2009 CFN Colorado Preview |
2009 Colorado Depth
2008 Colorado Preview |
2007 Colorado Preview |
What you need to know:
There was a fun offensive party
going on in the Big 12 last season and Colorado
didn't get the invite. While it was generally
acknowledged that the O needed a year of seasoning,
finishing last in the league in total offense and
scoring offense still stunk. Worst of all, the Buffs
were last in passing efficiency. There won't be too
much of an improvement in the passing game unless a
slew of new recruits can shine right away, but QB
Cody Hawkins is a promising veteran who should be
more consistent. The running game should be far
better with an improved, deep line that should pound
away for, arguably, the Big 12's best stable of
backs. Darrell Scott appears to be ready to be the
superstar everyone was hoping he'd be as the team's
top recruit last year, while Rodney Stewart,
Demetrius Sumler, and Brian Lockridge can all carry
the load. For the passing game to improve, the line
has to be far better keeping the quarterbacks
upright and the receivers have to be far more
Passing: Cody Hawkins
183-320, 1,892 yds, 17 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Rodney Stewart
132 carries, 622 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Scotty McKnight
46 catches, 519 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense:
Sophomore RB Darrell Scott
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Nate Solder
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Riar Geer
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Scott, 2) RB Rodney
Stewart, 3) Geer
Strength of the offense: Running Back, Tight End
Weakness of the offense: Wide Receiver, Proven Pass
While it's considered a
dead-even fight for the starting job, junior Cody
Hawkins, head coach Dan Hawkins' son, is the one who's
the safest choice and the best of the passing options. The 5-11,
190-pound junior was originally expected to go to Boise State,
but changed his choice to Colorado when his dad switched jobs.
While he was a top recruit, he hasn't quite blossomed as
expected and has been inconsistent. While he has put up some big
numbers with 4,907 yards in his first two years with 39
touchdown passes, he has also thrown 27 interceptions. While
he's not all that big, he has a live arm and just enough
mobility to take off from time to time. While he has had some
rough patches, he has seen enough action to make a big jump in
production and consistency.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Tyler
Hansen was thrown into the mix as a true freshman and
came up with a win over Kansas State and wasn't too bad over the
second half of the season completing 52% of his passes for 280
yards with a touchdown. However, he threw four interceptions and
wasn't consistent completing 12-of-16 throws in the blowout loss
to Missouri and 4-of-12 against Iowa State. At 6-1 and 200
pounds, he's bigger than Hawkins and he's a much better runner
with 261 yards, including 86 against Kansas State. While he's
more polished than last year and appears to have become a better
decision maker, he's still not quite as smooth as Hawkins.
Watch Out For ... Hawkins to take hold of the
position. Hansen will get his chances to win the starting job
and could even take on an X factor role seeing time as a change
up, but Hawkins is the passer who can get the offense moving
Strength: Playing time. Hawkins has played in 25
games over his first two seasons, and Hansen is a veteran backup
and could even win the starting spot with a great fall camp.
Weakness: Efficiency. There weren't enough big
plays made down the field and the consistency was never there.
The passing game isn't going to be more explosive now that one
of the most dangerous targets, Josh Smith, is gone.
Outlook: With Matt Ballenger leaving the team, the
quarterback situation is all about Hawkins and Hansen, and
that's not a bad thing. Both quarterbacks looked strong in
spring ball and appear to have better control of the offense,
but someone, most likely Hawkins, will have to be able to start
bombing away more to be able to keep up with the more explosive
Big 12 passing games.
The hype for Darrell
Scott was off the charts. Considered by many to be the
nation's top running back recruit last year, he came in and was
expected to carry the offense from day one. He was fine, rushing
for 343 yards and a touchdown as the team's second leading
rusher, but he was hardly special after suffering a slew of
minor injures. Last year he wasn't in fighting shape; now he looks the part. A bit
tentative at times while rarely showing off the explosiveness of
his 4.3 speed last season, this offseason he appears ready to
blossom into superstardom. The 6-1, 200-pound sophomore ran for
3,194 yards and 45 touchdowns in his final year in high school
and was almost going to go to Texas, but Colorado was able to
pry him away and now he should be the focal point of the attack
for the next three years.
Projected Top Reserves:
While everyone was waiting
to see what Scott could do, another true freshman,
Rodney Stewart, turned out to be the team's best back
last season. The 5-7, 170-pound sophomore might not be all that
big, but he's a speedster, clocking in at 10.7 in the 100
meters, and he showed he could handle the workload as he carried
the offense at times throughout the first half of last season,
highlighted by a 166-yard day against West Virginia. While he
led the team with 622 yards and two scores, he suffered a broken
leg and missed the final three games of the season. Almost all
the way back, he'll be a key No. 2 runner used around ten times
a game in a variety of ways.
