Projecting CU’s 2023 Starting Lineup – Offense

The Colorado roster has seen unprecedented an overhaul, but the depth chart for the 2023 season is finally beginning to take shape. The Transfer Portal has closed, so any player who wants to leave their team now will be forced (absent an appeal to the NCAA) to sit out the season. The limit of 85 scholarships is now almost 90% in place, with 77 scholarships for this fall distributed.

The few remaining open scholarships are being watched closely, to be sure. Buff fans are still anxiously awaiting word on an experienced backup quarterback … but, for the most part, the team which will take the field against TCU on September 2nd is in place.

While summer workouts and Fall Camp will play the defining role in which players rise to the top of the depth chart, there are some tentative conclusions which Buff fans can draw.

Below is the first way-too-early projection of the CU depth chart. For comparison’s sake, and to give you some reassurance of the improved status of the Buffs’ starting 11 on offense, I am also listing the depth chart from the 2022 season.


2022 season depth chart

  • J.T. Shrout (Jr.)
  • Drew Carter (Soph.)
  • Maddox Kopp (Fr.)

2023 season projected depth chart

  • Shedeur Sanders (Jr.)
  • Ryan Staub (Fr.)
  • Kasen Weisman (Fr.).

Thoughts … Nothing here you don’t already know. All five of CU’s scholarship quarterbacks from last season are gone (including Brendon Lewis, who quit during the season, and Owen McCown, who left this spring). Four of the five quarterbacks who left have found new homes … but none with a Power Five conference.

The 2023 replacements are also not a story … at least not yet. Sanders will be the starter, coming to CU from Jackson State, where he threw for almost 7,000 yards his first two seasons. Ryan Staub, who participated in spring drills, and who looked decent during the Spring game, is the clear No. 2 for now. Weisman will find his way to campus this summer, giving CU two backups … but a backup with experience remains perhaps CU’s greatest need from its few remaining scholarships.

Running backs 

2022 season depth chart

  • Deion Smith (Jr.)
  • Alex Fontenot (Sr.)
  • Jayle Stacks (Soph.)
  • Anthony Hankerson (Fr.)
  • Charlie Offerdahl (Fr.)

2023 season projected depth chart

  • Alton McCaskill (Soph.)
  • Kavosiey Smoke (Sr.)
  • Dylan Edwards (Fr.)
  • Anthony Hankerson (Soph.)
  • Charlie Offerdahl (Soph.)

Thoughts … The CU running backs room in 2022 was a mess, along with the rest of the team. Alex Fontenot started the first and last games of the 2022 season, but along the way Deion Smith, Anthony Hankerson, and even walk-on Charlie Offerdahl earned their first career starts. CU’s rushing “attack” was ranked 115th in the nation, so it comes as no surprise that most of the room is gone. Deion Smith landed at a Power Five school (BYU, now a member of the Big 12), with Anthony Hankerson and Charlie Offerdahl the only returning backs.

As to 2023 … The future is now for senior Kentucky transfer Kavosiey Smoke, who only has one year of eligibility remaining. True freshman Dylan Edwards, the first recruit to flip for Coach Prime (Edwards was a Notre Dame commit), and sophomore Alton McCaskill (who rushed for over 1,000 yards as a freshman for Houston) may be the long term answer at running back, and both will push for the starting job this fall. How well Hankerson and Offerdahl fit into the mix depends largely on how well the newbies (only freshman Edwards was on campus this spring) pick up the offense. Is freshman Edwards ready to take on Power Five defenses? Is McCaskill fully healed from his 2022 ACL injury? This fall will give CU fans those answers.

Wide receivers 

2022 season depth chart

  • Montana Lemonious-Craig (Soph.)
  • Jordyn Tyson (Fr.)
  • Daniel Arias (Sr.)
  • Maurice Bell (Sr.)
  • R.J. Sneed (Sr.)
  • Chase Sowell (Fr.)
  • Grant Page (Fr.)

2023 season projected depth chart

  • Jimmy Horn, Jr. (Jr.)
  • Travis Hunter (Soph.)
  • Xavier Weaver (Sr.)
  • Adam Hopkins (Fr.)
  • Omarion Miller (Fr.)
  • Jaylen Ellis (Jr.)
  • Willie Gaines (Jr.)

