2008 Colorado Preview - Offense
Colorado WR Josh Smith
Colorado WR Josh Smith
Posted Apr 21, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Colorado Buffalo Offense

Colorado Buffaloes

Preview 200
8 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Colorado Preview | 2008 Colorado Offense
- 2008 Colorado Defense | 2008 Colorado Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Colorado Preview | 2006 CFN Colorado Preview 

What you need to know:
Last year was part two in the maturation of the offense, but there might need to be one more year of seasoning to go before things really start to hum. This is still a very, very young group that's going to get even greener with a slew of new recruits expected to make a big impact on the line and in the backfield. The star of the show should be Darrell Scott, considered by many to be the nation's top high school running back, but he won't have to do it alone with Demetrius Sumler a good back who'll be the starter for now. The line is young, but very promising with senior center Daniel Sanders a strong anchor to work around. The key will be the efficiency of the passing game, as QB Cody Hawkins tries to handle the change to more of a no-huddle, hurry up attack. The tight ends will be good, but the wide receivers are nothing special.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Cody Hawkins
263-463, 3,015 yds, 22 TD, 17 INT
Rushing: Demetrius Sumler
100 carries, 335 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Scotty McKnight
47 catches, 555 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Cody Hawkins
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior WR Patrick Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Patrick Devenny
Best pro prospect: Senior C Daniel Sanders
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sanders, 2) RB Darrell Scott, 3) Hawkins
Strength of the offense: Running back, tight end
Weakness of the offense: Wide receiver, veteran linemen


Projected Starter
Sophomore Cody Hawkins was going to go to Boise State, but when his dad took the Colorado gig, it was off to Boulder where he started right away and finished with 3,015 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. As expected, he made a ton of mistakes as a freshman, but the interceptions slowed to a stop late in the year throwing just one over the final four regular season games. Not all that big at 5-11 and 190 pounds, he has a nice arm, good touch, and just enough mobility to not be a statue. He's a talented, tough passer who'll get better as he grows into the job.

Projected Top Reserves: Former JUCO transfer Nick Nelson got a little bit of work completing three of six passes for 22 yards in mop-up work. The 6-1, 230-pound senior has a good arm and has been good enough in practices to prove he could step in and shine if needed. He's not going to challenge Hawkins for the starting job, but he'll be a good backup.

Pushing hard for the number two role is redshirt freshman Matt Ballenger, a 6-4, 230-pound bomber who was a great recruit for the program two years ago. With mobility to go along with his size, he could actually take off and run as well as the other options, and he should be more of a factor with more practice time.
Watch Out For ... an ongoing battle for the No. 2 job. Nelson and Ballenger are almost neck-and-neck, so will the coaching staff go with the young guy over the veteran in a pinch? The hope is to only need to make that call in an emergency.
Strength: Arms. Hawkins has a good, accurate arm, and it might be the worst of the three options. Nelson and Ballenger are big options who can make every throw in the book.
Weakness: Getting used to the offense. With more no huddle and more of a hurry up attack, Hawkins has even more to deal with other than just trying to improve from his freshman to sophomore seasons.
Outlook: There's a little bit of lip service paid to the idea of Nelson and Ballenger getting a shot to push for the starting job, but this is the Hawkins show. He's the face of the offense for the next three years, and after a promising first season, and with a bit more help from the receiving corps, he should be more efficient.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters
It's asking far too much for any one player to come in and change a program by himself, but that's basically what true freshman Darrell Scott is expected to do. At 6-2 and 215 pounds with 4.3 speed, he has the tools. After running for
3,194 yards on 337 carries and scored 45 touchdown in one season, he has the high school résumé that made him the top running back recruit in the country. Texas and Colorado waged a fierce battle for Scott's services, and now he's expected to be one of the Big 12's newest stars. With speed, power, and a world of talent, he has the potential to make the Buff running game the focal point of the attack.

Projected Top Reserves: While everyone is waiting to see what Scott can do, 5-10, 215-pound sophomore Demetrius Sumler isn't going to politely step aside. A star recruit as well, he came in and had a nice first year running for 335 yards and four touchdowns as the team's second leading rusher behind Hugh Charles, but he didn't show much flash averaging just 3.4 yards per pop. He's better than that. With tremendous quickness and good all-around ability, he's good enough to get the start and keep Scott as a part of the rotation.