Junior Demetrius Sumler is more than just an
afterthought among the rest of the good talents. The 5-10,
215-pound junior was a superstar recruit a few years ago and has
shown a good combination of quickness and power. More of an
inside bruiser than a speed back, he has the wheels to break off
the big run when he's not pounding away. He ran for 251 yards,
getting most of his work against Oklahoma State with 86 yards
and a score before finishing off the year with two touchdowns
against Nebraska. Now he has to start averaging more than four
yards per carry, something he hasn't been able to do over his
first two years.
5-7, 175-pound sophomore Brian Lockridge missed
last year with a hernia problem, but when he's right, he's a
small, lightning-quick speedster who ran for 213 yards and a
score, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, as a freshman. With his
wheels, the offense will try to get him in space on the outside
and on the move as both a third down runner and a speedy backup
When the offense use a fullback, senior Jake Behrens
will step in after getting a little bit of starting
work. He didn't run the ball, but he caught 12 passes for 75
yards and two scores and was a strong blocker. At 6-0 and 240
pounds, he has the body to blast away for the ground game.
Watch Out For ... Scott. In a backfield full of very
fast, very good runners, Scott appears ready to be special. He
has it all with size, speed, vision, and the ability to run
inside and out. He's ready to show what all the fuss was about.
Strength: Speed and options. Scott, Lockridge,
Stewart and Sumler would form a dangerous relay team. This
foursome isn't just really fast, it's really talented.
Weakness: Consistency. Injuries were part of the
issue, youth another factor, the lack of a big-time passing game
was a problem, and the awful play of the O line really hurt.
With all the talent the Buffs have, there should be far more
Outlook: It's not a stretch to call this the most
talented group of backs in the Big 12, especially if Scott turns
out to be as good as expected. There are four excellent options
who can all fly and can all make things happen. There should be
a good rotation and a great year if there's some help from the
Junior Scott McKnight
might not be the flashiest receiver, but he's been the most
productive over the last two years leading the team with 45
catches two years ago and 46 last season with 519 yards and five
scores. The 5-11, 185-pound junior suffered a broken ankle two
years ago and missed spring ball this year with a triceps injury, but he's
expected to be back and the key go-to target. He didn't come up
with any big games, but he has been consistent and tough with
the ability to make plays inside or out.
With Josh Smith leaving the team, sophomore Markques
Simas is now a key part of the passing game and he
appears to be ready to shine after a strong spring. The 6-2,
200-pounder has good size and good upside, but he didn't see any
time last year. The one-time star recruit is slow, but he'll be
asked to be a field stretcher.
When healthy, senior tight end Riar
Geer is one of the team's most dangerous receivers. The
leading receiver three years ago, he had off-the-field problems
with the law that kept him off the team for a stretch, but after
everything was cleared up, he ended up starting in seven games
making 13 catches for 183 yards and two scores. The 6-4,
250-pounder is trying to come back from a knee injury, but when
he's right, he's a good deep threat and a great route runner.
Projected Top Reserves: Former walk-on
Dustin Ebner will become more of a factor at the X now
that Smith is gone. The redshirt freshman isn't all that big at
6-1 and 175 pounds, but he's one of the team's fastest receivers
and needs to be a field stretcher and has to do things with the
ball in his hands. He'll get his chances.
Sophomore walk-on Jason Espinoza is only 5-8
and 175 pounds, but he has the best combination of strength and
speed of any of the Buff receivers. He didn't see any work last
year, but he'll be a part of the rotation on the inside as a
quick target who showed this spring that he can find the holes
in a defense and can make things happen.
JUCO transfer Andre Simmons could be a No. 1
target right away. He's coming to campus this fall after
starring for Independence Community College with 60 catches as a
freshman and 31 as a sophomore with every defense double and
triple teaming in his second season. At 6-3 and 210 pounds he's
a big target with big-time upside.
6-4, 205-pound Terdema Ussery comes in from
Texas after catching 46 passes for 615 yards and eight scores in
just six games last year. He missed half his senior year of high
school with a concussion problem and suffered a broken ankle
early in his high school career, but when he's healthy, he has
all the skills with size, speed, and smarts.
