Fall Camp Roster Review – Running Backs

Previously Posted …

The Roster …

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

  • Seniors … none
  • Juniors … Alex Fontenot
  • Sophomores … Jarek Broussard … Deion Smith … Joe Davis
  • Red-shirt freshmen … none
  • True freshmen … Ashaad Clayton … Jayle Stacks … Charlie Offerdahl
  • 2021 Signees … none

The Stats … 

Hard to post impressive stats in a five-game season (CU doesn’t count bowl statistics in year-end numbers), but there are some clues as to how the 2021 season might play out in reviewing the 2020 numbers:

  • Jarek Broussard … 129 carries for 813 yards; three touchdowns; seven catches for 52 yards … Pac-12 Offensive Player-of-the-Year
  • Sam Noyer (QB) … 45 carries for 191; five touchdowns
  • Jaren Mangham … 23 carries for 35 yards; two touchdowns; one catch for 10 yards
  • Joe Davis … 16 carries for 29 yards; one catch for 4 yards
  • Ashaad Clayton … 7 carries for 31 yards; two touchdowns

CU 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

What others say about the CU running backs:

Athlon’s … Unit Ranking: 4th in the Pac-12 … Colorado should be able to run the ball. After two ACL tears, Jarek Broussard came out of nowhere in 2020 to finish third nationally in rushing yards per game (149.2) and will Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors. Alex Fontenot – the Buffs’ leading rusher in 2019 – is back after missing last season with a hip injury to give Broussard some help, while Ashaad Clayton, a four-star recruit in the 2020 class, hopes to get in the mix.

Phil Steele … Projected Starter: Jarek Broussard … While Broussard was held to 80 and 82 yards in their final two, he was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year with a conference best 895 yards (5.7 yards per carry). This year they lose only Jaren Mangham. The Buffs get back a now healthy Fontenot  to team with Broussard and they add Ashaad Clayton, who saw limited time last year as a true freshman. This should be a strong, deep and productive group in 2021.

Lindy’s … Jarek Broussard, First team All-Pac-12 pick … CU finished third in the conference in rushing (212.3 yards per game), and that was with 2019 leading ball carrier Alex Fontenot sidelined. Fontenot returns from his hip injury, joining 2020 breakout star and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jarek Broussard.

Comments … From the Daily Camera … CU has arguably its deepest and most talented pool of running backs in 20 years. Fontenot finished with 874 yards in 2019 and might have hit the 1,000-yard mark had he not missed a game because of a concussion (he also caught 27 passes). Broussard did things in 2020 that no CU back has ever done, and he was on pace for one of the best single-season rushing totals in CU history had the Buffs played a full schedule. Although both have battled some injuries, they are proven players who could form an impressive 1-2 punch. Clayton, however, is talented enough to break into that top two and give the Buffs one of the better trios in the Pac-12. Stacks is a big back that could make an impact in short-yardage situations. Smith and Davis are talented, too, and while they might find carries hard to come by, they are capable of filling in if injuries become an issue. CU finished third in the Pac-12 in rushing last year (212.33 yards per game), but has the talent to finish at the top this year.

Final word … “I think last year it was a depth issue from the injury with Alex (Fontenot) and Ashaad (Clayton) being a young player,” Buffs offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini told the Daily Camera. “I think we have a lot of depth right now.”

As Chiaverini looks ahead to this season, he knows the Buffs can’t simply rely on Broussard as they did a year ago.

“I think it’s very important,” Chiaverini said. “Last year, I think Jarek did a heck of a job, but in a 12-game season, he probably would have got too many touches.”

Is Alex Fontenot back? Karl Dorrell believes so. “What I saw on film in 2019 is what I saw Alex Fontenot do (in spring practices)”, Dorrell said. “That was a really, really positive sign that he is back”.

Deion Smith, who missed the 2020 season with a knee injury, Joe Davis and Jayle Stacks give the Buffs some exceptional depth.

“Hopefully that doesn’t change with injuries or anything in the summer, but I feel we have a strong group coming back,” Chiaverini said. “That’s a really solid room, and now they’ve got to stay healthy and perform.”

Broussard, who battled back from two ACL tears before his breakout 2020 season, missed some time in spring but is expected to be ready for fall camp. Fontenot and Clayton both had exceptional springs.

“It’s important for us to develop that depth,” Chiaverini said. “We’re gonna have that with Alex and Ashaad and Joe and some of those other guys. They’ll get touches because I think we have a stronger group now that they’re healthy and that they’re more mature.”

At the end of the day, CU may have its strongest 1-2-3 punch at running back since Chris Brown, Bobby Purify and Cortlen Johnson in 2001 (bar bet winner: which running back became the first Buff in history to post a 100-yard rushing/receiving double/double? It was Cortlen Johnson against Iowa State … the week before the 62-36 win over Nebraska).

Can they all stay healthy? Can Darrin Chiaverini find the right mix of playing time to maximize his talented stable of running backs?

Those are the challenges facing CU this fall.

Nice problems to have …

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