Countdown to Spring Practices – Tight Ends

Note … This is the sixth in a series of unit-by-unit spring previews. A new unit will be previewed every few days over the next month, leading to the start of spring practices in late March. The wide receivers preview will be posted next …

Previously posted … 

The Roster … 

bold = returning starter … italicized = walk-on … *= early enrollee (in school for spring practices) … TR … Transfer …

— Tight ends (7):

  • Seniors … Matt Lynch … Nick Fisher
  • Juniors … Brady Russell … Jared Poplawski … Nico Magri
  • Sophomores … Luke Stillwell … C.J. Schmanski
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Alec Pell
  • True freshmen … Caleb Fauria … Louis Passarello
  • 2021 Signees … Erik Olsen*

The Stats … 

This won’t take long … 

Here is the full list of catches made by CU’s 1o roster tight ends in the 2020 season:

  • Brady Russell … five catches for 77 yards, with one touchdown, a 12-yarder against UCLA (Sam Noyer’s first touchdown pass);
  • C.J. Schmanski … three catches for 14 yards
  • Matt Lynch … two catches for 7 yards

Nationally … 

  • Red zone offense … .913 (21-of-23; 17 touchdowns; four field goals) … 14th nationally
  • Rushing offense … 212.3 yds./game … 23rd nationally
  • Third down conversion offense … .427 (41-of-96) … 48th nationally
  • Total offense … 413.8 yds./game … 48th nationally
  • Scoring offense … 28.5 pts./game … 63rd nationally
  • Passing offense … 201.5 yds./game … 87th nationally

Comments … Seven scholarships is a big number for a unit which produced a total of ten catches for 98 yards this fall (and that includes five catches by walk-ons Matt Lynch and C.J. Schmanski). Brady Russell was injured in the second game of the season, and after he went out, the tight end position left the passing offense. CU fans have been waiting for production from this unit for over a decade (the last time a CU tight end had over 30 catches or over 400 yards in a season was in 2009, when Riar Geer had 36 catches for 402 yards).

The running game was aided by the play of the tight ends, and the four preferred walk-ons – Matt Lynch, Nick Fisher, Nico Magri and C.J. Schmanski – all contributed. But … it was another season when the CU tight end position was not a serious threat to opposing defenses.

Will this be the year that the tight ends are a vital part of the Colorado offense?

Perhaps that’s not as much of a punch line as it has been in year’s past. Before Brady Russell was injured in the second game of the season, the CU offense seemed to be paying more attention to the tight end position. Russell is a team leader, and was an enthusiastic presence both on the sideline and in the huddle. He will now be joined in the tight ends room by a pair of heralded freshmen – legacy Caleb Fauria and one of the highest-rated recruits from the Recruiting Class of 2021, Erik Olsen.

On the downside, CU is replacing its tight ends coach, and it may not be the best tradeoff. Taylor Embree, son of CU legend and former head coach Jon Embree, left after one year to be an assistant coach in the NFL. His replacement is Bryan Cook, who spent the last two seasons in Boulder as CU’s quality control coach for the defense. Cook has never coached tight ends before.

So … during spring practices, 2021, it will be worth keeping an eye for news concerning the tight ends. How well will Bryan Cook handle his first season coaching tight ends? Will Brady Russell become a dominant force? Will the other tight ends on the roster step up and make names for themselves (or will there be attrition on the roster come May)?


2 Replies to “Countdown to Spring Practices – Tight Ends”

  1. Clearly tight ends and tight end usage has been an issue.

    One could harbor some sentiment that perhaps the offensive scheme is part of the problem.


  2. I heard a stat from Bryan that the tight ends after Russell had more drops than catches. That will lead you away from throwing to them. I am a bit worried about going from someone who at least played the position to someone who has not though….

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