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Countdown to Spring Practices – Running Backs

… Program Note … Colorado’s first of 15 spring practices will be conducted on March 18, with the spring game scheduled to take place nearly six weeks later at Folsom Field. Black & Gold Day will feature other events beyond the spring game, including Field Day presented by Children’s Hospital of Colorado, on April 27.

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 add new players – or face attrition – after the spring.

Previously posted: Quarterbacks

Up next: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends … Coming this Sunday …

— Running Backs (4) …

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

  • Seniors … Ahmir McGee
  • Juniors … Sy’veon Wilkerson; Charlie Offerdahl
  • Sophomores … Dylan Edwards; Alton McCaskill; Charlie Sarem
  • Red-shirt freshmen …
  • 2024 Signees … Micah Welch (EE)

The Stats … 

Yeah, yeah … CU’s lousy rushing numbers last season were skewed by the huge number of sacks Shedeur Sanders endured.

But … That’s only part of the problem.

Colorado finished 130th in the nation last season in rushing offense – dead last in the entire FBS. The Buff offense generated only 827 yards of rushing offense in 12 games (68.9 yds/game), a full 162 yards behind Hawai’i, which finished second-to-last in the country.

As bad as those numbers are, however, CU’s rushing attack was actually worse than that. Even if you take away all of the sack yardage, the Colorado offense, including Shedeur Sanders’ positive runs (59 carries for 381 yards), the total for CU’s rushing offense would have moved the Buffs all the way up to … drum roll … 118th in the nation.

So, reducing the number of sacks allowed alone is not enough to get the CU rushing attack within shouting distance of even being average.

What went wrong last year? The offensive line was certainly substandard, but even when opportunities were presented, the CU backfield didn’t produce:

— Dylan Edwards, playing in his first game as a true freshman, had four touchdowns in the opener against TCU. The remaining 11 games? One touchdown;

— Alton McCaskill, a freshman phenom himself for Houston several years ago, McCaskill still wasn’t ready for Prime Time even after missing all of the 2022 season with a torn ACL. McCaskill saw action in only four games in 2023, but is reportedly ready for duty in 2024;

— Sy’veon Wilkerson, like Edwards, had a promising start to his CU career, with 13 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown in the 2023 opener against the Horned Frogs, but hit double digits in carries only only more time all season, with 13 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown in a blowout loss against Washington State in November.

The numbers …

  • Dylan Edwards … 76 carries for 321 yards and one touchdown; 36 receptions for 299 yards and four touchdowns
  • Sy’veon Wilkerson … 53 carries for 190 yards and three touchdowns; five receptions for 50 yards
  • Alton McCaskill … 14 carries for 59 yards; two catches for 19 yards
  • Charlie Offerdahl … Two carries for 11 yards …
  • Shedeur Sanders … 111 carries for minus-77 yards (includes 52 sacks for a minus-458 yards; otherwise 59 carries for 381 yards and four touchdowns)

Nationally … CU in 2023 … 

  • Rushing offense … 68.9 yds/game … 130th (last) nationally
  • Total offense … 363.6 yds/game … 80th nationally
  • Scoring offense … 28.2 pts/game … 58th nationally

What to watch for …

It’s fair to say that the role of starting running back at the University of Colorado is there for the taking. Dylan Edwards is the likely favorite as spring camp opens, but nothing is guaranteed.

For his part, Edwards, who running with the CU track team this spring, sees great things ahead for the program. “The ceiling is nothing but a championship,” Edwards told “(Expectations are) to get to a bowl game, have over eight wins. I feel like we can win every single game this year on the team we’ve put together and are still putting together. It just all starts in the locker room and what we do on the (practice) field here.”

Alton McCaskill was last seen in October, shutting the season down after playing in four games in order to preserve three years of eligibility. “He wants it, but he does understand that it’s been a while since he has had his full strength and full potential,” Coach Prime said last October when announcing McCaskill was done for the season. “He wants to train and work his butt off and get into shape and come back in the spring and earn that number one spot, that’s what he echoed to me. I love it.”

McCaskill believes he is finally at 100 percent, and is anxious for spring practices. “I feel so much better,” McCaskill recently told the Daily Camera. “I just feel so, so, so much better. I’m way more confident moving around laterally. Physically I feel a lot better and mentally, as well, too. I’m trusting myself a lot more.”

True freshman Micah Welch was one of only eight members of CU’s small Recruiting Class of 2024, but Welch is already on campus and will participate in spring practices. A three-star recruit with offers from the likes of Oregon, Florida and Tennessee, Welch didn’t graduate high school early to wait until the fall of 2025 to see the field of play, so look for stories about his progress this spring.