Thoughts … Stop me if you’ve heard this one before … CU had ten scholarship wide receivers on the roster last season, and none of them remain on the roster after this spring. While a purge was certainly forthcoming for a program with the 118th ranked passing offense, the loss of Montana Lemonious-Craig and Jordyn Tyson (Arizona State) came as a surprise to many. Tyson, before he was injured, was as close to an All-Pac 12 player as CU had on its roster, and MLC showed signs of being a potential contributor for Coach Prime. Both would have been high on the list of players Buff fans would have liked to keep (rumors persist that MLC might still return to CU). The remaining players who left? Not so much …

The embarrassment of results from the 2022 team has been replaced by an embarrassment of riches for 2023. All-everything Travis Hunter might be needed more on the defensive side of the ball, but no one is assuming that he won’t be playing wide receiver as well. South Florida transfers Jimmy Horn, Jr. and Xavier Weaver form a potentially impressive tandem, as do the pair of incoming four-star freshmen, Adam Hopkins and Omarion Miller. With a pass-happy offense coming from offensive coordinator Sean Lewis, it wouldn’t be a surprise if nine or more of the 12 new receivers post catches this fall, but the ones listed above are the early leaders to see the most playing time come September.

Tight ends 

2022 season depth chart

  • Brady Russell (Sr.)
  • Erik Olsen (Fr.)
  • Austin Smith (Fr.)

2023 season projected depth chart

  • Javon Antonio (Sr.)
  • Louis Passarello (Soph.)
  • Erik Olsen (Soph.)
  • Caleb Fauria (Soph)

Thoughts … Brady Russell was as close to a contributor to the CU offense as many of the most recent tight ends who have played for the Buffs. Russell had 20 receptions for 153 last season … and that was a dominant performance compared to the stats posted by the tight ends returning for the 2023 season. Almost inexplicably, of the “dirty dozen” Buffs who survived the purge, three – or 25% of the total – were tight ends, with Louis Passarello (0 catches in 2022), Erik Olsen (5 catches for 21 yards), and Caleb Fauria (3 catches for 23 yards) somehow making the cut.

The tight end position was supposedly bolstered by the commitment of Seydou Traore, the Arkansas State transfer who had 50 catches for the Red Wolves last season. Traore, though, has already left Boulder, leaving the Buff offense with the three sophomores who had eight catches between them in 2022. Unless … Javon Antonio will be used as a tight end. Antonio is one of CU’s most recent commits, and adding another wide receiver at this late date (with so few scholarships left to give out) could be a question mark. Unless, perhaps, Antonio, who is 6’4″, 220-pounds, and was recruited as a tight end out of high school, will fill that role at CU. Antonio, despite his size, runs a 4.5 in the 40, and could provide matchup problem for opposing defenses.

If not Antonio … CU could still sign a tight end with its remaining scholarships, or, as CU offenses have done for the past decade, largely ignore the tight end position.

Offensive line 

2022 season depth chart

  • Left tackle … Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan (Soph.) … Frank Fillip (Jr.)
  • Left guard … Casey Roddick (Jr.) … Luke Eckardt (Fr.)
  • Center … Van Wells (Fr.) … Austin Johnson (Soph.)
  • Right guard … Tommy Brown (Sr.) … Austin Johnson (Soph.)
  • Right tackle … Jake Wiley (Soph.) … Frank Fillip (Jr.)

2023 season projected depth chart

  • Left tackle … Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan (Jr.) … Isaiah Jatta (Jr.)
  • Left guard … Tyler Brown (Jr.) … Jack Wilty (Soph.)
  • Center … Van Wells (Soph.) … Landon Beebe (Sr.)
  • Right guard … Jack Bailey (Jr.) … Landon Beebe (Sr.)
  • Right tackle … Savion Washington (Soph.) … Reggie Young (Sr.)

Thoughts … On paper, CU had four returning starters along the offensive line heading into the 2023 season. Glass half full? Having four starters would give the line – and the offense – some stability as the new coaching staff was bringing in a plethora of talent in the skill positions. Glass half empty? The offensive line in 2022 was not very good. CU finished 128 in total offense, 127 in scoring offense, 125th in first downs, 118th in third down conversions … True enough, it wasn’t all the fault of the line, but it was not a Power Five line, either.

