Making Peace With CU’s Roster Math

CU’s roster remains a work in progress.

Still ahead is another Signing Day (Wednesday, February 2nd), and another round of Transfer Portal musical chairs coming after finals this spring.

As a result, the CU roster – which, like every other FBS school, must be down to 85 come August 1st – is still very fluid.

But … it is starting to take shape.

There has been much hand-wringing, a good deal of frustration, and even some fan abandonment over how CU’s roster has been changing since the end of the season in November.

While there is reason for concern about the overall makeup of the 2022 roster, it also says here that there is a method to CU’s madness, and the Buffs may not be as bad off come August 1st as we fear.

Let’s do a deeper dive …

CU has lost over a quarter of its roster to attrition … 

At latest count, CU has lost over 20 players to the Transfer Portal. While that seems like a significant number – and it is – it is not record-shattering.

There are several other Power Five schools which have hit the 20-player mark, and there are several Pac-12 schools who are close to hitting that number (and will certainly surpass that number by June).

The Pac-12 Transfer Portal numbers to date (from 247 Sports) …

  • Colorado – 21 players … including two four-star recruits (Brenden Rice; Christian Gonzalez)
  • Washington State – 19 players … including one four-star recruit
  • Arizona – 18 players … including one four-star recruit
  • USC – 16 players … including two five-star recruits and three four-star recruits
  • UCLA – 14 players … including one four-star recruit
  • Washington – 13 players … including two four-star recruits
  • Oregon – 12 players … including three four-star recruits
  • Arizona State – 9 players … including two four-star recruits
  • Stanford – 8 players … including two four-star recruits
  • California – 8 players … including one four star-recruit
  • Utah – 5 players … including one four-star recruit
  • Oregon State – 4 players …

And these numbers do not take into account the “traditional” Transfer Portal, namely players leaving their schools early to put their names into the NFL Draft. There were over 120 such players who left their schools with eligibility remaining, with over a dozen of those coming from the Pac-12.

Two Pac-12 schools were among those hit the hardest nationally, according to CBS Sports

OregonThe Ducks have been stacking elite recruiting classes over the past four years, and the first wave of departures are starting to hit. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux will compete to be the No. 1 overall pick. Star defensive backs Verone McKinley III and Mykael Wright played a major role in Oregon’s defensive development. Offensively, the Ducks lose top receiver Devon Williams. Dan Lanning’s new staff will have to quickly find some answers before Oregon plays Georgia next season. 

USCWide receiver Drake London was the best wide receiver in college football — by far — before suffering a season-ending ankle fracture. New coach Lincoln Riley has his work cut out replacing London. Defensively, both starting corners Chris Steele and Isaac Taylor-Stuart are gone, along with top pass rusher Drake Jackson. 

Now, no one is crying for Oregon and USC, what with the Ducks and Trojans losing more four- and five-star players to the Transfer Portal and to the NFL than CU has had on its entire roster in the past decade. The point is that everyone this time of year is losing players. With the free agency of the Transfer Portal, combined with the extra year of eligibility given to every player, there are more players looking to move than ever before.

Which bring us to …

CU was going to have over 20 players in the Transfer Portal, regardless … 

That one is worth saying again:

CU was going to have over 20 players in the Transfer Portal, regardless … 

CU’s roster, like other schools, had a number of “super seniors” on their roster in 2021. These were players who would have used up their eligibility after the 2020 season, but, because of the COVID year, were allowed to compete for a fifth season. The Buffs only had a couple of these players, including linebacker Nate Landman and offensive lineman Kary Kutsch. These players did not count against the 85-man roster limit for the 2021 season.

Which translates into the strange fact that, if the CU coaching staff and players all wanted to … Colorado could have returned its entire 85-man roster for the 2022 season.

Read that sentence again … if the CU coaching staff and players all wanted to … Colorado could have returned its entire 85-man roster for the 2022 season.

Had Colorado gone 15-0 in the 2021 season, had won the national championship, and have had all of the coaches and players deciding, “Hey, that was fun! Let’s do it again!”, CU could have played with the same roster again in 2022.

Of course, that didn’t happen, and there were a number of players who have decided to either move on with their lives or their careers. But, when CU signed the Recruiting Class of 2022 in December, with 20 new Buffs signing their Letters of Intent, that meant that, at a minimum, 20 scholarship players from the 2021 roster would have to move on.

Now, since Signing Day in December, the CU Recruiting Class has added two more players (who will sign their Letters of Intent on February 2nd), defensive back Jason Oliver and offensive lineman Van Wells.

In addition, via the Transfer Portal, CU has brought in quarterback Maddox Kopp (from Houston), wide receiver RJ Sneed (from Baylor), defensive lineman Chance Main (Incarnate Word), and offensive tackle Tommy Brown (Alabama) via the Transfer Portal.

And CU, like other schools, is likely far from done adding players for its 2022 roster. The Buffs are still in need in the defensive backfield, and along both the offensive and defensive lines. It would not be a surprise if another 3-5 players are added to the fall roster before the counting is done in late July.