Also looking to stay in the hunt for carries is 5-7, 175-pound sophomore Brian Lockridge, a little speedster who suffered a sports hernia this off-season and will try to get back in time for the start of fall practices. The team's third leading rusher, he ran for 213 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and showed nice pop when he got his chance.

Helping to pave the way will be 6-0, 240-pound senior Maurice Cantrell, a former linebacker who doesn't get any carries and won't see the ball, but he'll be used as a big blocking fullback whenever the running game needs the hard yards.

While Scott is the star of the recruiting class, 6-1, 200-pound Ray Polk and 5-8, 180-pound Rodney Stewart were strong pickups. Polk was a highly sought after back with chances to go just about anywhere. "Ray Ray" is a big, fast back who was a star high school hurdler, considered among the best in the nation. Stewart is a speedster clocking in at 10.7 in the 100 meters. He came back from a torn ACL to run for 2,46 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Backing up Cantrell will be the combination of 230-pound junior Jake Behrens. Behrens was a big-time recruit as a defensive end as well as a fullback, and will be a physical blocker in the mix after finally starting to make an impact.
Watch Out For ... the freshmen. Most die-hard fans have heard a little about Scott, but Polk was a fantastic recruit who would've been the jewel of the offensive haul if Scott wasn't picked up. Stewart will make noise throughout his career as a receiver and return man as well as a runner.
Strength: Really, really talented players. It's not too crazy to suggest that Scott could step in and instantly be the best back in the Big 12. Polk is going to be a good one, and the running game can certainly produce with Sumler carrying the mail.
Weakness: Proof. Hugh Charles was a nice back who ran for 989 yards last year, and while Sumler started in three games, he wasn't lights out. There's a whole bunch of talent to get excited about, but no one has really done it yet.
Outlook: CU had a good running game with Charles at the helm, and now it could be special if everyone plays up to their talent level. Scott could be a special player who instantly becomes the Colorado offense, while Sumler had a terrific off-season and will be in the mix for starting time right away.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters
In one of the major surprises of last year, 5-11, 180-pound sophomore Scotty McKnight came back from a broken ankle to lead the team in receiving with 45 catches for 455 yards and four touchdowns. He started off the season hot with eight grabs for 16 yards and a score against Colorado State, and while that was his best game of the season, he was a steady, if not spectacular, producer. He's not a star No. 1, but he's a good, tough inside target.

Needing to make a bigger impact is 6-2, 205-pound Patrick Williams, a former star recruit who hasn't been able to play up to the promise. He caught 29 passes for 294 yards without a touchdown. He busts his tail as a worker, but with his size, speed, and experience, he needs to be more dangerous on the outside.

The status of junior Riar Geer, the team's top tight end, was still up in the air, but now he's reinstated after missing all spring. He was suspended after being arrested and charged with felony, second-degree assault. The 6-4, 250-pounder led the team in receiving two yards ago with 24 catches for 261 yards and three scores, but he struggled late that year and only caught 14 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Projected Top Reserves: If Geer has any issues, it'll be up to former quarterback Patrick Devenny to step in, and he should be more than just a nice second option. The 6-3, 240-pound junior was fantastic this spring as a key target for all the quarterbacks showing good deep speed and excellent hands. He caught one pass for a three-yard touchdown last year, and now he could be the team's breakout offensive star.

Working behind Williams on the outside X spot will be true sophomore Josh Smith, a phenomenal athlete who was wanted by several schools to run track and is a late bloomer to football. Despite suffering a kidney problem early on, he came in and caught 25 passes for 491 yards while being used as a runner late in the year finishing with 44 yards on 13 carries. He's a big-time deep threat.

