Crafting the CU Roster: 2022

In “CU Recruiting: Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight“, posted Friday, we learned that CU created two $20,000 scholarships this past Wednesday. The CAVA scholarships are laudable, even noble.

And yet, the same day CU announced the creation of two $20,000 scholarships, the University of Texas announced the creation of a $10 million slush fund to funnel to its athletes under the guise of Name, Image and Likeness promotion.

Colorado can’t compete for recruits who are looking for a pay out just for breathing, a benefit which more and more schools are going to be offering in the post-Alston era. If a four-star high school recruit has “getting paid” high on their list of recruiting requirements, CU isn’t going to get a sniff.

So, how can Karl Dorrell and his coaching staff put together a roster which can compete in the Pac-12?

Well, there are two remaining NCAA rules which gives schools like Colorado a modicum of a chance to compete:

  • 1) the 85-man roster limit; and
  • 2) the Transfer Portal.

The 85-man roster limit 

USC and Oregon will start, as they have for decades, five-star recruits at quarterback. That much much is a given. That was the same before exploding athletic department budgets and the advent of NIL and paying players, and it will be the same in the future.

That being said, the Trojans and Ducks can only play one quarterback at a time, which means that the other three or four five-star quarterbacks on their roster are going to have to sit and wait their turn … or transfer out. USC and Oregon can be paying their third-string right tackle an unholy amount in NIL money, but if they are not playing, and have any sense of competitive spirit, the opportunity to play somewhere else may outweigh the money they are being paid.

Plus, the rush to overpay players – or just pay players – may not be giving the boosters the return on investment they may have anticipated.

Allow me to introduce Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers, the poster child for the absurdity of college football. 2021.

Ewers, the No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2022 class, decided to skip his senior season of high school, reclassify to the 2021 class, and enroll early at Ohio State. He joined the team this past summer. In August, Ewers signed a name, image and likeness deal with GT Sports Marketing for $1.4 million.

Ewers watched from the sidelines this fall, never played a down … and is now transferring to another school.

Oh, and there is Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler. A betting favorite for the Heisman Trophy in August, Rattler was benched early in the season in favor of freshman Caleb Williams … but not before picking up not one, but two new vehicles (valued at over $100,000), together with one deal with a fast-food chicken chain and another for autographs.

The Pac-12, you ask? UCLA backup quarterback Chase Griffin has received more NIL opportunities than starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

There are 65 Power Five schools, which means there are 65 Power Five starting quarterbacks … with hundreds of other players who believe they should be starting.

Which creates opportunities for schools like Colorado to pick up a quality quarterback.

Not on Signing Day, but through the Transfer Portal.

The Transfer Portal

The Transfer Portal, if used judiciously, can be CU’s salvation.

Here is the list of current pickups by the CU program via the Transfer Portal (with years of eligibility remaining, counting 2021):

2020 – Matt Lynch, TE … UCLA … Gr.-2 1/1
2021 – Robert Barnes, ILB … Oklahoma … Gr. 2/2
2021 – Noah Fenske, OL … Iowa … Fr.-2 4/4
2021 – Jack Lamb, ILB … Notre Dame … Gr. (Soph.-3) 3/3
2021 – James Mott, QB … Chicago … Fr.-3 4/4
2021 – J.T. Shrout, QB … Tennessee … So. 3/3
2021 – Blayne Toll, DE … Arkansas … Fr.-2 5/4
2021  – Max Wray, OT … Ohio State … So.-3 3/3

The Buffs did receive some positive moments from the above list, especially during the Washington game, when three of the four turnovers which the Buffs needed to defeat the Huskies were generated by transfers Jack Lamb and Robert Barnes. Quarterback J.T. Shrout and offensive tackle Max Wray suffered injuries, keeping them from contributing as much as the Buff Nation had hoped.

Overall, though, the list represented an improvement over what CU had coming back from the 2020 roster. According to the 247 Sports rating of CU’s 85-man roster, the three highest rated players on CU’s sideline were … Robert Barnes … Jack Lamb … and Max Wray.

If Karl Dorrell and his staff can pull of a similar upgrade this offseason, there should be applause.

