s comments don’t sound like that’s the case, sounds like Lynott has stepped up; we’ll see this Friday. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *