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Countdown to Spring Practices – Running Backs

Program Note … CU spring practices open on March 31st. Over the next few weeks, there will be a unit-by-unit preview posted every other day leading up to the start of spring ball.

Previously posted

— Running Backs (5) … Returning starter (bold); walk-on (italics):

  • Seniors … Alex Fontenot; Ramon Jefferson (TR)
  • Juniors … Deion Smith
  • Sophomores … Jayle Stacks
  • Red-shirt freshmen … none
  • 2022 Signees … Victor Venn; Anthony Hankerson (may grey-shirt)

The Stats … 

In the 21st century, the University of Colorado has had two players who have earned conference Offensive Player-of-the-Year honors. The first was running back Chris Brown, who was the 2002 Big 12 Offensive Player-of-the-Year. The second Buff to earn that honor was running back Jarek Broussard, who was the Pac-12 Offensive POTY in 2020. Chris Brown left CU for the NFL; Broussard left CU … for Michigan State. Also gone is former four-star recruit Ashaad Clayton, who has taken his talents to Tulane. The 2021 stats from the remaining roster:

  • Alex Fontenot … 96 carries for 326 yards and five touchdowns … 13 catches for 80 yards and one touchdown
  • Deion Smith … 53 carries for 192 yards and two touchdowns … five catches for 21 yards
  • Jayle Stacks … one carry for four yards … one catch for three yards
  • Ramon Jefferson … 173 carries for 1,155 yards and 13 touchdowns (for Sam Houston State)

Nationally … 

  • Rushing offense … 126.2 yds/game … 98th nationally
  • Total offense … 257.4 yds/game … 129th nationally
  • Scoring offense … 18.8 pts/game … 121st nationally

Comments … You couldn’t blame senior running back Alex Fontenot if he walked around the CU campus with a name tag with “Remember me?” written on it. Fontenot was CU’s leading rusher in 2019 (874 yards and five touchdowns on 185 carries), but was out with injuries for the 2020 season, opening the door for Jarek Broussard to have his record-setting campaign. Fontenot returned for the 2021 season, but shared carries with Broussard … with neither back (see national rankings, above) being particularly effective. Both backs were burdened by playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in Power Five football.

While the improvement of the offensive line is a discussion for another day, the three backs who will be available for spring – Alex Fontenot, Deion Smith, and Jayle Stacks – are going to have to show that they are the backs not only of the past, but of the future. If not, newcomers Ramon Jefferson, Victor Venn (and perhaps Anthony Hankerson) will do their best to fill the void come August.

Burning questions for spring … 

  • Will spring ball, 2022, be the same ‘ol, same ‘ol? Running backs coach Darian Hagan is one of the few assistant coaches to ride out the coaching upheaval over the past few seasons, and Fontenot, Smith, and Stacks are all his guys. What improvement can be identified from the returning trio … and his coach?;
  • Are the three holdovers just placeholders until August? Ramon Jefferson has been a featured back for the past four seasons for two other teams. He comes to CU as a graduate transfer with one season to play, so Jefferson is expecting to get on the field … is that the consensus of the CU coaching staff as well?;
  • Is the running back roster complete? Freshman Anthony Hankerson is delaying his enrollment at CU … at least for now. If there are injuries or additional attrition, Hankerson may be called upon to enroll and be on the team this fall. The running back roster is not particularly deep as it is, so if there are any more losses, Hankerson and/or additional transfers may rewrite the depth chart between now and September 2nd.

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3 Replies to “Countdown to Spring Practices – Running Backs”

  1. Alex is the only established guy on the roster. If all the other options come up short we should still be in good hands with him
    Jefferson? Good stats but I dont know anything about his previous O line or the competition.
    The freshmen intrigue me. Venn is a track star and Hankerson’s offer sheet is a long as Venn is fast.
    In fact his offer sheet is incredible and coming From Ft. Lauderdale I’m thinking he faced some heavy competition in high school. In fact, in the face of his offer sheet, the Buff’s luck appears incredible to have him, as a grey shirt no less.

  2. This line is going to open holes again. Big, big holes. Hagan likes a committee, Jefferson and Fontenot are toning to split Carries, smith will get in occasionally and be the back up (think Clayton circa 2020). All of this is dependent on a qb and offensive scheme that can stop the opponent from stacking the box as to make running impossible.

  3. Not really much to say about the Buff RB situation. Based on then numbers of:
    98
    129
    121
    and the fact 75% of the O coaching staff is gone, indicates they were not the problem.

    2022 Buffs don’t make me blue

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