Fall Camp Preview – Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Fall Camp, like everything else about Year One of the Coach Prime era, will be closely watched and closely scrutinized. The consensus from the outside world is the the CU coaching staff will not be able to forge a team out of 70 newcomers. The long-standing belief is that team unity, especially along the lines, is something developed over time, and continuity in the coaching staff and development of players over time is the tried and true path to success.

Colorado has all but none of that. Every coach is new, and every position will have new starters. The vast majority of the team is still finding its way around the Champions Center, much less the CU campus.

A month of practices is all that stands between Coach Prime and a date with TCU in Ft. Worth. A unit-by-unit look at the position battles which will be waged in CU’s very fluid lineup … begins now …

… Fall Camp Preview Schedule … 

  • July 2nd – Quarterbacks and Running Backs
  • July 9th – Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
  • July 16th – Offensive Line
  • July 23rd – Defensive Front Seven
  • July 30th – Defensive Backs and Specialists

The Roster … Wide Receivers (12)

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

  • Seniors … Xavier Weaver (TR) … Javon Antonio (TR)
  • Juniors … Jimmy Horn, Jr. (TR) … Willie Gaines (TR) … Jaylen Ellis (TR)
  • Sophomores … Travis Hunter (TR) … Tar’varish Dawson (TR) … Jack Rilling (TR)
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Chernet Estes … Cole Boscia
  • 2023 Signees … Asaad Waseem* … Adam Hopkins … Omarion Miller … Isaiah Hardge … Jordan Onovughe … Jacob Page … Kaleb Mathis … Gavin Marsh 

The Stats … 

2022 stats for new players …

  • Xavier Weaver … at South Florida … 53 catches for 718 yards and six touchdowns
  • Javon Antonio … at Northwestern State … 64 catches for 684 yards and six touchdowns
  • Willie Gaines … at Jackson State … 27 catches for 446 yards and five touchdowns
  • Jimmy Horn, Jr. … at South Florida … 37 catches for 551 yards and three touchdowns
  • Jaylen Ellis … at Baylor … three catches for 154 yards and one touchdown
  • Travis Hunter … at Jackson State … 18 catches for 190 yards and four touchdowns
  • Tar’varish Dawson … at Auburn … two catches for 30 yards

The Upside … 

Colorado was 118th in the nation in passing offense in 2022, with ten total passing touchdowns. This group of wideouts, playing in offensive coordinator Sean Lewis’ fast-paced offense, should be able to get CU ten passing touchdowns by the end of September. Not only does CU finally have a quarterback who can get the ball to the outside, but they have playmakers who can do something with the ball once they make the reception.

The competition for playing time should be fierce, as there are plenty of options. Wide receivers coach Brett Bartolone, who was Coach Prime’s offensive coordinator last season, likes what he sees. “My job is to make sure the receivers are in the right spot, and we put a lot on our receivers in this offense,” said Bartolone. “There’s a lot of different stuff going on. There’s a lot of different adjustments based off of coverage. Any time we get – walkthroughs, meetings – we’ve got to do our best and I’ve got to do my best as a coach to have that level of understanding and make sure our guys know where the heck they need to be.

“If we know where to be as receivers, we’re going to carve up some defenses this year.”

An interesting side bet for Buff fans this fall might be which pair of receivers winds up with the better stats: the South Florida pair of Xavier Weaver and Jimmy Horn Jr., or the Jackson State pair of Willie Gaines and Travis Hunter. Weaver and Horn might be the safer bet, as both will be looking for plenty of playing time in the rotation, but Gaines and Hunter (not to mention quarterback Shedeur Sanders) have a year under their belts working with coach Bartolone.

The question for Fall Camp will be: How many of the freshmen will find their way onto the field? CU will have six freshmen wide outs joining the team this fall, with four-star recruits Adam Hopkins and Omarion Miller leading the way. When was the last time Colorado had a pair of four-star recruits – at the same position, no less – who no one spent much time talking about during the off-season? Hopkins and Miller could be the surprise of Camp … and be contributors early in the season.

The Concerns … 

Colorado has exactly zero scholarship wide receivers back from last season, with the surprise (at least to some of us) defections this spring by Montana Lemonious-Craig and Jordyn Tyson. Of CU’s ten receiving touchdowns last fall, Lemonious-Craig and Tyson had seven, and having some proven Power Five talent in the wide receiver room would have been reassuring. As it stands, the only receivers in the room who have Power Five experience are Jaylen Ellis (Baylor) and Tar’varish Dawson (Auburn) who had a combined total of five catches in 2022.