Two starters of the four starters from last season have left, and many Buff fans would have been okay with them staying. Offensive tackle Jake Wiley has transferred to UCLA, while Casey Roddick has transferred to Florida State. Replacing the two (apparently Power Five worthy) starters are a number of transfers who have plenty of starting experience … just not at the Power Five level.

The above projections for the two-deep above are far from certain, but there is some method to the madness. Van Wells returns as the starting center, with Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan reprising his role as the starting left tackle. If those two positions are taken (no guarantees there), the right side of the line may well be made up of Kent State starters. Savion Washington was a force this spring, and will be joined by teammate Jack Bailey. Both were starters for former Kent State head coach (and now CU offensive coordinator) Sean Lewis, together with former Kent State offensive line coach (and now CU offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle). Washington and Bailey may not finish the season as the starters, but, with continuity a problem with the massive overhaul of the lineup, familiarity with the offense CU is going to utilize may be a deciding factor early.

Left guard was the most difficult to figure, with junior Tyler Brown in my mind beating out Jack Wilty based on experience alone. That being said Landon Beebe, a senior transfer, didn’t come to CU to watch. Beebe will give Van Wells a run for his money at center, but, if Beebe doesn’t earn the job at center, he may make the starting lineup at guard.

Or … CU could get yet another former starter out of the Transfer Portal, giving the coaching staff yet another option for this fall.

So … What might the CU starting lineup look like on offense for the TCU game on September 2nd?

First, let’s look at the starting lineup for the 2022 season (using the players with the most starts at each position last fall):

  • QB – J.T. Shrout
  • RB – Deion Smith
  • WR – Daniel Arias
  • WR – Montana Lemonious-Craig
  • WR – R.J. Sneed
  • TE – Brady Russell
  • LT – Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan
  • LG – Casey Roddick
  • C – Van Wells
  • RG – Tommy Brown
  • RT – Jake Wiley

Now, on to 2023 … 

  • QB – Shedeur Sanders
  • RB – Alton McCaskill
  • WR – Jimmy Horn, Jr.
  • WR – Travis Hunter
  • WR – Adam Hopkins
  • TE – Louis Passarello
  • LT – Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan
  • LG – Tyler Brown
  • C – Van Wells
  • RG – Jack Bailey
  • RT – Savion Washington

Thoughts … Senior Kavosiey Smoke may well start in the opener at running back, but my prediction would be that home-state Texan Alton McCaskill will be on the field against TCU in Ft. Worth (and both might be replaced by Dylan Edwards by mid-season) … Louis Passarello at tight end to me is just a placeholder for now. The starting tight end for this fall might not yet be in Boulder … Senior Xavier Weaver might get the start in the opener at wide receiver, but one of the four-star freshmen, Adam Hopkins or Omarion Miller, may impress enough during Fall Camp to earn the start … The offensive line? Your guess is as good as mine. If Van Wells and Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan hold their positions, and Savion Washington is as good as advertised, then three-fifths of the line may be set. If not … we’ll just have to hope that Bill O’Boyle can find – and mold – a starting five by September.


3 Replies to “Projecting CU’s 2023 Starting Lineup – Offense”

  1. One thing that gets forgotten is the effect that solid coaching will have on these players. The offensive line in particular will benefit so much by being guided by a man who knows how to get results. The returning guys already know that this is not last years team and that subpar execution and physicality will not be tolerated. National publications will only look at the surface and not factor in how differently the team will be built from the line out. I am expecting a completely transformed offensive line that will take everyone by surprise.

  2. I’m patiently waiting for Mid-Fall, when the starters/two deep is out, and we get to compare the “Tale of the Tape” (i.e.– height, weight, speed numbers) compared to the guys on the team last year. That could be very stark.

  3. Per the O line I am hoping Kareem Harden and David Connor surprise. Bith had some serious offers out of high school but were set back by academics (a 9th grade class for Harden?) and a minor hand injury for Connor.
    I like the fact that Boyle is looking for fast athletic linemen. Both the above are a little under 300lbs which should help in that regard.
    I’m still pissed at dinner Bell Mel recruiting a bunch of Hulks for the D line who turned out to be statues

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *