Way Too Early Depth Chart – Offense

Trying to accurately predict a two-deep roster during Fall Camp is a tricky business. There are too many variables involved, and, with practices generally kept from public view, it’s hard to discern which players may have risen in the off-season, and which have not made anticipated progress.

Trying to accurately predict the two-deep roster during spring practices is folly. Coaches are trying to give younger players opportunities, and the walk-on who leads the team in rushing during the spring game may not even see the field of play come fall.

Trying to accurately predict the two-deep roster in January, when the roster may still see another dozen or more players be swapped out?

Lunacy.

But … with so many positive additions to the CU roster in the past month … Why not?

So here is the latest (subject to daily change) look at the Buff eligibility chart and projected starters …

Guide: bold = returning starterItalics = walk-onTR = Transfer Portal addition … Class of ’23 = Freshman from the Recruiting Class of 2023

Quarterbacks

Eligibility: 

  • Senior … J.T. Shrout
  • Junior … Shedeur Sanders (TR)
  • Sophomore … Drew Carter
  • Freshmen … Ryan Staub (Class of ’23) … Kasen Weisman (Class of ’23)

Thoughts … J.T. Shrout earned his first start at CU in the second game of the 2022 season, as the Buffs traveled to Colorado Springs to face Air Force. Taking over for Brendon Lewis, Shrout fumbled on CU’s first possession, leading to a Falcon touchdown less than a minute into the contest … and Shrout’s game never recovered. Shrout would go on to start seven games this past fall, leading the team with 1,220 yards passing, with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Shedeur Sanders, meanwhile, threw for 3,752 yards for Jackson State, with 40 touchdowns and six interceptions. Sanders also added 174 yards and six touchdowns rushing. Sanders completed 70.5% of his passes, while Shrout completed 44.3% of his attempts.

The worst kept secret when Coach Prime was hired was the plan for his son to follow him to Boulder. Sanders will enter the 2023 season as the clear favorite to start. The real question for coaches to answer over the next eight months: Who will be the primary backup? Shrout and Carter currently remain on the roster, but there is no guarantee that they will still be Buffs come August 1st. If Shrout decides to take his talents elsewhere, backup duty will fall to Carter (if he stays), or to one of the true freshmen recruits … or to a transfer who has yet to commit to Colorado. While the additions of Staub and Weisman give Buff fans some piece of mind when it comes to the future of the quarterback room at CU, this position remains perilously thin.

Running backs

Eligibility: 

  • Senior … Deion Smith
  • Junior … Jayle Stacks
  • Sophomore … Anthony Hankerson … Charlie Offerdahl (WO)
  • Freshmen … Victor Venn (Fr.-R) … Dylan Edwards (Class of ’23)

Thoughts … All four of CU’s returning running backs had at least 100 yards rushing during the 2022 season, with Deion Smith leading the team with 393 yards on 83 carries. To put that total in perspective, though … the NCAA lists the top 200 rushers in the nation, with the No. 200 rusher during the 2022 season going for 473 yards. As a team, CU was 115th in the nation in rushing.

So … plenty of room for improvement.

Enter Dylan Edwards, a four-star recruit who flipped from his commitment to Notre Dame to sign with Colorado. Edwards rushed for 1,764 yards and 33 touchdowns after totaling 3,214 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior, earning the Gatorade Player of the Year Award in Kansas.

While only a freshman, Edwards is not lacking for confidence:

“I want to be a freshman All-American my first season,” Edwards told 247 Sports. “If I come up short, that’s fine but that’s my goal and what I’m working towards. As a team, we’re looking to win right now.

“I’m not trying to be a part of a rebuild, we want to win now. We have some dogs coming in to the program and I can’t wait to share the field with them. We’re coming in with a chip on our shoulder and ready to win games and win right away.”

Will Edwards, along with a cast of adequate but not game-changing teammates in the backfield, be enough for the Sean Lewis offense? Or is another running back or two heading CU’s way through the Transfer Portal?

Wide receivers

Eligibility: 

  • Senior … Maurice Bell
  • Junior … Montana Lemonious-Craig … Ty Robinson … Jimmy Horn, Jr. (TR)
  • Sophomore … Jordyn Tyson
  • Freshmen … Grant Page (Fr.-R) … Chase Sowell (Fr.-R) … Adam Hopkins (Class of ’23) … Omarion Miller (Class of ’23) … Asaad Waseem (Class of ’23) … Isaiah Hardge (Class of ’23) … Jordan Onovughe (Class of ’23) … Jacob Page (Class of ’23)

Thoughts … A month ago, Buff fans main concern about the wide receiver room was whether CU’s best receiver, Jordyn Tyson, would be able to recover from his mid-season injury and be full speed for 2023 (assuming he didn’t enter the Transfer Portal).

