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2007 Colorado Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 18, 2007


Preview 2007 Colorado Buffalo Offense Preview

Colorado Buffaloes

Preview 200
7 - Offense

- 2007 Colorado Preview | 2007 CU Defense Preview
-
2007 CU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Colorado Preview 

What you need to know:
Call this a stepping-stone season for the offense before it explodes in 2008. The overall production can't help but be better after averaging a Big 12-worst 291 yards and 16 points per game. There are too many ifs. If a backup can emerge behind top running back Hugh Charles, and if all the problems this spring finding healthy offensive linemen go away, and if the veteran receiving corps can prove that it's better than last season showed, and if Cody Hawkins and/or Nick Nelson can shine right away at quarterback, the Buffs should start to have the offense that Buff fans expected when Dan Hawkins was hired.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Bernard Jackson
108-219, 1,298 yds, 7, 7 INT
Rushing: Hugh Charles
139 carries, 779 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Riar Geer
24 catches, 261 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Hugh Charles
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman QB Cody Hawkins and/or Junior QB Nick Nelson
Unsung star on the rise: Nelson
Best pro prospect: Junior C Daniel Sanders
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sanders, 2) Charles, 3) TE Riar Geer
Strength of the offense: Receiver depth
Weakness of the offense:
Guard, proven backup running back

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
It was always going to be a question of time before Cody Hawkins became the CU starting quarterback, but the time might be now considering the passing game needs a major jump-start. The coach's son originally committed to Boise State, and then followed his father to Boulder with a nice arm and great passing touch. While the race is still wide-open, Hawkins has the biggest upside and might be allowed to work out all the kinks now with the hope that he'll be a star in 2008.

Projected Top Reserves: JUCO transfer Nick Nelson is neck-and-neck with Hawkins for the starting quarterback job and is almost certain to see time if he doesn't win it. At 6-1 and 220 pounds, he's bigger than Hawkins with a strong, accurate arm shown off with a strong spring. He's not going to provide much in the way of mobility, but he'll spread the ball around.

The X factor will be senior Bernard Jackson, last year's starter who had a great season running the ball with 677 yards and seven touchdowns, but he was miserable throwing it completing fewer than half of his passes for 1,298 yards and seven touchdowns with seven interceptions as CU finished 116th in the nation in passing offense and 114th in passing efficiency. While he'll be used in other ways, he'll see a little time under center as a change of pace.
 
Watch Out For ... Jackson to not be done playing quarterback quite yet. While he's not going to start, he'll keep defensive coordinators up at nights worrying about the 2 to 5 plays a game he'll see under center as a runner.
Strength: Promise. Hawkins and Nelson are upgrades over what the program has had in past years; each can play. Eventually, they'll each shine.
Weakness: Proven production. Jackson certainly couldn't get it done through the air last year, Hawkins is a redshirt freshman, and Nelson is a transfer. There's no one on the roster who's been consistently good at the D-I level.
Outlook: The race for the starting job is considered to be wide open, but Hawkins likely has the edge going into the fall. While Dan Hawkins will certainly make his opinion known, the call will be offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich's to make when all is said and done. The overall passing numbers can't be any worse, but the team will have to live through a year of mistakes no matter what. Even after a good spring from Hawkins and Nelson, call this season a step back to take a big leap forward next year.
Rating: 6.5


Running Backs

Projected Starters
:
Senior Hugh Charles has done the most of what he could over the last few years playing behind a lousy line two years ago and having no passing game to help take the heat off last season. He's a fast 5-8 and 190 pounds rushing for 779 yards and a touchdown lass season, and while he can catch, he only made nine grabs for 85 yards. He's not a workhorse, but he's effective inside and out able to crank out big runs here and there.

Helping to pave the way will be 240-pound junior Maurice Cantrell, a former linebacker who didn't get any carries, but caught two passes for 38 yards.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Byron Ellis provides a little more bang to the mix at 6-0 and 215 pounds, but it's unfair to call him a power back. He has excellent speed and good all-around pop through the line and can catch a little bit, but he wasn't used all that much last season finishing with just 126 yards and a touchdown after being non-existent over the second half of the year.

5-7, 195-pound sophomore Kevin Moyd is a speed back who could emerge as a home-run hitter is he's able to get in the open. Battling him for the third spot is 210-pound redshirt freshman Demetrius Sumler, who came to Boulder as a top recruit and will eventually be the main man at some point in his career. At least that's the hope.

JUCO transfer Patrick Gates was a scoring machine at
Saddleback College with 23 touchdowns, and he should be an instant threat for playing time this fall.

Backing up Cantrell will be the combination of 230-pound sophomore Jake Behrens and 225-pound senior Samson Jagoras, who was the starter going into last year before being replaced by Cantrell. Behrens was a big-time recruit as a defensive end as well as a fullback, and will be a physical blocker in the mix.
 
Watch Out For ... more of a rotation to help out Charles. Ellis has to play a much bigger role, or else Moyd and Sumler have to shine early on.
Strength: Home-run hitters. Charles is a six-yard run waiting to happen, and Ellis can move once he gets through the line. Moyd and Sumler can also move.
Weakness: Power. The Buffs don't have a short-yardage banger to pick up the tough yards and they don't have a proven scorer. CU got four rushing scores from its backs.
Outlook: Hugh Charles isn't a workhorse, but he's ultra-effective in spurts able to come up with big pops here and there. With Bernard Jackson not playing quarterback anymore, that means others will have to pick up the slack. It might be Jackson, who'll see time in the backfield to get the ball in his hands, but it'll take the other backs to help CU be among the nation's leaders in rushing.
Rating: 7

Receivers

Projected Starters
:
The Buffs need a number one wide receiver threat to emerge, and that might not happen until the fall. For now, senior Alvin Barnett has the potential to be the main man after finishing second on the team with 21 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown. With he was steady, he wasn't explosive and has to do far more to throw any kind of a scare into opposing defenses. He'll get the first look on the inside Z position, but he'll have to prove he has the hands to be a regular target.