Former walk-on Cody Crawford has been a decent, serviceable backup catching 15 passes for 222 yards to years ago and seven passes for 73 yards last year. While he's a good veteran, hell be quickly pushed aside when rising options like 6-2, 195-pound redshirt freshman Markques Simas is ready. A big, potentially very productive all-around receiver, Simas will push Crawford out of a spot sooner than later.
Watch Out For ... a constant search for someone who can scare a defense. The passing game spread it around to several receivers, a few tight ends, and the running backs, but there wasn't any one wide receiver who did anything special. That has to change.
Strength: Tight end. This was the key area of the passing game last year as Tyson DeVree emerged as the year went on. Even if Geer isn't back, Devenny is a rising star and junior Luke Walters, a transfer from New Mexico, should be good. Things only get better when recruits Ryan Deeham, Ryan Dannewitz, and Ryan Wallace get to school.
Weakness: Touchdown catches from the wideouts. Of the 22 touchdown passes thrown last year, McKnight caught four, Dusty Sprague caught two, and tight ends and backs took care of the rest. The lack of a true go-to wideout could put a hard ceiling on the offensive potential.
Outlook: Cody Hawkins is a good quarterback who'll get the ball to anyone who's out there. More often than not, though, he'll have to use his tight ends thanks to an extremely mediocre group of wideouts. There's speed, but there's no one who'll make defensive coordinators do any extra film study. Geer needs to be back and Devenny has to play like he did this spring.
Rating: 6

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
There's uncertainty and youth all across the line, meaning 6-3, 325-pound senior Daniel Sanders has to be an extra special leader and anchor at center. A starter for every game but one in the middle, getting the call at left guard against Oklahoma, he's a tough blocker and a road grader for the running game. He'll be the team's best lineman even if he ends up moving to guard.

The other key returning starter is sophomore Ryan Miller, a 6-7, 315-pound pass blocker who got the call over the second half of last year at right tackle and will not be a fixture there. He took his lumps as a true freshman, but the former Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year should eventually be an All-Big 12 performer. He has limitless upside.

Needing to step in and shine at left tackle with Tyler Polumbus gone will be sophomore Nate Solder, a 6-8, 280-pound former tight end with excellent athleticism catching three passes for 50 yards. While he's going to be a bit green in a full-time role, he had a great spring and should blossom with every practice, like he did this off-season.

Working at right guard will likely be 6-4, 295-pound junior Devin Head to start out. He'll have to battle this fall for the job, and he'll certainly be part of a rotation, but he has experience starting for most of the first half of last year before giving way to Edwin Harrison. If needed, he'll be the first fill-in at center if Sanders ever moves to guard.

There will be a big-time battle at the left guard spot with 6-4, 280-pound redshirt freshman Matthew Bahr getting the first chance. The job is wide open, so consistency is the key early, and holding off a top recruit could be the issue as fall practices go on. 

Projected Top Reserves: Behr is hardly a lock at left guard. 6-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman Blake Behrens and 6-3, 280-pound redshirt freshman Shawn Daniels will each get their chances to win the job.

Trying to push Head out of the right guard spot will be former JUCO transfer Erick Faatagi, but the 6-2, 310-pound senior has academic issues.

The heir apparent to the center job next year is 6-2, 280-pound sophomore Keenan Stevens, a versatile backup who can play guard or center, he'll start out behind Sanders. If he turns out to be fantastic, he could step in at guard or allow Sanders to move over.

Three true freshmen, Brice Givens, Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, and Ryan Dannewitz will all get their chances to provide instant depth, but the 6-4, 300-pound Tuioti-Mariner is the only one ready to start right away. He would've been an even bigger recruit if he hadn't missed his senior year with a serious knee injury, but he was still considered one of the best guard prospect in the nation. He's a major-league run blocker who could take over at left guard from day one.
Watch Out For ... rough patches early, and a jelled unit late. The coaching staff is counting on three true freshmen to at least provide decent emergency options, while outside of Sanders, there isn't any one sure-thing star to count on.
Strength: Potential. While last year's line was strong, particularly in pass protection, this one has more upside and more talent. It just isn't developed yet.
Weakness: Options. On the plus side, only Sanders and Miller are sure-thing starters up front with several promising players battling for time. There are good position battles going on at both guard spots and at left tackle, even though Solder appears to be solid. The depth is being developed by the moment in practices.
Outlook: This was supposed to be the team's biggest question mark last year, but the line turned out to be a rock in pass protection and not-that-bad for the ground game. Now there needs to be some major changes made, but line coach Jeff Grimes has a great-looking group that should be molded into something beyond just serviceable early on. The key will be to find one lineup and stick with it. The position battles have to end as early as possible this fall.
Rating: 7