Fall Camp Roster Review – Tight Ends

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 
  • Juniors … Brady Russell … Jared Poplawski … Nico Magri
  • Sophomores … C.J. Schmanski … Kanaan Turnbell 
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Alec Pell
  • True freshmen … Caleb Fauria … Louis Passarello … Austin Smith
  • 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

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

Comments … Six scholarships is a big number for a unit which produced a total of ten catches for 98 yards last fall (with only five from the scholarship players; the other five 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 preferred walk-ons – Matt Lynch, Alec Pell, 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.

The questions for Fall Camp … 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?

What others say about CU’s tight ends … 

Pac-12 Media … none listed in preseason All-Pac-12 lists  … not even as an honorable mention

Athlon’s … Unit Ranking: 11th in the Pac-12 …

Phil Steele … Projected Starting lineup: Brady Russell … Caleb Fauria … C.J. Schmanski … Louis Passerello …

Comments … From the Daily CameraRussell, when healthy, has all-conference potential and could be one of the top weapons on the offense. He’s a skilled receiver and blocker and adds a different dimension to the offense when he’s on the field. Lynch is a steady veteran still growing into the position and he’s a solid No. 2 going into the season. Pell, Magri and Schmanski all proved last season they can provide good depth at the position and with experience should be better. Fauria has flashed some big-time potential, but still has a lot of room for growth. He might make an impact this year, but could be a year away. Poplawski is a talented veteran and the Buffs hope he can stay healthy. This is his fifth year in the program, but he hasn’t played since 2017 because of numerous injuries.

Final word … “We’ve got to keep Brady healthy,” offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini understated. “That’s gonna be big for us. He’s got to play at a high level for us this year. It’s hard when you don’t have tight ends.”

Going forward, however, the Buffs are striving to develop the depth and talent at a position that coaches view as vital to their success.

“I think the tight end position has to continue to get better,” Chiaverini told the Daily Camera. “That’s a quarterback’s best friend when you have a good tight end room and those guys are playing at a high level.

“The tight end room is getting there. It’s not there yet, but we’re working hard to try to keep upgrading that room and get more depth in that room.”

With preseason camp around the corner, the Buffs are in better shape at tight end than they were a year ago, but it still starts with Russell.

A former walk-on, Russell is one of the best tight ends in the Pac-12 and has played in 26 games, with 16 starts. He’s also one of the team’s top leaders. Russell was limited in spring as he continued to recover from his leg injury but expects to be ready for camp.

You can be forgiven if you are skeptical that this is the year that the CU tight ends become a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 …


3 Replies to “Fall Camp Roster Review – Tight Ends”

  1. This is where the improvement from the offense must come from. Hoping Fauria is a bit further along than folks think…but again the toughest position to master.

  2. Okay a tight end coach who has never coached tight ends. Sweet Really? Nope?
    in 2002, he coached tight ends under Chan Gailey (GT)……………… Two of the tight ends he coached would go on to have long productive NFL careers: J.P. Foschi (2004-10, eight different teams) and Will Heller (2003-12, four teams). …

    Gotta keep Russell healthy.

    “I think the tight end position has to continue to get better,” Chiaverini

    The offense is all up to CHEV……………totally…………he can mouth all the “what ifs” he wants.

    He is the solution and the problem.

    Just how I see it………………..His learning curve needs to be accelerated…………no more mouth………need action/results

    Buffs Bowl Bound

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