Burning questions for spring … 

  • Dylan Edwards scored four times against TCU, but only once after the opener. Now a true sophomore with a full year in Boulder under his belt, can Edwards show that he has, despite his size (5’9″, 170-pounds), the endurance to be CU’s No. 1 back in 2024?;
  • Is Alton McCaskill all the way back? McCaskill has played in four games over the past two seasons, so his heroics as a true freshman at Houston are starting to fade. Can McCaskill prove to be the back CU fans were hoping to get when he became a Buff last season?;
  • Is Sy’veon Wilkerson the dark horse to get significant playing time this fall … or will he be the odd man out in the CU running back rotation?; and
  • Can Micah Welch make a splash as a true freshman – like Dylan Edwards did last September? Or will he be a situational prospect come fall?

Addition/Attrition likelihoodMedium … Heading into the fall with only four scholarship backs doesn’t seem to be a recipe for success, so the CU coaching staff may go shopping for additional help from the Transfer Portal come late April. Edwards and Welch are smaller backs, so a true fullback – or at least a bigger back who can be counted on for two yards on third-and-one – would be helpful. The current roster is long on potential and short on consistent production. CU coaches, players and fans will be constantly reminded over the next six months that Colorado was dead last in the nation in rushing in 2023, so ensuring quality production from this room will be a top priority from spring practices, 2024.


4 Replies to “Countdown to Spring – Running Backs”

  1. The poll is young but 80 percent of the voters so far are saying the running game’s problems are the RB’s fault
    Did anyone out there ever play a game that involved teamwork?

  2. I have always said BOB and SL Achilles heel was their miss-evaluation last year’s line from day 1; and the inability to adjust (i.e. playing up-tempo with a steady line). Also, we missed on our 4* OT and 4* TE, as they departed after the Spring game. The guard play was largely non-existent. Other than Sav before he was hurt, IMO he was the only ready prospect. Wells too, but also he was hurt early then battling injuries all season.

    First, we have to bet on the overall talent brought in (P-65 starters, PFF grades, game experience, size, and athletic ability) and also some returning guys (I think Tyler Brown, Sav Washington, Zilinkis and Conner can push for PT, or will be good depth pieces who will improve). Second, faith in Loadholt + Shurmer in getting these guys in sync installing plays that they can execute. Most all are already on campus. Also, this will be an older line.

    Last season, we could not even find a consistent side of the line, or couple of players next to one another to exploit or solidify something. The bust came so fast, they could not even run RPO, if they wanted. Little or no penetration. A bigger/blocking TE will help. I do think SL and SS were pass happy to a degree. UCLA and Ore State, were examples of games where CU was in the game, but did not even try to run to the ball in close games. Of the Oline/TE guys departing none are in the P-4, so that says something.

    I don’t think most teams except AFA types have a ton of different running plays, however the few that they have they execute well. Really, it is avoiding penalties, sacks and TFL; so they play in better downs and distance. Certainly, the RB’s have to do their part in hitting the hole, bulling forward and/or finding open field.

    Keeping SS upright, healthy and with enough time is a must. We have to protect enough so when teams stack the box, SS can exploit the play-makers downfield. When healthy, SS is pretty mobile, so if they can roll him out from pressure that will help. Also, you cannot play 4-5 WR sets, when a rush of 3-5 guys swarms the QB immediately. The Oline has to play better.

    I thought a huge tell from last season was our Dline, which although not great, played much better during the 2nd half of the season. They just made more plays. I don’t think they got that from pre-season or practice going against our Oline. It was game experience.

  3. “What went wrong last year? The offensive line was certainly substandard, but even when opportunities were presented, the CU backfield didn’t produce:”
    My burning question is coaching.
    How many different running plays were there. Maybe 4? Ok add on one more for the same ol pass to the flat to try and spring em into some open space. Granted the O line was terrible but there was nothing done to help them out in the way of play design or blocking.
    You have all heard me wring my hands about this before.
    We have a great example of running game success 60 miles south of Boulder. Airforce was second in the country rushing. Misdirection is their middle name. s’cuse me ….first name. I saw a couple plays where the Buffs pathetically and half heartedly attempted a fake handoff.

    No one is saying to run all the time like AF. We have a great passing game….when ever Shedeur isnt smacked down. Of you are going to do it. do it right….and practice it. That, of course, will also help Shedeur stay upright if the D has to expect Edwards et al as a threat at least some of the time.

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