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Colorado Preview 2006 - Offense
Colorado Buffaloes
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 1, 2006


Colorado Buffaloes Preview 2006 - Colorado Offense

What you need to know ... Call the new offense under Dan Hawkins a work in progress. It's not going to be the fun 'n' gun like many will make it out to be with an emphasis on balance and a strong running game. However, the pieces aren't quite in place considering there's a three way battle to figure out who the quarterback will be, there's no depth on the offensive line, and the receiving corps, while talented, hasn't lived up to its potential. On the plus side, there's a decent backfield and a great starting five on the line. Of course, there's also Hawkins, who'll be as inventive and creative as any coach in the Big 12.

Returning Leaders
Passing: James Cox
13-29, 93 yds
Rushing: Hugh Charles
176 carries, 842 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Dusty Sprague
43 catches, 468 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior C Mark Fenton
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QBs Bernard Jackson, Brian White, and/or senior QB James Cox
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Edwin Harrison
Best pro prospect: Fenton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fenton, 2) RB Hugh Charles, 3) OG Brian Daniels
Strength of the offense: Starting five offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line depth, experienced quarterback

Quarterbacks
It has been Joel Klatt and more Joel Klatt over the last three years before he got knocked out against Texas forcing James Cox to see a little work with Brian White later getting on the field in the Champs Bowl loss to Clemson. It's a wide-open battle for the starting job with the big passing White with the paper-thin lead going into summer with Cox and the speedy Bernard Jackson also in the hunt. Redshirt freshmen Patrick Devenny and Mack Brown will battle for practice reps behind the top three. Top recruit Cody Hawkins, son of head coach Dan Hawkins, will likely be redshirted.
The key to the unit: Figure out who the starter is as soon as possible and revolve the offense around him. It would help if one would emerge from the pack right off the bat this summer.
Quarterback Rating: 6.5

Projected Starter
- Brian White, Jr. - 8-13, 91 yds, 1 TD, 1 carry, 10 yds
The 6-5, 225-pound junior finally got on the field in the last game of the year and looked great in the loss to Clemson in the Champs Sports Bowl. He has a rocket arm and the fearlessness to lead the attack and be the leader over the next two years if he shows he can overcome his lack of mobility. The new coaching staff would like some sort of a rushing threat from the quarterback, and going 10 of 24 for 102 yards in the spring game doesn't help.

Top Backups
- Bernard Jackson, Jr. - 8 carries, 10 yds
Basically, the old coaching staff didn't know what to do with him. Jackson is a very fast, very talented athlete who was kept under wraps and used sparingly as a runner and a receiver. He's not even close to being the most accurate passer in the quarterback derby, but he's so fast and so explosive that it might be impossible to keep him off the field.

- James Cox, Sr. - 13-29, 93 yds, 44.8%
Cox is a tall 6-3 passer with good mobility and more experience than anyone else on the roster, but he didn't look good when he got his shot last year completing one of eight passes in the Big 12 title game debacle before going four of 12 in the bowl loss to Clemson. He missed most of spring ball with a thumb injury and will have to be lights out this summer to have a shot at the number one job.

Running Backs
The production fell off the map once the offensive line started having problems, and now the group will be expected to carry the offense until the quarterbacks and the passing game come around. Dan Hawkins has said he wants this to be a running team meaning he needs Hugh Charles to be the speedy back he was over the first half of last season. Mell Holliday, Byron Ellis and Kevin Moyd will all get plenty of work, but Ellis is the only one with the potential to get the hard yards up the middle. More help is on the way from the recruits this fall. Samson Jagoras and Jake Behrens will try to replace do-it-all fullback Lawrence Vickers.
The key to the unit: A between-the-tackles runner needs to emerge and more consistent production will be needed from all four tailbacks.
Running Back Rating:
6.5

Projected Starters
- Hugh Charles, Jr. - 176 carries, 842 yds, 4.8 ypc, 6 TD, 26 catches, 226 yds, 8.7 ypc, 1 TD
The lightning fast Charles did the most with what he could last year having problems behind a patchwork line. He started out hot with three 10-yard games in the first four, and then the problems on the line kicked in. Now the 5-8 back is expected to have a huge season with more room and space to run and more opportunities. The coaching staff is going to go out of its way to get the ball in his hands.

- Fullback Samson Jagoras, Jr.
The transfer from Western New Mexico has some huge shoes to fill trying to replace Lawrence Vickers. He's not huge a 5-120 and 225 pounds, but he's physical and very, very tough. He started out his CU career as a linebacker before being moved over to the offense.

Top Backups
- Mell Holliday, Sr.
The Wayne State transfer was forced to sit out last year thanks to a snafu with the NCAA, and now he only has one season left. He's a physical 205 pounds with decent quickness and just enough pop to get a few carries a game. He was great this spring emerging as a viable option to be the number one runner if Hugh Charles isn't getting the job done.
- Byron Ellis, Jr. - 75 carries, 216 yds, 2.9 ypc, 6 catches, 70 yds, 11.7 ypc
The 205-pound powerback will add a little bit of thunder to the lightning of the rest of the runners. He has breakaway speed once he gets through the line, but he hasn't gotten through the line much so far in game action. He might not be a special runner, but he has the makeup to carry the offense if he has to.
- Kevin Moyd, RFr.
Moyd has tremendous speed and home run hitting ability who'll be deadly when he gets the corner. He's not going to run it between the tackles and isn't going to power over anyone at 5-8 and 185 pounds.
- Fullback Jake Behrens, RFr.
Last year's star recruit as both a defensive end and a fullback will be more of a runner than Samson Jagoras and should eventually be the power runner in the attack. At 5-11 and 235 pounds, he's bigger than Jagoras.