Players see the Transfer Portal as a panacea, a chance to move up (and either play more or get paid more). The number of players willing to cast their lot with the Transfer Portal is reaching dizzying heights … (Side note: Not that you would have seen this story, but the starting quarterback for Montana State, the No. 8 team in the FCS, entered the Transfer Portal on Thursday. The Bobcats’ starting quarterback, two days before MSU’s FCS playoff home game against Tennessee-Martin, left the team. Explain that one to me … Oh, and MSU still won without him, thank you very much).

There will be, if not this year, in years to come, a slowing down of the Transfer Portal.

Just too many players; not enough spots to fill.

Currently, there are 8,350 D1 football players in the Transfer Portal. Now, if you multiply 85 scholarships x 65 Power Five teams, and you get 5,525 available Power Five scholarships.

So, even if every Power Five team booted every player from their existing rosters, there still wouldn’t be enough scholarships to go around for all of the players available in the Transfer Portal.

With very few spots on any given roster, and a number of prospects to choose from, teams which use the Transfer Portal wisely can fill up their roster with higher quality players …

… as long as those players don’t mind not getting paid as much to play.

That being said, there needs to be a tempering of expectations.

Every time a new star player enters the Transfer Portal, the CU message boards light up:

  • Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler? Go get him!
  • Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez? He’s got a good year left, right?
  • Ohio State’s Quinn Ewers? Why not?
  • USC/Boise State’s Jack Sears? CU offered him back in the day
  • Baylor/Utah’s Charlie Brewer? Not good enough for the Utes, but in Boulder?

Any of the above names would send Buff fans over the moon … and CU won’t get any of them.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t quality players out there.

With the way too many players out there for way too many roster positions, so it’s a buyer’s market.

CU, though, can’t afford to make any mistakes. With a Recruiting Class of 2022 currently standing at 16 (with a few more names to be added between now and December 15th), the 2021 roster will need to see more attrition before any more Transfer Portal names can be added.

CU may not be able to pay recruits to come to Boulder, but it can offer the opportunity to compete for immediate playing time.

Let’s hope that’s worth more than cash …


10 Replies to “Crafting the CU Roster: 2022”

  1. HCKD said when he got here:
    Defense (total) is what wins games and what I want
    He has made moves, and the D has improved for various reasons acnd hopefully will continue to greater heights.
    Said he wanted to run the ball with a balanced offense. and I trust him to make the correct choice for OC.

    He gave Cheve a chance to show is stuff as he should have because of who Chev is.
    Time to Up the offense.



  2. So this is funny, too. I almost posted the other day, “what if Karl hired Josh McCown as QB coach?” I didn’t know if he was actively coaching, or not. And either way, not sure I’d be a fan, even though he clearly knows the game very, very well. But? Owen said this: “My family history at quarterback has helped a ton, especially with my dad because he is a freak coach and I can always go to him for anything,” Owen McCown said. “They always give me an honest answer when I ask them anything, and you can’t really argue with anything they say.”

    The full story’s here:

    I really like the kid. I think he’ll be great at CU. As I keep saying, my only concern is he’s a bit skinny. But, if he can take the beating, it’s possible he could actually be that “freshmen to lead them”. Although, I still really doubt Karl goes there. Unless he’s just head and shoulders above the guys already there, and gives them the best chance to win. Then he’ll play him.

    Go Buffs

  3. Despite the growing gap between the haves and the have nots, Id rather be a have not CU fan as opposed to Phil Knight, who has spent over a billion dollars just to win a championship, yet still has the big “0” on their uniform to remind him of the return on his money or number of trophies in the empty case on Oregon’s campus. We have him to thank for the commercialization of college sports, which will ruin it in my opinion. He created the “University of Nike’s Bitch”, AKA UofO, as well as the “NBA Nike’s Bitch” named LeBron, the “NFL Nike’s Bitch” Colin K. Thanks for everything, Phil, enjoyed watching Utah beating you like David slew Goliath, twice!
    Now CU has to find its niche, where we can be the David. Utah has the model, an Oline and Dline that that literally pushed Lang over, then sat on his head, while On the same play, Sami was knocked on his butt, as Rising tossed a pass to Covey for an impromptu TD. We need some better coaching on the oline and dline, perhaps some upgraded players. At one time i heard Utah’s HC say his team’s secret is a balance of 33% islander, 33% African American, and 33% skilled or position specific. Hire an OC or Line coach that has Polynesian connections, lets start there…..