Then there is this … Not counting Travis Hunter, CU will have 12 scholarship wide receivers on the roster … and fully half of them will be true freshmen.

Sure, there is room full of potential stars in the Champions Center, but the success on the field so far has been at the high school and lower collegiate levels.

How will it translate against Pac-12 defenses?

Projected starters … Jimmy Horn, Jr. … Xavier Weaver … Travis Hunter …

The Roster … Tight Ends (2)

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

  • Seniors … none
  • Juniors … Michael Harrison
  • Sophomores … Caleb Fauria … Louis Passerello … Elijah Yelverton (TR)
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Brady Kopetz
  • 2023 Signees … Owen Westemeyer (TR)

The Stats … 

2022 stats for returning players …

  • Caleb Fauria … three catches for 23 yards …
  • Louis Passerello … none …

The Upside … 

You’re kidding, right?

Remember that 15-yard catch Caleb Fauria had against Minnesota last season? Neither do I … so I guess we missed the highlight for the returning tight ends at the University of Colorado.

Looking for transfer Elijah Yelverton to make a splash? Yelverton was a former three-star recruit from the 2020 class who signed with Iowa. He was the No. 21 tight end and 69th-rated player from his home state of Texas in his class.

Not bad. How did Yelverton do at Iowa? Well, he didn’t catch a single pass in three years in Iowa City … before medically retiring for a spell before giving Boulder a try.

You have to love all of those videos with tight ends coach Tim Brewster yelling at the team, like this one …

… because I’m not sure what else he has to do with this offense …

The Concerns … 

You’re kidding, right?

Okay, so it’s not as if we are used to having production from the tight end position.

When was the last time CU had a tight end who had over 30 catches in a season? Or over 400 receiving yards? Or as many as four touchdowns?

The answer, on all three counts, is 2009, when Riar Geer had 36 catches for 402 yards and four scores.

None of those numbers are likely to be approached this season. Buff fans were briefly encouraged when Seydou Traore signed with CU. An honorable mention All-American and first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection, Traore had 50 catches last season, and was one of the most sought-after tight end transfers of the off-season.

Traore’s career at CU, however, lasted only a few months, as Traore re-entered the Transfer Portal after spring practices (Traore, who will have to sit out this year as a double transfer unless he can get a waiver, finally found a home at Mississippi State this weekend).

As it stands, Coach Brewster doesn’t have enough scholarship tight ends for a Sunday foursome, much less a pickup basketball game.

But he does have time to give great interviews, like the one below. Let’s hope Coach Brewster will continue to have a positive influence on his room, and the rest of the program.

Projected starters … Louis Passerello …


4 Replies to “Fall Camp Preview – WR’s and TE’s”

  1. It sounds like Champion Johnson is getting some hype for TE. Before the Spring game, I thought Louis Passarello earning a # was way odd, then I saw him for the Spring Game and he looked like he put on 90 pounds of muscle. From teen to man. I just hope we stay healthy at TE. I think we have more than enough talent and experience at WR.

  2. Great info Stuart. It’s easy to get caught up in all the hype and with most of the production coming in not P5 tested there is also reason to wait and see. But, good talent and athleticism is good talent and athleticism and these guys are good talented athletes.

    When excelling at a lower level, your not only playing against lower level players, your team and support/QBs are same, so coming up to a P5 means playing with other P5 talent. Did CP and staff get enough P5 talent out of the portal regardless where it came from?

    And, is this staff capable of not only identifying really good P5 talent, but coaching them up to P5 level as a team? We’ve seen video of the coaches during summer workouts and heard from players from good programs including the Alabama transfer on the intensity and technique taught & expected by the staff, so yes… We hope/believe.

    So, here’s hoping the support from the line allows the QB time to get these guys the ball, if so, we should see some good offense. A good run game will open up some of these guys too, so this staff’s ability to coach the players up an get them working Lewis’ offense fast and with execution will determine how successful the WR will be.

    Lewis had a pretty good split between the running and passing game at Kent State.

    1. All the better, when Hunter does play on offense, they will expect him to be targeted and if he’s not open he’ll be a decoy, lot’s of good WRs to target too. But, if they back off because they think he’s a decoy that when Sanders lights him up, and with his athleticism it could be for a big gain. Boom now if he’s only in for certain situations, do they double team him?

      It’s great when there’s hype around a two way player’s abilities, and they’re have to take him serious even if he just ends up helping another player get open. Then they adjust and now he’s the threat again.

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