Random Thoughts – Volume XX – April 14, 2019

Buff Trivia Question of the Week … Who said the following: “Both sides made plays. We had touchdowns, we had interceptions, we had good tackles, we had good runs.  You don’t want to see one side completely just dominate the whole time. It means the other side might not be what you want.  It looks like there’s a lot of spirited competition out there.”

Random Thoughts – First Spring Scrimmage Edition … 

Without a doubt, spring practice statistics should be taken with a grain of salt.

Realistically, spring practice statistics – with a new coaching staff – should be taken with a truckload of salt.

Spring practices are a time to let every player on the roster to have a chance to prove themselves. Spring practices with a new coaching staff is a time for a clean slate, with every player given a fresh start. It’s also a time of experimentation, both in terms of plays and personnel.

That being said, Buff fans can still try and glean some information from CU’s first scrimmage of the spring, a 94-play event which encouraged new head coach Mel Tucker.

“We’re still not playing as fast and as physical as we need to, but I thought we made a step today,” Tucker said. “The players were serious. They understood this was a big day for us. We’ve been waiting for this day for quite some time to see guys play live football. I thought the attention to detail was there, guys were focusing throughout from start to finish. I thought the execution was solid.”

The statistics from the scrimmage can be found here.

Some thoughts …

Quarterbacks 

The offense had four scoring drives of at least 30 yards, with all three scholarship quarterbacks – Steven Montez, Tyler Lytle, and Sam Noyer – producing points. Lytle is now getting regular snaps with the No. 2 offense as the battle for the backup spot behind Montez is up for grabs, according to Neill Woelk. Lytle got 20 snaps Friday and threw for 116 yards; Noyer took 21 snaps and had 33 yards passing.

Montez, however, has done nothing to lose his No. 1 spot.

“Steven, I like him,” Tucker said. “I think Tyler’s getting better, Sam made some plays. They have a good grasp of the offense and they’re playing with confidence. I feel really good about that group. Jay Johnson has done a phenomenal job with that. There’s really good energy and good poise and composure. They’re better now than they were when we started.”

Montez appears to be settling into the new offense.

“He’s got good poise,” Tucker said. “He’s got good command and he’s very confident. I love the way the ball spins coming out of his hand. He can throw it.”

Running backs

Colorado has produced a 1,000-yard rusher each of the past three seasons, but comes into the 2019 season with no clear-cut front runner for the starting position. The only returning upper-classman, Beau Bisharat, is now a tight end, leaving the competition wide open.

After the first scrimmage … it appears that the race to become the starter this fall remains wide open.

Five running back candidates had at least four carries on Friday, with three of the five scoring touchdowns. The yardage gained ranged from 18 yards to 32, with seven first down carries in 32 attempts.

If you are looking for number of carries as an indication of a front-runner, sophomore Alex Fontenot is your man. Fontenot was the only back with double-digit carries, with 12, going for 30 yards and a touchdown.

Looking for average per carry as the best measure? True freshman Jaren Mangham had only four attempts, but they went for 22 yards and a 5.5/carry average.

If breakaway ability is your yardstick, then take note that red-shirt freshman Jarek Broussard had a 22-yard run and a touchdown, leading the team with his 32 yards on seven carries.

Want a back with a nose for the end zone? Red-shirt freshman Deion Smith had five carries for 25 yards and two touchdowns, including a team-best 18-yard score.

And then there is another true freshman, Joe Davis, who made the most of his four carries, gaining 18 yards and two first downs.

In other words … there were five backs vying for playing time before the first spring scrimmage.

And there are five backs vying for playing time after the first spring scrimmage.

Wide receivers

With Laviska Shenault out for the spring (reports are that Shenault is healing well from his off-season surgeries, and should be a “full go” for fall practices), the question for this spring would be which of the numerous candidates at wide receiver would step up.

Enter Jaylon Jackson.

The sophomore had eight catches for 44 yards last season, but was a star on Friday. Jackson had three catches for 115 yards, including 62-yarder for a touchdown to end the scrimmage. “Jaylon Jackson caught a two-minute, last minute Hail Mary to win the game,” Steven Montez said. “That was a big play today.”

“I feel like I’m having a pretty good camp,” said Jackson, who has been a regular playmaker over the last two weeks of practice. “I’m starting to get healthy and be able to run. Just feel comfortable getting more and more reps.”

Fellow sophomore Daniel Arias also had three catches, his going for 67 yards, including a 47-yard reception.