And now?

While the Buff Nation is certainly hoping for a full and speedy recovery for Jordan, the wide receiver room – and the Colorado offense in general – has undergone a major facelift.

CU’s new offensive coordinator is Sean Lewis, who has been the Kent State head coach for the past five seasons. Getting an FBS head coach to take a “demotion” to coordinator is a coup in and of itself, but Buff fans are going to like what they see from Lewis’ “Flash Fast” offense. The Kent State offense was an up-tempo style, using quick snaps to waste little time between the end of one play and the start of another. Flash Fast utilized a lot of run-pass options, giving the quarterback in the system a fair degree of autonomy for what direction a particular play might go.

How fast is a Sean Lewis offense? Last season, the Golden Flashes were 24th among 131 FBS teams in plays run per game, with 75.1. In 2021, it was 13th. In 2020, it was second, with a hard to believe 82.8 plays per game (for comparison’s sake, CU’s offense in 2022 ran an average of 62.2 plays per game).

With a mobile and accurate quarterback, and the number of new wide receivers CU has recruited, it seems clear that the “Flash Fast” offense is coming to Boulder. Who will be the star receivers for the new offense?

Too soon to tell … but it should be a fun competition to track.

Tight ends

Eligibility: 

  • Senior … none
  • Junior … none
  • Sophomore … Caleb Fauria … Erik Olsen … Austin Smith … Louis Passarello … Seydou Traore (TR)
  • Freshmen … Zach Courtney (Fr.-R) …

Thoughts … With the graduation of senior tight end Brady Russell …

  • plus the overall lack of production from CU’s young tight ends (the returning scholarship tight ends had four combined starts with nine catches for 48 yards and a touchdown in 2022 between them) …
  • plus the implementation of a new, high-octane offense …
  • plus the fact that CU hasn’t had much production from the tight end position in a generation …

… one might be led to believe that the tight end room might be a position which would be used to open up some of the much needed scholarship space for the incoming transfers.

Then CU signed Seydou Traore, a transfer from Arkansas State. Traore caught 50 passes for 655 yards receiving and four receiving touchdowns during the 2022 season while playing or Arkansas State. That was good enough to earn him a spot on the Sun Belt All-Conference first team. He finished the regular season with the fifth-highest receiving grade (89.6) among all FBS tight ends according to PFF.

So, just when you thought the tight end position was dead and gone at the University of Colorado, the door has been opened for potentially using the position in the new offense.

It would be a surprise if all five of the returning scholarship tight ends survive to the fall. When you only have 85 scholarships to hand out in a given year, you can’t use five of those on dead weight. Still, at least a few will make it to August 1st … and may have a chance to shine.

Offensive line

Eligibility: 

  • Senior … Landon Beebe (TR)
  • Junior … Gerad LichtenhanJake Wiley … Alex Harkey … Tyler Brown (TR) … Isaiah Jatta (TR)
  • Sophomore … Van Wells … Luke Eckardt … Jackson Anderson … Savion Washington (TR) … Jack Wilty (TR)
  • Freshmen … Travis Gray (Fr.-R) … Carter Edwards (Fr.-R) … Hank Zilinskas (Class of ’23)

Thoughts … With three returning starters, it could be argued that the CU offensive line has a good base from which to build for the 2023 season.

Well, not exactly. As one Pac-12 assistant coach put it, when asked by The Athletic to assess CU’s offense: “Offensive line-wise, they’re not very good at all. Terrible, I think,” the Pac-12 offensive assistant continued. “They rotated in the quarterbacks, but they’re just OK. They’ve got zero speed. I think they did the best they could with it.”

That’s why Coach Prime has brought in five experienced linemen from the portal and junior college ranks. Beebe (6-3, 295) made 33 career starts at Missouri State and is the most experienced of the new arrivals. Brown (6-3, 319) started 12 games last season at left guard and earned FCS All-America honors at Jackson State, and Washington (6-8, 340) started 11 games at right tackle for Kent State. Jatta (6-6, 310) was a Juco All-American at Snow College, and Wilty (6-5, 305) was a second-team selection at Iowa Central.

Will the influx of experienced talent be enough to make the Flash Fast offense of Sean Lewis go? The same anonymous Pac-12 assistant coach had this to say about Transfer Portal offensive linemen: “Finding talent in the portal is tricky”, he said, because “your eyes start getting tainted and you make them better than they are because it’s all that’s out there.”