At 6-5 and 210 pounds, true freshman Jarrod Darden
is huge and plays bigger with track star leaping
ability. A top high jumper, he's unstoppable on jump balls and
has the deep speed to hit the home run. While he'll need time to
get back in the swing of things after missing his senior year
with an ankle injury, he'll be a dangerous option.
Watch Out For ...
the new recruits. The receiving
Former quarterback Patrick Devenny
was a decent spot starter in place of Riar Geer,
making 14 catches for 116 yards and two scores,
and he should be more than just a nice second option. The 6-3,
240-pound senior has the hands and he has the deep speed, but he
was an afterthought over the second half of last
year with just two catches in the final six games.
He'll see more action if he can do more as a
corps needs to get a
lot better in a big hurry. Darden, Ussery, and
Simmons might be the very big, very promising
starting trio sooner than later.
Strength: Tight end. The Buffs are loaded here.
Geer and Devenny could start for most teams, while
Luke Walters has good upside and
Devin Shanahan is a terrific
Weakness: Speed. The loss of Josh Smith, who left
the team to pursue a music career, is a killer.
Simas and McKnight, the projected starters, run in
the mid-4.7s, and there aren't any true burners
among the backups.
Outlook: Unless the new recruits can come in and
shine right away, this is a major weak spot now that
Smith is gone. Smith only caught 29 passes, but he
appeared to be on the verge of becoming a
desperately needed gamebreaker. McKnight is
serviceable, but it's uh-oh time if he's the team's
leading receiver again. There are too many walk-ons
in the mix and too many unknowns across the board,
but the tight ends will be a major plus.
The one big loss across the front is
Daniel Sanders, the rock of the young line last year, In steps
Mike Iltis, a 6-3, 275-pound sophomore who had a strong
offseason and appears ready to be a big part of the front five for the
next three years. While he's not all that big, he's tough and
consistent, at least in practices. He's coming off a knee injury that
killed his 2008, but he's has his quickness back and he's incredibly
The strongest and toughest player on the line is left
tackle Nate Solder, who struggled last year in past
protection after moving over from tight end but is a big-time all-around
athlete. He's a massive 6-9 and 300-pound junior who runs as fast as
some of the Buff wide receivers (good for Solder, bad for the CU passing
game) and is a weight room superstar. Now it all has to convert to
production on the field.
When back from injury, 6-3, 290-pound
sophomore Blake Behrens will likely be the starter at
left guard again. He started for most of last year but was out this
spring and is expected back again in the fall. He's a decent run blocker
who needs to be more consistent overall and has to show more for the
passing game. He can step outside to tackle if needed.
310-pound Ryan Miller is built more like a tackle,
which he played for the first half of last year, but he'll move to right
guard where he'll be a very big, very athletic inside presence. He had a
hard time handling speed rushers over the last two seasons, but he'll
have no problem whatsoever with the interior pass rushers. The former
Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year has tremendous upside, but he has
to start showing it.
With Miller moving inside, 6-6, 275-pound
redshirt freshman Bryce Givens will take over the right
tackle job. A superstar recruit last year, he was considered a possible
starter right away but ended up redshirting. A great technician, he
might not be big but he doesn't make mistakes. He should provide a
stable upgrade for the overall pass protection up front for the next
Projected Top Reserves:
With Behrens out this
offseason, 6-4, 295-pound sophomore Ethan Adkins got
the longest look at left guard. Considered a possible tackle prospect
when he first started out his career, he'll stay on the inside where he
should be better now that he has bulked up. A tall, skinny blocker when
he first arrived in Boulder, now he's a big bruiser for the ground game.
Senior Devin Head started for most of last year
at right guard but will move to a backup role with Ryan Miller moving
inside. The 6-4, 290-piunder will work at left guard in a battle to see
playing time, but he can play anywhere. He can even move to center to
add more size if needed.
Junior Keenan Stevens
appeared to be on the verge of taking over the starting job in the
middle going into this year, but instead he'll be one of the team's most
versatile backups able to work at either center or guard. At 6-2 and 285
pounds, he has decent size and a little bit of experience.
Watch Out For ... an overall improvement. The right
combination was never found last year, but lots of players got starting
time and there's plenty of experience across the board. The young,
inconsistent front five of last year should be more consistent this
Weakness: Strength. This should be a strong run
blocking line with good bulk and raw strength. This isn't the most
athletic line around, but there won't be five blocks of granite. This
group should do far more to open things up for the talented group of
Outlook: After a rough year when it allowed 30
sacks, too much pressure, and was never able to field the same starting
five for more than a few games in a row, this year's line should be
better. There are plenty of veterans, good depth and after a nice spring
there should be a big improvement.