The other receiving touchdown of the scrimmage came from junior K.D. Nixon, who finished with three catches for 33 yards, including a 20-yarder and a four-yard scoring pass from Steven Montez.

Two other receivers, senior Tony Brown and red-shirt freshman Dimitri Stanley, also had three receptions, with Brown going for 21 yards; Stanley’s going for 17.

Add it all up, and you have five different receivers who all had three receptions at the first spring scrimmage.

Sounds about right, except …

Where are the tight ends?

Granted, you don’t want to tip your hand too much to CU’s upcoming opponents, but this was a closed scrimmage.

Converted running back Beau Bisharat had one catch (for six yards) and Auburn senior transfer Darrion Jones had one catch (for four yards).

We’ll see if the promise of greater tight end inclusion in the offense comes to pass (no pun intended).

— Offensive line / Defensive line

If Colorado is going to be a bowl team in 2019, improvement along the offensive and defensive lines are a must.

Unfortunately, with no outside viewing of the line play, it is difficult to assess how the lines fared, or, in the case of the offensive line, even who played.

The CU rushing attack netted 147 yards on 39 carries during the scrimmage, a 3.8/carry average (the exact same average the Buffs had for the 2018 season). There were four rushing touchdowns (good), but there were also six sacks surrendered (bad).

Overall, there were 86 offensive plays, generating 402 yards, an average of 4.67 yards per play. For those scoring at home, you’ll note that this is almost a full yard behind CU’s offensive attack last year (5.4 yards per play), which was an offense which was often seen as lethargic and predictable.

— Defense 

Well, if the offense didn’t have a great day, then the defense must of had a good one, no?

“The offense, they popped some runs and the defense made some stops in the run game”, said Tucker. “The physical nature in the trenches, we were able to see that in a scrimmage format.”

As noted, the defense generated six sacks. Two from sophomore linebacker Jacob Callier, two from sophomore defensive lineman Terrance Lang, with one each from Trey Udoffia and Nu’umato Falo.

In terms of tackles, linebacker Jonathan Van Diest led the way with eight (six unassisted), followed by fellow sophomore Chase Newman, who had six (four unassisted).

In addition to the six sacks, the defense produced eight quarterback hurries and four tackles for loss.

— Special teams 

There were no kickoffs or punts during the scrimmage, with the only participation from the kicking game coming in the form of extra points and field goal attempts.

Four kickers saw action, with James Stefanou and Evan Price each making their two extra point attempts. James Stefanou made a field goal attempt of 25 yards, while Tyler Francis connected on a 24-yard field goal.

Davis Price was the only kicker who did not have a good day, missing his two field goal attempts (from 42 and 28 yards out).

— Overall

Who knows?

In the first live action of the Mel Tucker era, it appears that there were no major injuries … which is always a good thing.

The coaches and players came away encouraged, which can’t be a bad thing.

Without any outsiders to watch, we’ll take their word for it.

“In terms of the competition and guys straining to finish and extending drives and things like that and making plays, I thought they ran around pretty good today,” Tucker said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the tape.”

Enjoy the tape, coach.

We hope you like what you see.

Buff Trivia Question of the Week … Who said the following: “Both sides made plays. We had touchdowns, we had interceptions, we had good tackles, we had good runs.  You don’t want to see one side completely just dominate the whole time. It means the other side might not be what you want.  It looks like there’s a lot of spirited competition out there.”

Answer: CU head coach Mike MacIntyre, after the first spring scrimmage last March.

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2 Replies to “Random Thoughts – First Spring Scrimmage”

  1. Spring ball is what it is. A time for the coaches to see how the players are responding to what they are teaching. When you make a coaching change, there are a lot new concepts for the players to absorb as well as the players and the coaches getting to know each other and gaining each others respect.It is also a time to compare talent at each at each position and for the players to rise up the depth chart. We will have a better understanding of where this team is on 4/27 @ noon. Then the players will have 3 months to continue to improve and compete for a starting spot.
    Honestly, we really won’t know where this team is at until the first game of the season. Then we will see how much progress the O and D line have made. I feel confident that we have the playmakers on the offensive side of the ball IF the O-line can protect Montez and open some holes for our running backs.
    On the defensive side, we have a solid group of linebackers inside and out. I do think our D-line will be a strength with Musafa and Terrence providing the leadership for that group. We have a BIG ? mark on the back end. Hopefully, with HCMT having been and coached DB’s for decades, this units level of play will make a quantum leap over last years play.
    I just glad there is excitement around the program again after watching our boys implode during the last half of last season.

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