Eligibility Chart – A Closer Look (Offense)

Every depth chart comes with a caveat: “Subject to change without notice”. The first depth chart of the Karl Dorrell era will be even more fluid. The coaching staff has had exactly zero practices with this lineup, with all of spring practices having been canceled. With only unit meetings, zoom chats, and weight training to go off of, it’s difficult to imagine a coaching staff trying to sort out a lineup under more difficult circumstances.

Still, after an off-season of nothing but tumult, it’s nice to talk about Colorado taking to the field of play … and it’s worth a few minutes to see who should be taking the field first …


Note bold: projected starter … italics: walk-on


  • Seniors …. Sam Noyer … Dylan Jacob (transfer)
  • Junior … Tyler Lytle
  • Sophomore … Matthew Ryan
  • Redshirt- Fr. … Grant Ciccarone 
  • Freshmen – Brendon Lewis … Mike Chandler

Thoughts … I have devoted an entire Essay to this subject: “Who Will Be CU’s Starting Quarterback?” … which can be found here

Running Backs:

  • Seniors … None
  • Junior … Alex Fontenot
  • Sophomores … Jaren Mangham … Deion Smith … Jarek Broussard … Joe Davis
  • Red-shirt Freshmen … None
  • Freshmen … Ashaad Clayton … Jayle Stacks

It wasn’t quite “running back by committee” last season, with two running backs – Alex Fontenot (185) and Jaren Mangham (107) – getting the bulk of the carries. Fontenot led the team with 874 yards and five touchdowns, with Mangham posting 441 yards and three touchdowns. With both players back, along with their position coach, Darian Hagan, returning, the safe bet is that Fontenot and Mangham will be receiving the bulk of the carries again this fall.

Sophomores Deion Smith, Jarek Broussard and Joe Davis combined for only 29 carries and 81 yards last fall, and will be looking to step up their carries this fall. Smith, however, is already out of the competition, suffering a season-ending knee injury the first week of Fall Camp.

Joe Davis was the first sophomore to make an impression. In the first “pencil” depth chart of the fall, Davis was listed, along with Jaren Mangham, as the co-back up for Alex Fontenot. In the first Fall Camp scrimmage, however, it was Jarek Broussard who impressed the head coach.

“Jarek came in — Jarek’s the one who came in and had a touchdown today,” Dorrell said. “He’s the one coming off a knee (injury), so he did some real positive things that I think are going to boost his confidence that he’s ready to play … We need that depth in the backfield and we’re going to have a good rotation there. I felt like he stuck his feet in the ground and ran in terms of making cuts that you wouldn’t do if you were questioning whether you were that healthy or not.

“Jarek did a really nice job today and it was good to see that his confidence is going to be huge from what he did.”

Smith’s absence could also help pave the way for Ashaad Clayton to see the field as a true freshman. One of the most decorated running back recruits in recent years, Clayton enrolled early, but was not able to get in a spring worth of practices to acclimate to college football. Clayton, however, was a “little bit nicked up with an injury,” according to Dorrell, and did not participate in the first Fall scrimmage.

Wide Receivers:

  • Senior … K.D. Nixon
  • Juniors … Maurice Bell … Jaylon Jackson … Daniel Arias … Michael Byrd, Jr.
  • Sophomores … Dimitri StanleyClayton Baca … Jake Groth … Alex Smith
  • Red-shirt Freshman … Vontae Shenault
  • Freshmen … Brenden Rice … Chris Carpenter … Montana Lemonius-Craig … Keith Miller

This just in … Laviska Shenault is no longer with the team. Shenault decided to forego his senior year, and was chosen in the second round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Shenault led the team with 764 receiving yards, but also was third on the team in rushing, adding another 161 yards. If you read the preseason magazines, the loss of the “dynamic” (Athlon) and “explosive” (Lindy’s) Shenault will cripple the CU offense.