Receivers
It's a good group of experienced receivers that should be ready to explode. Dusty Sprague is a good number one receiver to build around, while Patrick Williams and Alvin Barnett provide some big-time speed to stretch things out. Stephone Robinson, now that he's no longer a defensive back and will just be a receiver, should be too good to not get the ball in his hands on a regular basis. A big boost is on the way with the return of Blake Mackey from a knee injury, but he'll have to wait until fall to prove he's back to normal. The big hit is at tight end losing NFLer Joel Klopfenstein and quality backup Quinn Sypniewski. The hope is for Tyson DeVree to be over shoulder issues and for Paul Creighton to shine now that he doesn't have to be a fullback.
The key to the unit: Get more big plays downfield from this experienced, talented bunch.
Receiver Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Dusty Sprague, Jr. - 43 catches, 468 yds, 10.9 ypc, 1 TD
The big, fast Sprague had fantastic season growing into the role of the team's number one target. He's 6-4, 190 pounds, and has the toughness to make the big catch across the middle at the Z position. He's not explosive and only had one touchdown catch last year, but he was steady from start to finish.

- Patrick Williams, Soph. - 28 catches, 241 yds, 8.6 ypc
Williams stepped in when Blake Mackey went down and turned into a decent third receiver. While he didn't make many big plays, he has the ability to be a top playmaker in the full-time role at the X, or in three-wide sets. He's 6-2, 195-pounds, and can move. One of the program's best receiver prospects in years, he'll be too good to keep out of the mix.

- Tight end Paul Creighton, Sr.
Part fullback and part tight end, the offense needs Creighton as a full time tight end. He's not the receiver fellow tight end Tyson DeVree is, but he's a better blocker. That's not to say he won't catch any passes, but he won't be featured like Joel Klopfenstein was last season.

Top Backups

- Stephone Robinson, Jr. - 6 catches, 61 yds, 10.2 ypc
Part cornerback and part receiver, the quick Robinson moved to the offensive side early last year and was used as the team's punt and kickoff returner. He's one of the team's quickest players and should be tough to handle when he gets more work on the inside now that the coaching staff plans to make him a key target.
- Alvin Barnett, Jr. - 17 catches, 131 yds, 10.9 ypc
The former JUCO transfer has all the skills to be the team's best receiver if everything comes together from his hands to his consistency to his concentration. He started off well catching 12 passes in the first four games, and then his production fell off the map. He'll see time at the X before Blake Mackey is 100%.
- Blake Mackey, Sr.
One of the team's biggest questions is whether or not Mackey will be healthy again after missing all of last year with a knee injury. Before getting hurt, the 6-3 deep threat was starting to show signs of being a next-level caliber target. He was limited in spring ball, but when he's back to normal he'll push hard for the starting job at the X.
- Tight end Tyson DeVree, Jr.
The Western Michigan transfer has the size at 6-6 and 245 pounds and he has the hands, but he has to prove he's over a shoulder problem that has limited him over the last few years. Hell quickly be a key target.

Offensive Linemen
The Achilles heel last year, the line suffered a rash of injuries that killed the offense's consistency. There's almost no depth to speak of and the waiting game was played this spring with several top linemen still out recovering, but the starting five, once they're all on the field at the same time, should be marvelous. Mark Fenton is the best center in the Big 12 and a mortal-lock to be a Rimington Award finalist, while guard Brian Daniels is the team's steadiest blocker. Edwin Harrison has all the tools to grow into a superstar at left tackle. Daniel Sanders should be a solid right guard, while Tyler Polumbus and Paul Backowski will form a nice duo at right tackle.

The key to the unit: Everyone has to get healthy and all the new prospects have to develop at light speed to provide some depth.
Offensive Line Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- OT Edwin Harrison, Jr.
Thrown into the lineup when injuries started to his, the 6-4, 300-pound junior started seven games and turned out to be fantastic. He's a steady pass blocker and played like a seasoned veteran in tough situations. He's a terror in the weight room and should grow into an All-Big 12 performer soon.
- OG Brian Daniels, Sr.
It took a while for Daniels' season to get started after suffering a broken rib and a bruised kidney in the season opener, but he turned out to be a steady force having been the team's steadiest all-around blocker for the last three seasons. He's not the team's best lineman, that's center Mark Fenton, but he has the best technique along with all-star status.
- C Mark Fenton, Sr.
It's Fenton's third season as the starter having grown into one of the nation's best centers and an All-Big 12 performer. He's a dominant pass blocker allowing just one sack in his career and should start to earn All-America status once more recognize his run blocking abilities.
- OG Daniel Sanders, Soph.
The 300-pound Sanders is a big, strong sophomore who worked his way into the lineup before having problems with a torn hamstring. He's expected to grow into a top run blocker once he get more time and more seasoning.
- OT Paul Backowski, RFr.
While he still needs plenty of seasoning, the 6-6, 285-pound redshirt freshman has all the makings of a good one at right tackle. He's good on the move and he has a long frame with good reach for pass protection. He saw plenty of time this spring, but he's going to have to work to get the right tackle job when Tyler Polumbus is 100%.

Top Backups
- T Tyler Polumbus, Jr.
The 6-8, 285-pound junior was just starting to come into his won before getting nailed with a shoulder problem. He's an excellent pass protector on the right side and should be back at 100% this fall to take over his job, but he'll have to beat out Paul Backowski to get it back.
- G Erick Faatagi, Jr.
One of the team's top recruits will be thrown into the mix right off the bat. At 6-3 and 340 pounds, he's the team's biggest lineman and should be a mauler after turning into a top all-around blocker last season at El Camino JC in California.

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