  4. Problem with the transfer portal is those five star recruits who enter aren’t really 5 stars players. They didn’t pan out. USC will recruit 3 or 4 five star QBs and only one will pan out. The best your really getting out of the transfer portal is a middle of the road 3 star. Just look at all the 4/5 star players CU has gotten from the portal. They are all very average players. Players like Hurts, Alabama to Oklahoma are the exception not the rule.

    1. Editor’s Note … 247 Sports reclassifies players in the Transfer Portal.
      For example, Robert Barnes was considered to be a four-star prospect when he signed with Oklahoma, but was re-rated (if that’s a word) as a three-star transfer prospect.

  5. Though I have some concerns about the growing gap between the haves and the have nots in FBS, particularly with NIL, I don’t think it will doom the CU program. There should still be a significant number of players either through direct recruiting and the transfer portal that will consider CU. The university still has “haves” like great facilities and schedules playing stiff competition. Maybe most of them are 3 star players. Well, IMO, that presents the opportunity for a coaching staff to create a culture, coach their players up, and put creative and aggressive schemes in place. An increasing onus on the coaches to get the most out of the team. A lot of past highly rated players haven’t worked out at CU for whatever reasons. Yes, let’s hope for some bigger donors to help with NIL to alleviate some of the pressure it creates but, perhaps too optimistically, I see ways (like Utah has done) for the CU football program to remain competitive. Oregon and Texas have made a lot of news with NIL. Texas has underachieved for years, finished with a historically bad season, and the Ducks were pasted by the Utah squad two out of the last 3 games. Money does matter of course but there are other elements that give me continued hope (peering through my black and gold glasses). Go Buffs!!

  6. So I have been thinking about this a bit and I think it should be possible for CU to at least start playing in this world….. there are a few big donors out there and a host of us smaller donors. Instead of trying to pay out massive NIL deals and going after the #1 qb’s like you said it should be possible to build a small stake of 2 million or so, invest in something like preferred securities that make around 5% and pay out roughly 2 k a year to the top 40 players on the roster…. Every year, and if invested right should grow with inflation. I have never tried to raise money before but it can’t be impossible and I have to think it should be possible….. even with CU’s fan base.

  7. Something overlooked in the transfer portal discussion is the impact to many of the existing players on a team. Imagine choosing a school, paying your football dues for several years, only to see the role you tried to earn go to an incoming transfer. A growing player dialog, this overhanging uncertainty raises the question whether the hard work is worth it. The impact on team development is still unknown, since we are only at the beginning of The Portal.

  8. I am actually guardedly optimistic about CU’s quarterback for 2022. I do think Karl’s OC will fit his run first philosophy. But that won’t matter because they have JT who seems to like this offense, and may be proficient at running it.

    Brendon is one tough kid who did improve over the course of the year. He is a starter who doesn’t want to lose the gig. If he puts in the effort to up his ability to read and react and throw on time, he may actually keep the job.

    Drew? All I got there is that he plays point guard. In dorrell’s vision of offense, the qb is a point guard. Read, react accurately and quickly and distribute the ball.

    Then there’s mccown. If his body can handle the beating, he may have the best qb awareness of any of them.

    Now the o line? That is a mystery to me as to why they were so sievelike this year, and how they improve upon that. Hopefully a combination of Vlachos and better players coming up – whether transfers or already there- does the trick.

    Go Buffs

  9. Karl is operating behind the 8 ball trying to recruit a good QB without:
    1. an OC
    2. an O line coach
    3. a couple of good looking O line transfers which wont be easy either….see #2.
    I surfed the portal back 2 weeks and found one 5 star O lineman from OU and one 4 star from Penn St. Even the 3 stars were few and far between.
    In the other hand there were a plethora of 4 star QBs. Not enough to have one that might be quick to join a team with some of the worst offensive stats in country. A small factor trending any of them to the Buffs is that all of them are looking for someplace they can start. KD will also have to promise them the Buffs will pass a lot more. I hate to use a pundit for any kind of forecast but most that I have read think KD will be looking for an OC who will use a “run heavy offense.”
    Having said that its all a crap shoot anyway. Do you take a QB who was rated 4 stars by the scouting services (who would be coaching if they could find someone to hire them) that is sitting on the bench (very little film)….or one ranked lower that has been starting on another struggling team but showing a lot of moxie in spite of the less than average supporting cast.
    I’m glad I dont have to make the decision but then again I ain’t making 3 mill a year to do it. If I was I would go with the latter. The QB position, more than another, is one for a guy who will show up at game time.

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