It’s worth noting, though, that there was another significant loss from the roster. Tony Brown had the same number of receptions as did Shenault (56), almost as many yards receiving (707), and more receiving touchdowns (five, to Shenault’s four). Brown wasn’t drafted, but did pick up a free agent contract from the Cleveland Browns.

So, what to make of a wide receiver unit which Athlon rates as the worst in the Pac-12? (Yup, 12th out of 12).

Well, it starts with senior K.D. Nixon, who opted to return for his senior season, rather than try his luck with the 2020 NFL Draft. Nixon, who had 35 receptions for 465 yards and three touchdowns, has taken on a leadership role.

“We are always hungry,” Nixon said. “You know we all come from a high school where we were the number one guy, so we all want the opportunity to be the number one guy this year, but it’s not a competition anymore. We’re just trying to help each other get better and make Colorado known again.”

Of the other returning players, only Dimitri Stanley (29 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns) finished in the top eight on the team in receptions last year. Many fans are looking to junior Daniel Arias to make strides this fall.

And what will be the status of LaVontae Shenault? The red-shirt freshman was arrested July 6th on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving without headlamps at night and a driver’s license violation. All three charges are misdemeanors, but, safe to say, Shenault will begin his CU career this fall with extra eyes upon him.

If any of the above fail to live up to expectations, Brenden Rice, son of NFL Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, could get a chance to play as a true freshman.


Tight Ends:

  • Seniors … Matt Lynch (transfer) … Nick Fisher (transfer)
  • Junior … Brady Russell … Jared Poplawski
  • Sophomores … Luke Stillwell … Jake Peters (transfer) … C.J. Schmanski
  • Red-shirt Freshmen … None
  • Freshmen … Caleb Fauria … Louis Passarello

Stop me if you’ve heard this one … CU is going to place a greater emphasis on the tight end position this season.

Same song, different verse?

Brady Russell, who had 23 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns last season, will be hard to get off of the field. One of the emotional leaders of the team, Russell will lead a unit which includes three transfers and two true freshmen.

“He’s finding his role right now as a leader on the team and on the offense,” tight ends coach Tyler Embree said. “He’s really starting to master the playbook and his technique. He’s what you want. He shows up to work every day and I think with him he can play anything he wants. He’s good at the fullback type stuff, he’s good at route running, he’s good at blocking on and off the line of scrimmage. So he’s exactly what you want in your room.”

It all starts with Russell. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound junior has 14 career starts  under his belt and has become a leader. In particular, Russell believes he can help the Buffs’ trio of inexperienced quarterbacks, Sam Noyer, Tyler Lytle and Brendon Lewis.

“I take a lot of responsibility, absolutely, because it not only reflects on my leadership but I want to be able to lead and bring them down the right path with me since they might not have as much experience on the field and keep their head straight,” Russell said. “I also want to be a big, consistent target for them that they know is going to be sure handed and catch the ball. Or if I’m in pass (protection) then I’m blocking for them, I’m blocking for the running backs, whatever it might be. I need to be consistent because if I’m going to lead I have to play like a leader, too.”

Will Russell & Co. have an impact on the Buffs this season?

To Be Determined.

Offensive Line:

  • Senior … Kary Kutsch  
  • Juniors … William Sherman … Colby Pursell … Chance Lytle … Heston Paige
  • Sophomores … Frank Fillip … Casey Roddick … Kanan Ray … Joshua Jynes … John Deitchman
  • Red-shirt Freshmen … Austin Johnson … Jake Wiley … Valentin Senn … Nikko Pohahau … Dominick Cate
  • Freshmen … Jake Wray … Carson Lee … Gerad Lichtenhan

CU loses two offensive linemen who started every game last season – Arlington Hambright, who started every game at left tackle; and Tim Lynott, who started every game at center. Meanwhile, the Buffs do return two players who started every game at other positions, with Kary Kutsch (left guard) and William Sherman (right tackle) returning. The third player who can be considered as a returning starter is junior Colby Pursell, who had five starts at right guard last fall, but also missed seven games due to injury.

