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Post-Spring Depth Chart: Offense

The University of Colorado Post-Spring Depth chart can be found here (scroll down to page 14).

Will this be the depth chart for the home opener against Colorado State on August 30th? Certainly not. There are players returning from injury (e.g., Laviska Shenault) and transfers (e.g., offensive tackle Arlington Hambright) who are expected to be starters for the Buffs this fall.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look at how the depth chart has evolved since Mel Tucker became CU’s head coach in December, and what we might glean from Post-Spring Depth Chart …

Quarterbacks

Starter: Steven Montez, Sr.

Backups: Tyler Lytle, So.; Sam Noyer, Jr.; Josh Goldin, Sr.

Injured: Blake Stenstrom, R-Fr.

Coming this fall … N/A.

Comments ... That Steven Montez is listed as the starter comes as no surprise. A three-year starter at the position, Montez set 14 individual records last year, including one which surprised me – lowest interception percentage in a season (.023 – 9 in 399 attempts, breaking his own record of .024 set in the 2017 season). Montez is fourth on the all-time list in passing yards at Colorado (6,841), and, with even a decent senior season, will pass Sefo Liufau (9,568 yards) as CU’s all-time leading passer.

Still, Montez is not without his critics … including himself.

“Good and bad,” the senior quarterback said of his performance in the Spring game (23-of-44, 287 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions). “That’s how every spring game I’ve had has been. It’s been not too great, not God-awful, but not really good.”

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson didn’t sound too concerned over the performance of his senior, who has been sharp most of the spring.

“He was fine,” Johnson said. “He maybe missed a few early ones, but that isn’t always him, and then just made a couple decisions at the end which weren’t great. Other than that, he was fine.”

CU’s other quarterbacks — junior Sam Noyer and sophomore Tyler Lytle — played well for the Gold squad. Noyer went 13-for-15 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, while Lytle went 7-for-10 for 119 yards and a touchdown.

“I think they’ve really progressed,” Johnson said of the Buffs’ quarterbacks. “I’ve asked them to do a lot of different things and I think they’ve come a long way. A lot of it is communication and understanding the wholeness of what we’re trying to do and get everybody on the same page. I think from when we first started to day 15, we’ve done that.”

What was a little surprising in the post-spring depth chart is that junior Sam Noyer did not displace sophomore Tyler Lytle as the primary backup. Most fans thought that Noyer had the better of it during the Spring game … but that was the only one of CU’s 15 spring practices which Buff fans were allowed to observe.

Running Backs 

Starter: Alex Fontenot, So.

Backups: Deion Smith, R-Fr.; Jaren Mangham, Fr.; Jarek Broussard, R-Fr.; Joe Davis, Fr.

Injured: Chase Sanders, Jr.

Coming this fall … N/A.

Comments … After two scrimmages in which none of the candidates to replace Travon McMillian distinguished themselves (at least statistically), there was a breakout star during the Spring game.

True freshman Jaren Mangham, a four-star recruit from Detriot, Mich., led all rushers with 12 carries for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Deion Smith had 15 carries for 60 yards, with Joe Davis contributing 59 yards on nine carries.

The nominal starter, both before and after spring drills, however, is Alex Fontenot, who had 34 yards on nine carries during the Spring game.

“You see a lot of potential — and a lot of inconsistency,” running backs coach Darian Hagan said of his players, all of whom are underclassmen since junior Beau Bisharat moved over to the tight end position. “Guys are trying hard, they’re playing fast, they’re doing everything I’m asking them to do, but they have to be more consistent.”

The running back position will remain an open competition into the fall, and perhaps well into the season.

“I have to be more demanding, but you can’t get down on them, either,” Hagan said. “You have to teach the little things and show them that the little things matter when it comes to the big picture. They haven’t played a lot of football so you have to just continue coaching them up.”

Wide receivers

X-position

Starter: Tony Brown, Sr.

Backups: Daniel Arias, So.; Jake Groth, R-Fr.

Z-position

Starter: K.D. Nixon, Jr.

Backups: Maurice Bell, So.; Clayton Baca, R-Fr.; Alexander Smith, Fr.

H-position

Starter: Dimitri Stanley, R-Fr.

Backups: Jaylon Jackson, So.; Curtis Chiaverini, So.

Injured: Laviska Shenault; Jr.; Dylan Thomas, R-Fr.