The Colorado offense generated only 281.3 yards per game in 2022 (128th in the nation), and only 15.4 points per game (127th). The infusion of talent at the skill positions gives Buff fans justifiable optimism about the 2023 season, but holes remain. If Shedeur Sanders gets injured, the quarterback position becomes an instant liability … The running back room remains thin in both numbers and overall talent … The wide receiver roster appears to be one of the best in the Pac-12, but finding ways to get them the ball (and keep them all happy) will remain a challenge … and, perhaps the biggest concern: If the offensive line can’t open holes for the running game, and can’t protect the quarterback, the best laid plans aren’t going to get CU very far come the regular season.

That being said, what Coach Prime and his new coaching staff have accomplished in less than a month on the job is nothing short of a miracle. The Buff offense has been upgraded at every position, most importantly at quarterback.

The roster remains fluid, and more changes are coming.

One month down; eight to go … The opener against TCU is eight months from today!

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8 Replies to “Way Too Early Depth Chart – Offense”

  1. So, trying to be optimistic about the Oline going into this year.
    Yup rating has it’s privileges and outta highschool who knows. Transfer types get ratings too. Not all the same.

    So play the oline, double down and pray for 10 more transfers.
    Line transfers
    .791
    .85
    .88
    Is that enough help?

    Really? I don’t think so.

    Need all those late transfers please

    Buffs..

  2. Agree we are thin at RB, but disagree that we lack talent. The oline is the key. Speaking of the oline, our problem has been a lack of quality competition, both internal to the unit, but also with the d-line. We have a solid Center it appears. I would love to see Tommy Brown come back (he has one more year because of COVID iirc), and losing Riddick is not good. Our tackles have not been good at all, and we need a competent LT to step up in order to have any success. Outside of that we have Spring ball and the summer and fall for this unit to gel. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds. 6 wins is certainly attainable, but not guaranteed.

  3. A needed look as it has been a whirlwind !
    Those comments by RB Edwards got me excited, he is ready to roll with these new dawgs !
    Restless to roam, go Buffs

  4. Ya Stuart,
    Looking at that info
    6 wins is a gigantic stretch.

    Go Buffs

    Note: the next transfers are key to get to 6 wins. Fact

    1. Note: the next transfers are key to get to 6 wins. Fact
      Note: that comment has no value, as it can’t be proven correct or incorrect.

      1. Really

        well okay We will see the impact won’t we.
        The current line is has beens kinda
        New ones will be needed
        same with the dline.

        We will see their impact.

        If not obtained. no 6 wins.

        We will see.

        If they win i don’t care.

        so keep an eye out for the next transfers as they end their bowl games.

        If it is real, they will come. If not they won’t.
        Buffs.

        Note: You have to clean the black colored glasses once in while.

  5. Thanks for this Stuart as I went to CUBuffs to remind myself to see who was left after the current purge only to find they erased last year’s roster and have not poste a new one.
    Gotta disagree about the RBs I think we are fine there unless there are injuries to the top two.
    I am expecting a pass heavy O.
    Everything else is a mystery.
    I am hoping a few TEs will emerge as I dont think any of them were ever given a chance to shine with the last staff. ….or anyone else for that matter. I expect a huge upgrade in coaching but will have to wait and see if enough of these transfers grade out most of em at their new level.

  6. I know it is not popular but I am glad to see Hagan and his running back rotation go. Find a guy. Roll with him. He needs to get into the flow of the game. I bet that alone will help our running backs. I expect Smith and Stacks to be gone. Smith runs out of bounds instead of getting 2 more yards and delivering a blow. Stacks for a big back has no explosion or drive unless he gets a head of steam. I e pest to see Hankerson and Edwards. Venn may have been recruited over but he will get a chance to compete for that fast back which will hopefully push Edwards. Hankerson is a very solid inside runner. I would like to see a bit more depth there and as I said I don’t think Stacks will be here.

    At O line I could see an entirely new o line or I could see the continued development of our young o line. The competition there is what we need. Tank responded when he did not get the starting position last year, I suspect he will respond again and continue to develop. Wells and Gray are both high quality under classmen. I suspect they will be in the depth chart.

    The only question at QB is does Sanders let Shrout and Carter stay. Both have proven they cannot play at this level. I suspect he doesn’t care about depth both will be gone after spring practice and he will ride with freshman depth or someone as a sophmore transfer.

    I have no clue on wide recievers. The new guys look fast, they look like they have great hands….. even the freshman look better. Tyson may have been a mirage, he just looked great compared to what we had……. MLC is solid. But in Lewis offense expect 4 wide a lot and expect a rotation so we may need 7 guys who are all playing often.

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