Which means, of course, that there will be even more names added to the list of players leaving the team.

It may not be until the end of spring practices, but yes, inevitably, the list of players from the 2021 team who will not be wearing black-and-gold in 2022 is still not finalized.

For CU to add the players it wants to add … CU’s Transfer Portal number will go north of 25 by this summer.

But aren’t we right to be upset about losing starters to the Transfer Portal? 

In a word … Yes.

Would the 2022 Buffs be better if Christian Gonzalez were still on the team? Most definitely.

Would the Buffs have a better chance at a winning record and a bowl bid if CU still had Jarek Broussard and Brenden Rice on the offense? With Mekhi Blackmon and Mark Perry on defense? Sure.

Does it hurt to have potential stars Ashaad Clayton, LaVontae Shenault and Dimitri Stanley not live up to their potential in Boulder, taking their talents elsewhere? Probably.

But, at the end of the day, out of the two dozen or so players from last season who will not be playing this season, how many are actual losses?

If we’re being honest, the answer is … only a handful.

Last season, 13 Buffs entered the Transfer Portal. Of those, only four found homes at Power Five schools: defensive lineman Jason Harris went home to Arizona and didn’t play a down; defensive back KJ Trujillo went to Wake Forest and didn’t contribute; quarterback Sam Noyer transferred to Oregon State, started the opener against Purdue, but didn’t have any significant playing time thereafter; and wide receiver KD Nixon transferred to USC, finishing his senior season with three catches for 35 yards.

All four of those transfers were seen as significant losses to the roster at the time, but were they really?

This season, a handful of the 21 players who have entered the Transfer Portal have found homes at Power Five programs:

  • Christian Gonzalez, cornerback … Oregon
  • Brenden Rice, wide receiver … USC
  • Mekhi Blackmon, defensive back … USC
  • Mark Perry, defensive back … TCU

Does it sting to have CU players sign with programs the Buffs have to face this fall? Sure. But it’s hardly a unique occurrence. Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura is now an Arizona Wildcat … Arizona State four-star wide receiver Junior Alexander is now at Washington … Oregon’s star running back Travis Dye will be playing for USC … both of USC’s quarterbacks from last season, Kedon Slovis (Pitt) and Jaxson Dart (TBD) have moved on …

The thing is, most of the Buff players who entered the Transfer Portal this fall will not be suiting up for Power Five schools this fall. To date, eight of the 21 have yet to find a new home, while others have been picked up by schools like Alabama State (LaVontae Shenault), Tulane (Ashaad Clayton), and Texas A&M Commerce (Keith Miller). The vast majority of the players who have posted tweets about being blessed to have been at CU, but are moving on, will not be at a Power Five camp this fall.

You don’t like to say that there is such a thing as “good attrition”. As Buff fans, we support those young men who have committed to play for CU, and have worked hard to make the program better.

But the reality is that there was going to be significant attrition to the roster this offseason. With an overloaded roster due to the 2020 COVID season, it was inevitable that a significant number of players would be asked to find new homes.

The Buffs in 2022 will be young – again. There are still holes to be filled via the Transfer Portal this spring. No one knows better than Karl Dorrell and his staff that additional help is needed in the defensive backfield and along the lines. You simply can’t lose players like Gonzalez, Rice, and Blackmon and hope that true freshmen from the Class of 2022 will step up and be contributors … it just doesn’t work that way. Experienced transfers are vital if CU is to be competitive this fall.

Which will mean … wait for it … still more names added to the CU Transfer Portal list.

But this is now Karl Dorrell’s team. He has all of his coaches (Darian Hagan being the lone holdover), and almost the entire roster will be made up of his signees.

So, let’s see what he and his coaches can do … (it’s not like we have a lot of choice) …


16 Replies to “Making Peace With CU’s Roster Math”

  1. After Stuart’s article and VK’s notes too ; ) I have to agree and admit that even with productive seniors starters like Landman & Wells added to the three or four other starters that left it really wasn’t any more starters leaving than a normal year’s typical graduation rate of about 20 plus seniors running out of eligibility. And last two years was anything else but normal.

    Can they bring in the 5 or 6 more impact players needed to upgrade and replace? Both lines and the backfield will take at least that much, and really those three areas could use 7 more “plug and play” players.

  2. Been goin to games since the mid 90’s including last season (Minnesota game was unbearable). Good article, and it may be what needs to happen for the long term, yet at this point I am not sure how much “long term” viewing I have left for the Buffs. It has been 16 years since they have been stable and relevant, and we are about to be told that they are young again, and to be patient and to think long term. I am starting to think that perhaps Hawkins, McIntyre, Tucker etc. weren’t bad coaches at all, and nor is Karl, they were simply placed in untenable situations with a University that has no desire to do what is necessary to win (see the late and uninspiring response to NIL for example). It’s true the Buffs weren’t very good last year, however they have lost virtually every good player on that roster, and who could blame them (especially the receivers). The schedule for 2022 looks daunting again, I fear a likely loss at Air Force and a probable 3 win season, and being fed the same b.s. hope for the future from the CU media. Nope, I am out of accepting excuses, this may be it, WIN NOW or my emotional investment and money may be spent elsewhere in 2023, ha, my little heart can’t take it anymore.