Coming this fall … Braedin Huffman-Dixon, Fr.; Tarik Luckett, Fr.; Vontae Shenault, Fr.

Comments … News to absolutely no one: Laviska Shenault will be a starter this fall. The best player on the CU roster, and arguably the best player in the Pac-12, Shenault has been placed in the top ten of many 2020 mock NFL Drafts. Barring any issues with his recovery from off-season surgeries (and none have been reported – Shenault even dressed and participated in some drills during the Spring game), Shenault will be a starter against Colorado State.

After that?

Tony Brown and K.D. Nixon certainly have seniority, and the pair were No. 2 and No. 3 behind Shenault in receptions last fall (Shenault had 86 in his nine games, while K.D. Nixon had 52 and Tony Brown 32 … NFL Draftee Juwann Winfree had 28). That being said, sophomores Daniel Arias (seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns) and Maurice Bell (six receptions for 129 yards and a score) and red-shirt freshman Dimitri Stanley (seven receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown) made names for themselves during the Spring game.

For now, the younger players are just trying to get playing time whenever it becomes available.

“Wherever I can help my team out is where the best fit is for me,” Dimitri Stanley said. “I think I can play inside or outside. The slot right now is where I think I need to be, and where the coaches think I need to be, and where I can benefit the team the most.”

The wide receiver positions are loaded … and that’s before three highly-regarded freshmen: Braedin Huffman-Dixon; Tarik Luckett; and Vontae Shenault, make it to campus this summer.

Tight Ends

Y-Position

Starter: Jalen Harris, Sr.

Backups: Darrion Jones, Sr.; Derek Coleman, Jr.

H-Position

Starter: Brady Russell, So.

Backups: Beau Bisharat, Sr.; Legend Brumbaugh, So.; C.J. Schmanski, R-Fr.

Injured: Jared Poplawski, So.

Coming this fall … N/A.

Comments … Okay, let’s start with the concept that the University of Colorado there is a depth chart with not only one, but two tight end positions.

(Okay, so the depth chart has a total of 12 starters, including three wide receivers and two tight ends … but still!).

Safe to say that Mel Tucker’s talk about involving the tight ends in the offense is more than just talk.

For graduate transfer Jalen Harris, used primarily as a blocker at Auburn, having the opportunity to catch the ball was one of his primary reasons for coming to Colorado.

“That was my whole reason for transferring,” Harris said. “I knew my ability. I know I can catch the ball and I have good hands. It’s just a matter of repetition now and practicing and getting that timing down with Steven (Montez).”

“He’s starting to come around,” said CU tight ends coach Al Pupunu of Harris. “When he was at Auburn, he was more of sniffer (H-back) type of guy. Now we’re putting him out to play some real tight end. He’s starting to grab some concepts so that’s a positive thing.”

It would be news if Harris was the only story behind the resurgence of the tight end position in Boulder. Another clear sign of the renewed importance of the position was the move of Beau Bisharat from running back to tight end. A senior, Bisharat was the lone returning upperclassman at the running back position, and would have been considered to be a favorite to replace Travon McMillian as the starter. Instead, Bisharat has cast his lot with the tight ends, a position which not only includes Jalen Harris, but potential stars in Brady Russell, Jared Poplawski, and Darrion Jones.

Pupunu, who played nine years at tight end in the NFL (Chargers, Chiefs, Giants and Lions) has seen his group improve their receiving skills in the spring, as well as continue to develop the technique necessary to play a position that also requires blocking skills.

“What I really like is we’ve got good competition,” he said. “We’ll come back in the summer and get better, then see where we are in the fall.”

Offensive Line

Left tackle

Starter: William Sherman, So.

Backup: Hunter Vaughn, Jr.

Left guard

Starter: Kary Kutsch, Jr.

Backups: Casey Roddick, R-Fr.; Brett Tonz, Sr.; John Deitchman, R-Fr.

Center

Starter: Tim Lynott, Sr.

Backups: Heston Paige, So.; Joshua Jynes, R-Fr.

Right Guard

Starter: Jack Shutack, Sr.

Backups: Va’atofu Sauvao, Jr.; Chance Lytle, So.

Right Tackle

Starter: Frank Fillip, So.

Backups: Kanan Ray, R-Fr.; Austin Johnson, Fr.

Injured: Colby Pursell, So.; Jake Moretti, So.