On the outside will be junior Patrick Williams, a 6-2, 200-pound speedster who caught 19 passes for 242 yards and a score averaging 12.7 yards per catch. A star recruit when he came to the program, it's time for him to come through.

The main man in the passing game last year was 6-2, 245-pound sophomore Riar Geer, one of the team's few bright spots. He led the team with 24 catches for 261 yards and three scores highlighted by a seven-catch, 71-yard day in the near-miss against Georgia. However, he fell off the map with just three catches over the final five games, but his blocking improved. He has the size, and he should be a star weapon with a better passer under center.

Projected Top Reserves: With the receiver jobs open, junior Cody Crawford and senior Dusty Sprague will get plenty of chances to see time. Sprague appeared to be on the verge of stardom with 68 catches in his first two seasons, but like the rest of the team, he was a big disappointment with 11 catches for 179 touchdowns and no scores. He's 6-4 and 190 pounds with great speed at the inside Z position behind Barnett. Crawford was a major factor over the second half of the season catching 13 passes in the final five games. While the walk-on is suited for an inside spot with good route running ability and nice hands, he'll play on the outside to start the season.

The most exciting option will be Bernard Jackson, the now-third string quarterback who will get the ball in a variety of ways. He's the team's most dynamic playmaker and will see plenty of time in three-wide sets and could push for the starting job at the X.

Behind Geer will be seniors Joe Sanders and Tyson DeVree, who transferred from Western Michigan but was never right last season. Sanders is a former linebacker who started to look like a real tight end in spring ball, while DeVree should be dangerous now that he's healthy.
 
Watch Out For ... bigger plays. It was a function of the offense's limitations last year that there were only seven touchdown catches and just under 12 yards per grab. That will change from game one if the quarterbacks get time.
Strength: Experience. This was a veteran corps last year, and now the top five receivers are back. Production-wise, this should be the team's biggest area of improvement.
Weakness: Sure-thing number one wide receiver. Yeah, there are lots of veterans and yeah, there's a lot of potential among all the options, but someone has to emerge as a target opposing teams need to worry about.
Outlook: While the receiving corps didn't help matters last year with an overall lousy season, the shaky passing of Bernard Jackson killed the potential production. Now things should be night-and-day better with the change in quarterback (whoever ends up starting) and all the veterans knowing what they're doing in the Dan Hawkins offense. While it would be nice to have sure-thing starters, there will be a good rotation of players throughout the year and excellent depth.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
Write the depth chart in pencil since injuries prevented the starting five from being settled in spring ball. Going into the fall, 6-4, 300-pound senior Edwin Harrison will start out at right tackle after starting 16 games in his career. He's the most experienced lineman and will be starting somewhere. One of the team's stronger players, he'll be expected to become a rock at one of the tackle spots.

The other side will likely be manned by Tyler Polumbus, a 6-8, 300-pound veteran who started every game last year coming up with a steady season. While he's not necessarily a devastating blocker, he's consistent.

The guard situation is up in the air, but going into the season, 6-1, 285-pound redshirt freshman Wes Palazzi will likely get the first look at left guard, while 285-pound sophomore Devin Head will get the first look at the other spot. Head can play tackle if needed, but is far more vital in the interior. Palazzi will at least be part of the rotation.

While the guard situation is unsettled, the Buffs are set at center where junior Daniel Sanders is the team's best blocker. He might end up moving to guard, but he's a monster in the middle at 6-3 and 305 pounds. Extremely tough against the run, the offense might rely on him to be the quarterback up front and the team's anchor.

Projected Top Reserves: Harrison and Polumbus are too good to move out of starting tackle spots, one of them might take a seat this fall. That's how good true freshman Ryan Miller is. At 6-8 and 310 pounds, he's a big blocker who's athletic and punishing in all areas. The Gatorade Player of the Year in Colorado will find time somewhere, even if it's as a part of a rotation just to get his feet wet.

Also in the mix will be 6-3, 275-pound redshirt freshman Keenan Stevens, who could turn out to be the key to the line. Able to play center or guard, if he's great in the middle, it would solve a big problem allowing Sanders to move to guard. 6-2, 310-pound junior Erick Faatagi can be a mauler at one of the guard spots, but the former JUCO transfer needs time.
 
Watch Out For ... lots of changes before the opener. Lots. The lack of live bodies prevented the Buffs to have any sort of cohesiveness. It won't be until late in fall practice until there's a starting five to be comfortable with.
Strength: A good nucleus. Even with all the problems, having a center like Stevens and tackles like Polumbus and Harrison is a good place to start. There are three solid starters to work around, now the coaching staff just has to find ...
Weakness: Guards. If Stevens is at center, the guard play will be a huge question mark needing some of the newcomers to step in and provided depth and challenge for playing time.
Outlook: The team's biggest question mark isn't as bad as it's being made out to be. The line was solid throughout last year and despite losing some good players, there's a slew of strong recruits coming in. With a strength-in-numbers theory, some of the eight newcomers will come through and provide depth. As long as the guards are settled, all will be fine.
Rating: 6.5

  

Related Stories
2007 Colorado Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 18, 2007
2007 Colorado Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 18, 2007
2007 Colorado Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 18, 2007








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