Random Thoughts – Volume VII – January 13, 2019

Buff Trivia Questions of the Week … 1) What all-time CU record did kicker James Stefanou set this past season?

2) Steven Montez leads all returning starters with 23 consecutive starts. What returning Buff has the second-most consecutive starts?

Dante Sparaco …

He’s baaaaack.

The boomerang outside linebacker/defensive end prospect from the Class of 2017 doesn’t tend to stick around in one place for too long.

A Cherry Creek prospect, Sparaco moved to Bradenton, Florida, to attend the IMG Academy for his senior year of high school. When Sparaco moved, the three-star defensive end commit seemed destined to commit to another program, despite his early commitment to Colorado.

Sparaco received a dozen offers from around the country, but ultimately stayed with the Buffs, not only signing early, but enrolling early so that he could be on hand for the 2017 spring practices.

As a true freshman that fall, Sparaco saw action in seven games, mostly on special teams. Sparaco was then listed as second on the outside linebacker depth chart coming out of spring practices last April … when it was announced that he was transferring.

“It was disappointing, especially coming in here in the spring,” Sparaco said at the end of the 2017 season. “I thought I performed pretty well in the spring and thought I had a pretty good shot to play. That’s just football for you. You never know what’s going to happen.”

What happened is that Sparaco transferred to Montana State, an FCS school, so that he could play right away without sitting out. This past fall, for the Bobcats, Sparaco played in ten games, recording 15 tackles (10 solo), with two tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery. For a above average MSU team (the Bobcats made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs, where they ran into perennial power – and national champions – North Dakota State), Sparaco was an above average player.

And now he’s back.

Sparaco announced that he will be back in Boulder this fall, coming in as a walk-on. Boulder will be his fifth stop in five seasons:

  • 2015 – Cherry Creek, Denver, HS junior year
  • 2016 – IMG, Bradenton, Florida, HS senior year
  • 2017 – Colorado, Boulder, freshman year
  • 2018 – Montana State, Bozeman, Montana, sophomore year
  • 2019 – Colorado, Boulder, red-shirt sophomore/junior year

It’s not as if the Buffs don’t need help – and depth – at the defensive end/outside linebacker position. As a walk-on, Sparaco’s presence doesn’t cost Mel Tucker & Co. a scholarship, so there’s no downside at this point.

We’ll just have to wait and see if Sparaco has completed his travels, and has found a collegiate home … or if he will be wearing yet another uniform come the 2020 season.

While we’re talking about MSU and Bozeman … 

Another move at Montana State this week was CU related.

Ty Gregorak, former Buff linebacker, was dismissed after three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Montana State.

Gregorak was previously Montana’s defensive coordinator and spent 12 seasons with the rival Grizzlies. Collectively, Gregorak coached at UM (2003-09, 2011-15), Central Washington (2010) and Washington (graduate assistant, 2001-02).

Last season, MSU was fourth in the Big Sky in total defense (409.2 yards per game allowed), fourth in rushing defense (195.8 yards per game allowed), fourth in pass defense (213.5 yards per game allowed) and fourth in scoring defense (28.5 points per game allowed).

Not bad … so Gregorak shouldn’t be unemployed for long.

Gregorak played for the Buffs from 1996-98.

Attrition … 

Colorado is expected to pick up six-to-eight new players, through a combination of transfers and February signees.

With the team officially at 84 after the December Signing Day (67 scholarship players returning; 17 signees), and an NCAA-mandated cap of 85 players … the math isn’t working.

The short answer to the problem … attrition.

Buff fans are willing to accept the losses of under-performing players, or players who have failed to live up to expectations … but you don’t want to lose a starter.

But that’s exactly what happened, when the starting left defensive end, Israel Antwine, announced he was leaving CU for Oklahoma State.

Antwine’s tweet: “Huge thank you to the University Of Colorado and the amazing people that I met in Boulder … I can certainly say that my life has been enhanced by the experience. For family reasons I have decided to transfer to a University closer to home. I would really appreciate your support of my decision”.

Antwine started his first collegiate game, and was in the starting lineup 11 times (he was injured for the Washington State game). In 457 snaps, Antwine had 16 tackles, and was third on the team with his nine quarterback pressures.

So, it wasn’t a lack of playing time which cost the Buffs the services of Israel Antwine.

If you look back at his recruiting, it appears that Antwine’s decision to head back to his home state of Oklahoma was a combination of “family reasons” (I won’t speculate there) and academics.

