Countdown to Spring Practices – Quarterbacks & Running Backs

… Program Note … CU spring practices open on March 19th. Over the next few weeks, there will be a unit-by-unit preview posted every week leading up to the start of spring ball.

In addition to a look at the current roster and questions which Coach Prime & Co. will be looking to address this spring, we’ll take a look at the odds of whether the described unit is likely to face attrition after the spring. The CU roster is currently hovering around 95 scholarship players, with a deadline of August 1st to get to the NCAA mandated maximum total of 85.

Up next Friday: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends …

— Quarterbacks (4) …

Returning starter (bold); walk-on (italics):

  • Seniors … none
  • Juniors … Shedeur Sanders (TR)
  • Sophomores … Drew Carter
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Colton Allen
  • 2023 Signees … Ryan Staub (EE); Kasen Weisman

The Stats … 

In the BCP (Before Coach Prime) Buff roster, Colorado had no fewer than five scholarship quarterbacks with eligibility remaining (including Brendon Lewis, who defected and entered the Transfer Portal in late October).  Three of the four teammates Lewis left behind took turns starting games this past fall: J.T. Shrout (7), Owen McCown (3) and Maddox Kopp (1).

And now all four of last year’s starters are gone. Shrout has taken his talents to Arkansas State; McCown to UTSA; Kopp to Miami-Ohio … with Brendon Lewis taking his talents to Reno to play for Nevada.

So … A full quarterback room with four quarterbacks with starting experience has, in the span of two months, gone from full to virtually empty. The only returning scholarship quarterback on the roster who wore black and gold during the 2022 season is sophomore Drew Carter.

Just how inexperienced are the quarterbacks on CU’s current roster who are not named Shedeur Sanders?

Check this out … If you want to win a bar bet, ask your Buff friends this question:

Which returning Buff had the most passing yards in 2022?

The easy answer would be sophomore Drew Carter. Carter did have playing time last fall, taking the field in four games (thereby preserving his redshirt year). Carter had four pass attempts during the 2022 season, completing one pass … for three yards.

That would leave Carter second on the CU roster in returning passing yards. The returning “passing leader”? That would be wide receiver Jordyn Tyson, who had a 37-yard completion on his only pass last fall (coming in the Buffs’ only victory, against Cal).

Meanwhile …

  • Shedeur Sanders (at Jackson State) …  341-of-483 (70.6%) for 3,732 yards, with 40 touchdowns and six interceptions … Rushing: 85 carries for 173 yards and six more touchdowns

Nationally … CU in 2022 … 

  • Passing offense … 172.9 yds/game … 118th nationally
  • Total offense … 281.2 yds/game … 128th nationally
  • Scoring offense … 15.4 pts/game … 127th nationally

What to watch for …

We’ve seen this before … For spring practices, 2021, there were only two scholarship quarterbacks on hand (Brendon Lewis and Drew Carter). This spring, CU only has three, with Shedeur Sanders and Carter joined by freshman early enrollee Ryan Staub.

With Carter and Staub not likely to be challenging for starting quarterback this fall, the spring will all be about Shedeur Sanders taking control of the offense, and creating relationships with CU’s overhauled receiving corps. With such a small quarterback room, Sanders will get plenty of reps.

“Well, it’s not easy. It’s not that simplistic,” Sanders said of integrating the new systems with a revamped roster. “But we have a great staff. I really feel like we have a tremendous staff. I’m not the coach that dictates everything. I want to hear all my coaches speak because they have so much (experience). … I’m making sure my defensive coordinator, my offensive coordinator are satisfied, along with my special teams guy when it comes to compiling the practice.”

Everyone certainly expects Shedeur to be the BMOC this fall, and he’ll have plenty of opportunity to take charge of the offense – and the offensive lineup – this spring.

Burning questions for spring … 

  • How quickly can Sanders pick up the “Flash Fast” offense of former Kent State head coach Sean Lewis, CU’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach?;
  • Will Drew Carter or Ryan Staub turn heads, making their case for being CU’s primary backup heading into the 2023 campaign?;
  • How much time will the CU coaching staff (and CU fans) spend scouring the Transfer Portal for a quality backup to sign for the fall? It’s hard to believe that Coach Prime and his OC Sean Lewis will want to go into the fall with Shedeur Sanders and three quarterbacks (freshman Kasen Weisman with combined experience of one collegiate pass. As a result, the question on everyone’s mind this spring: Who will be joining the CU roster this summer?

Attrition likelihoodLow … In fact, if anything, there will be at least one addition to the quarterback room between now and August 1st. There is too much of a gap between Shedeur Sanders and the inexperienced group behind him. An insurance policy would be most welcome.