    1. I hear ya. I disagree with the thought that maybe Hawkins wasn’t a bad coach though. He took over a team that won 4 out of 5 division titles. Now yes 2 of them were mediocre teams in a bad division. But we were a team in 01 that could have played for the national championship had it not been for a terrible Craig ochs interception against Fresno state. My point is he took over a winning program and failed to win more than 6 games in 4 seasons. The other problem was he brought in Cody
      instead of a qb like kellen Moore. Who knows maybe it would have been better with Hawkins if he didn’t become coach Dad. The 2010 loss to Kansas summed up his problems. The problem was the complete indifference the university showed since Hawkins took over. I feel that stemmed from the bogus sex scandal and bad optics for the university.

      1. I read your post and googled Cody. He is still “living the dream” as daddy’s boy as the UC Davis OC. God forbid he would actually have to get a real job. As long as daddy is still alive………..

      2. Agree with all above and specifically, “stemmed from the bogus sex scandal and bad optics for the university.” I’ve written the same, but I take the fall back to slick rick and his kicker, AND they added fuel to the fire with the bogus sex scandal and every other thing they could use, training table meals, a recruits little brother being fed. Stupid stuff that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in the SEC.

        But Barnett was still winning, so all the other stuff rally effects Hawkins who was a bad coach. He turned out to be the big fish (with help from two very good assistants) in a small pond at Boise. Maybe without Cody he does better, but I met a couple of his ex players (a starting and star linebacker was one, I could look him up) and they didn’t have anything good to say about him.

  3. Stanley comments sum it up.. I want the ball and won’t block for any one .. Sad.. Be gone.. Sick of hearing about oregon.. 100 uniforms 0 national championships.. USCheat will always be USCheat.. Go Buffs

  4. 2 things are bumming me out
    1. Stuart you said “The Buffs are still in need in the defensive backfield, ” The Buffs are really really in need of the defensive backfield. Those 3 out of 4 defectors that found power 5 homes were the defensive backfield. Buffs are going to need mega luck to replace them adequately and you know how the Buff luck has been for almost 2 decades.
    2. Stanley is the guy who pretty much summed it up. He thinks the O still doesnt have a chance to turn any heads. You can bet your sweet bippy these players, especially the QBs (who have no where else to go)and the WRs like Stanley have done their due diligence on Sanford and are expecting at the best a slight upgrade from Chev 2.0.
    Thats how I feel too until I see what kind of play design and play call Sanford brings to the field. Sanford is the one assistant I feel HCKD failed on. Until he proves me wrong I see more cookie cutter, baby step offense. Yeah we got the big guy from the Tide but unless we get at least one more his caliber, hopefully 2 I think winning 4 games will be a tall order.

    1. You haven’t seen what Sanford will do.

      You just want a high flying offense

      Too bad

      This ain’t gonna be it.

      But it’s gonna be pretty good


  5. This team lost 8 games last fall. This team gave one of the worst offensive performances in history in the Minnesota game. The only guy to be missed from those who will not be back is Landman.
    The Buffs need many new players to win more than 4 games next fall.

  6. Ok my perspective. I KD were to announce CU just signed Christian Gonzalez, Jarek Broussard, Brenden Rice, Mekhi Blackmon, Ashaad Clayton, Dimitri Stanley, and Mark Perry from other Power5 schools, he’d be having a big press conference celebration and all the papers would be hailing CU as a much improved program. If true, how can you not say the opposite is also true? Look at the 2 great QB’s Nebraska signed, and we signed Kopp. I’m sure all the guys are nice kids, but other than the AL lineman, not sure we upgraded any position and certainly lost a lot of talent. I don’t buy they went for NIL, I think they left for a winning team and good bowl game, and didn’t see it happening here. Hope I’m wrong.
    PS. I do see the coaching changes as largely upgrades in total.

  7. Excellent perspective Stuart! It is challenging when starters with professional potential leave the Buffs in prime form. They did not leave for more playing time, as they played most every snap this past year. Did they leave because of allegiance to their position coach who moved on or improved NIL opportunities? Maybe. I am looking forward to vastly improved QB play and an offensive line which is not so offensive in 2022, improved speed overall on defense, and a very competitive team on the field. Go Buffs!

  8. Well I do like the icing the article presents but I’m not sure I like what’s inside….we’ll see how it goes.

  9. I appreciate the perspective. It’s always good to take a step back and count to ten.
    My best hope, is that KD will work hard to replace the key playmakers we lost; with commiserate talent in strategic positions.
    I do think things are beginning to shape up. The last couple of players to sign on, helped raise the pedigree of players willing to consider the Buffs as an option.
    Like it or not… optics matter.
    I also liked seeing the call to camaraderie, recently initiated by Chase Penry.
    Hopefully that attitude lights a fire, brings them closer together and places a big chip on the shoulder of those who opt to stay.
    They now have something to prove.

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