Coming this fall … Arlington Hambright (graduate transfer); Nikko Pohahau, Fr.; Valentin Senn, Fr. Jake Wiley, Fr.

Comments … If you look at the post-spring depth chart, and look at the starters as listed, your first thought might be: “Yikes!”.

The Buffs are not very deep along the offensive line, and, if last year’s sacks allowed (106th in the nation) and tackles for loss against (127th out of 129 FBS teams) statistics are any measure, not particularly talented.

“So far, we’ve had some really good moments,” offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic said of his players’ efforts this spring. “We’ve had some good plays and some good periods — but then we’ll take a step back. Part of that is youth, part of that is learning a new system, part of it is me shuffling guys around, and part of it is those guys having to understand that they have to play every play like it’s fourth down and the game’s on the line.”

While the depth chart may look weak right now, come August it may have a better look. Oklahoma State transfer Arlington Hambright is being counted on by many Buff fans to come in and assume one of the starting tackle positions. Combined with the talented Will Sherman, the tackle positions take an immediate step up.

The center position will either be manned by Tim Lynott, who has spent the spring there after playing guard last fall, or by Colby Pursell, who started all 12 games at center in 2018. Whichever player becomes the starting center, the other becomes a candidate to assume one of the starting guard positions.

That leaves only one starting guard position to be filled. Brett Tonz, currently listed as a backup at left guard, started six games at that position last fall. If Jack Shutack or Kary Kutsch are playing well enough to displace a returning starter … so much the better.

Offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic spent most of the spring shuffling players around, but with a purpose other than desperation to find a starting five.

“One thing about spring practice is you don’t have to get a loss,” Kapilovic said. “You can move guys around and ultimately what you’re doing is building depth for the fall. Say a kid has to move from tackle to guard in a game. Well, he did that before. He’s going to know what he has to do and it’s not going to be something completely new to him.”

The ability to create holes for untested running backs, and the ability to give time to Steven Montez to find his talented receivers, will be a key for the Buffs this fall. Colorado will only go as far as its offensive line can carry it.

For now, Kapilovic likes what he sees.

“Maturation and just understanding we have to be more consistent,” he said of his goals for the remainder of the off-season. “That’s what we have to work on. The best O-lines are consistent. They may not be the most talented, they may not be the biggest — but if we’re consistent, we’ll have a chance.”

Overall … To the preseason magazine writers, who may use the post-Spring depth chart as their guide for reviewing the state of the CU offense, it’s a mixed bag to be sure.

There is a three-year starter at quarterback, but a three-year starter with a losing record (12-15). There is plenty of talent at wide receiver, but a dearth of experience at running back. There are now tight ends on the roster, but no track record of using them. The offensive line is being held together with baling wire, duct tape … and crossed fingers.

Buff fans know that there are reasons for optimism when it comes to the Buff offense for the 2019 season … but there are also warning signs.

“Everybody in America right now is working to get better,” head coach Mel Tucker said as spring practices came to a close. “Everyone’s in the same boat. We have to make the most of each and every opportunity we have when we work out and when we meet. You can make a lot of strides in the summer and we plan to make a huge move this summer.”

Fingers crossed …

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2 Replies to “Post-Spring Depth Chart: Offense”

  1. And as a forgotten Note: When the new receivers arrive it will be interesting to see where lil chev ends up on the depth chart.

    Buffarama

  2. Nice Stu…………….

    Well they had 12 positions on offense last year as well. The difference is the “H” (the position Jay started at is now a Tight end position. Don’t worry with that WR depth one could find 4 and five of them on the same time. I do like the TE deal a lot. Gawd I hope it works. Tizzy time.

    It is interesting to note on the offensive depth chart there are 8 seniors (9 when Hambricht comes in) and of those 9 7 those are classified as 5th year seniors or grad students.. Of these 9, 87 are in the 2 deep as of today …Include Hambright

    On the total depth chart (more than two listed ) there are
    9 seniors
    6 juniors
    12 sophmores
    9 RSF
    4 frosh

    ist and 2nd team only no including hambright or injured
    sr…7
    jr…4
    soph 9
    rsf ..3
    f 1

    so here ya have it.

    One interesting note as compared to previous years a players name is only listed once where as in the past you could see receivers and oline guys listed at more than one position.

    This looks much better. Depth is better. Coaching will make the difference.

    Buffs.

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