What else can be said about a unit ranked last in the Pac-12 by Athlon (detecting a trend here? Yes, Athlon – which projected a 1-8 Pac-12 record for the Buffs back when there was a full schedule planned, and ranked CU 94th in the nation, had little good to say about the Buffs).

Colby Pursell, who has 17 career starts, will probably slide back to center, replacing the departed Tim Lynott, while William Sherman, who some considered as having the option of leaving early for the NFL, may move from right tackle to left tackle. If Kutsch, Sherman, and Pursell make up three-fifths of the starting lineup, who will be the other two starters? Perhaps two sophomores will take over the right side of the line, with Casey Roddick or Kanan Ray taking over at right guard; Frank Fillip at right tackle.

Sophomore tackle Frank Fillip said at this point, the starting group has included Sherman, Kutsch, Pursell, Casey Roddick (right guard) and Fillip (right tackle). However, sophomore Kanan Ray is competing at guard and tackle and redshirt freshman Austin Johnson at center and guard. Kutsch said that junior guard Chance Lytle has also played well.

“I’ve always said competition is the mother of success,” offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue said after the first week of practices. “If we can create competition, then we’ll get better, for sure. I don’t care if you play guard, tackle, center, we’re gonna play the best five. Until we can recruit the type of people that we want at each position, we’ve got to find the best five, period.

“I think we’ve made some progress,” Rodrigue said. “I think we’ve gotten a little more physical than when we started camp, but we’ve got a ways to go to be ready to play a football game. I’m happy with the progress, but I’m certainly not satisfied. We’ve got to clean up some missed assignments, and I think we’ll be fine.”

At this point, Rodrigue said the Buffs are better at pass protection than run blocking – and that’s not a compliment.

“In my mind it’s a bad thing,” he said. “I want to be more physical. I want to come off the football and create a new line of scrimmage. Any big old fat guy can pass protect, as long as he can stay in front of somebody. That’s easy, getting your IDs, things like that. But I want to get better at the run game.”

Overall … 

It’s been a long eleven months since Colorado ended the 2019 season with a 45-15 loss to No. 6 Utah in Salt Lake City on November 30th. The off-season started on a high note, with memories of the November wins over Stanford and Washington before the Utah game, followed by a strong recruiting Class …

and then …

Well, you know the rest.

With the passage of time, memories fade. The thoughts of three consecutive 5-7 seasons, the loss of a four-year starter at quarterback, and the loss of one of most dynamic players to play for CU in years are replaced by renewed optimism.

The reality?

CU has to replace five starters from an offense which was disappointing at best. The Buffs were 83rd nationally in total offense (9th in the Pac-12) and 100th in scoring offense (10th in the Pac-12). Despite having Laviska Shenault in the lineup, CU scored just 20 touchdowns in 43 trips to the red zone last fall … 122nd in the nation.

Darrin Chiaverini returns for his second stint as offensive coordinator. Finding a quarterback and establishing an offensive identity are Jobs 1 & 2.

On November 7th we’ll find out what the CU coaching staff has come up with …


2 Replies to “Depth Chart Deep Dive – Offense”

  1. I like the idea of coming off the ball and establishing a new line of scrimmage. But is that going to fit Chev’s offense? The air raid uses passes instead of runs, right?

  2. Is it a sign from the gods?….or just a coincidence……that we have 2 names on the team from 49er greats and both are receivers. One is even related to Jerry Rice. The other has a leg up on receiving success from just his name alone….Montana Lemonius-Craig. I have to think its a sign of the gods. Well maybe because I’m a 49er too but obviously in a different way.
    Did you have to give athlon credit by mentioning them, Stu? I wonder where they rank with the other hordes of sports pukes who cant even get the Buff’s roster right.

Leave a Reply

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