— Running Backs (6) …

Returning starter (bold); walk-on (italics):

  • Seniors … Deion Smith; Kavosiey Smoke (TR)
  • Juniors … Jayle Stacks
  • Sophomores … Anthony Hankerson; Charlie Offerdahl; Champion Johnson (TR)
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Victor Venn; Dante Capolungo; Christian Sarem
  • 2023 Signees … Dylan Edwards (EE)

The Stats … 

  • Deion Smith … 83 carries for 393 yards and two touchdowns … 11 catches for 84 yards
  • Anthony Hankerson … 68 carries for 274 yards and three touchdowns … five catches for 15 yards
  • Charlie Offerdahl … 37 carries for 150 yards … two catches for 47 yards
  • Jayle Stacks … 35 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown … one catch for two yards
  • Kavosiey Smoke … A total of 1,583 yards in 46 career games at Kentucky (four games in 2022 before before being injured)

Nationally … CU in 2022 … 

  • Rushing offense … 108.3 yds/game … 115th nationally
  • Total offense … 281.2 yds/game … 128th nationally
  • Scoring offense … 15.4 pts/game … 127th nationally

What to watch for …

On paper, CU would appear to be fairly well set at running back, with four players returning who each had at least 35 carries in 2022. The problem is, the Buff rushing attack was a disappointment last season. The running backs, to be sure, were not alone in that department, and the lack of rushing success is also the fault of the offensive line, ineffective quarterback play, and the play calling.

But, as the saying goes, you are what you record says you are, and the record for the running back room in 2022 was not good. Deion Smith had five starts, and led the team in rushing, but his 393 rushing yards didn’t even register in the NCAA stats (the NCAA stats has a list of the top 200 rushers for the season, but the 200th-best running back in the country last fall – Michael Pratt of Tulane – had 478 yards rushing.

Yes, Virginia, CU’s rushing attack was that bad.

Did Smith have his moments in 2022? Sure. As did Anthony Hankerson, Jayle Stacks, and walk-on Charlie Offerdahl. That being said, the running back room is in clear need of an upgrade.

Enter early enrollee Dylan Edwards. The four-star recruit flipped from Notre Dame to Colorado in early December, becoming Coach Prime’s first commitment for the Recruiting Class of 2023. Already on campus, Edwards this spring will have many Buff fans tracking his progress (transfer Kavosiey Smoke won’t be on campus until this summer). The highest-rated incoming freshman from Coach Prime’s Recruiting Class of 2023 not named Cormani McClain, Edwards had scholarship offers from all over the country, ranging from Oregon and Washington to Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Burning questions for spring … 

  • Is Dylan Edwards the real deal, and destined to become CU’s No. 1 running back as a true freshman … or is he a year or two away?;
  • Is the running back room a scholarship game of musical chairs, with only so many seats to be occupied, and too many backs on the roster?;
  • Will Charlie Offerdahl, a fan favorite but still a walk-on, decide to take his talents to a school which will offer him a scholarship?

Attrition likelihoodHigh … With ten (or likely more) scholarship players needing to be cut from the roster, the running back room might be a place where Coach Prim and his staff look to winnow away a player or two. CU had four backs returning with 35 or more carries from last season, plus redshirt freshman Victor Venn. And yet the coaching staff signed four-star freshman running backs Dylan Edwards, together with graduate transfer Kavosiey Smoke from Kentucky. Edwards and Smoke are all but guaranteed to be on the roster this fall … which means that Deion Smith, Anthony Hankerson and/or Jayle Stacks – as promising as each may have looked from time to time in the past – may be fighting for roster spots this spring.


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

  1. Hankerson just threw up 315 on the bench in a well off video. Dude was tough to tackle last year. I am excited to see him in the spring. He may not have the explosiveness of Edwards but there is no way Edwards is going to be an ever down back. In the same video I saw stacks, he you can’t even tell he is a running back. Maybe move him to tight end behind Tredore? I thought Smith did not exhibit the sort of toughness that Danders will require of his running backs last year (he would always run out of bounds instead of delivering a hit against a db). That will not be acceptable on this team. I think he has some talent but he will have to get a bit tougher to see the field. My prediction for spring is Hankerson and Edwards shine for different reasons.
    Excited to see Smoke come in though. I think he will battle Hankerson for time.

  2. the good
    Staub will be here in the Spring
    the bad
    Buffs may have a depth problem at QB again. Not because Daddy’s kid cant make the grade and dad is discouraging any competition but because Daddy’s kid’s real talent is scaring it away?
    as far as RBs go
    the top 3 still averaged 4 or better yards a carry. Not all that bad making me believe it was more the O line and play design and timing.
    at 5’9 and 210 lbs. Smoke is a tree trunk but even as a short tree trunk he may be replacing Stacks. Edwards speed is the same advantage Venn has but his lateral mobility may replace Venn.
    Be shocked if they get rid of Hankerson. He is just now getting started. Be really disappointed if they get rid of Offerdahl. He is one of the 4 yards per carry guys. Hopefully he will be satisfied to remain a walkon. Always gotta pull for the home boys.

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