The flip from Oklahoma State to Colorado was, in large part, due to the academic support CU offered.

“It wasn’t ‘recruiting stuff’ that drew us [to Colorado],” Antwine’s father, Dwayne Antwine told CUSportsNation last January. “It was the fact that they have an academic support staff there that I have not seen any place else. There is a lady there, her name is Katie Bason, and she helps them get acclimated to college academics and college life.”

But Bason has left Colorado. Bason’s tweet on January 2nd: “I’ll always cherish the 6 years I spent in Boulder and I’m so proud of how we worked to give our football players the love and support they deserve. CU is a special place and I’ll keep it close to my heart as I move on to my next chapter”.

It remains to be seen where Bason lands (perhaps to another school, at a significant increase in salary?), but there is no question that Bason was a significant plus for CU recruiting.

More attrition is coming (some names are “known”, but have not been officially announced).

Let’s hope that there aren’t any other starters on that list.

SChadenfreude … 

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury, who is the premier newspaper columnist when it comes to all things Pac-12, penned a column this week. The title says it all: “The conference needs USC football to get its you-know-what together (UCLA basketball, too)“.

Wilner’s argument is that the Pac-12, in both football and basketball, is in disarray (no argument).

And that the conference needs USC to be a national power for the Pac-12 to be relevant (not so sure I would agree).

Wrote Wilner:

By all means, have a laugh at the Trojans’ expense.

Bask in their chaos, revel in their woes — but only for a minute. Then, get annoyed. Get very annoyed.

SChadenfreude might be the sentiment of choice for constituents of the 11 schools that don’t have seven poll-era national titles and seven Heisman winners, but it only works on the front lines of fan passion.

At the 40,000-foot level, where the conference’s 12 universities are deeply interconnected on matters of policy, brand and revenue, collateral damage is inevitable. When USC football experiences administrative chaos and competitive underperformance, the conference suffers.

I’m not suggesting that fans root for the Trojans in a specific game or against a specific team, or to win a certain number of games. But general competence at USC benefits the collective on matters of money, exposure and respect over the long haul.

I won’t argue the money issue. If the Pac-12 has a major player in the national title race, there is more television money, and the conferences with College Football Playoff participants get much bigger paychecks than do the conference watching the playoffs on television.

It is also true that the Pac-12 is falling behind – way behind – in overall revenue, thanks to its still-yet-to-pay-off wholly owned Pac-12 Network.

But I’m not buying the idea that the conference has to have USC football (or UCLA basketball, for that matter) atop the standings for the Pac-12 to be a part of the national conversation.

Washington was in the playoffs in 2016; Oregon played for the national title a few years before that.

It doesn’t have to be USC in the national spotlight.

As Coach Tucker put it, “Why not CU? Why not us?”

Buff Trivia Questions of the Week … Answers:

1) What all-time CU record did kicker James Stefanou set this past season? Stefanou has made all 64 of his PAT’s as a Buff. The career record for consecutive PAT’s made to start a career was 43, set by Neil Voskeritchian, in 1994; 

2) Steven Montez leads all returning starters with 23 consecutive starts. What returning Buff has the second-most consecutive starts? A trick question, of sorts. Only Montez has a consecutive start string dating back to the 2017 season. Three Buffs had their first career starts against CSU last season – center Colby Pursell; defensive end Mustafa Johnson; and linebacker Nate Landman. Each will carry a streak of 12 consecutive starts into the 2019 season.


One Reply to “Random Thoughts – Vol. VII”

  1. After Wilner ruining my quiet Sunday morning coffee interlude, thanks for picking me back up Stu.
    “Why does it have to be USC?” indeed. Wilner must think he is the USC of pundits. He basically spit on every other team on the conference. It sounds like he really isnt worried about the conference health overall.
    This whole attitude is why I am gradually losing interest in college football. I will switch the channel to golf and see if I can spot VK in the gallery before I will tune in Notre Dame, Ohio State, Clemson etc and any SEC team with the exception of Kentucky who I admire from coming out of the ashes and making some noise. The only time I might tune in USC is when they are playing the Buffs, at least until the Buffs fall behind by 40, or any other conference team that has a chance to beat them.
    Sure Wilner….as a Buff fan I will worship USC for getting all the best players and kicking the crap out of everyone else in the conference and I will hang on ever word your overstuffed mouth has to say.

Leave a Reply

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