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2010 Colorado Preview – Offense
Colorado OT Nate Solder
Colorado OT Nate Solder
Posted Jun 27, 2010 2010 Preview - Colorado Buffalo Offense

Colorado Buffaloes

Preview 2010 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: Taking the KISS approach, Keep It Simple, Stupid, Colorado is looking to simplify things to speed up the play a bit. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau has to try to do something to get the attack moving after struggling for a few years, and he has the veterans to work with to make it happen. The Buffs were 113th in the nation in rushing, last in the Big 12 and 104th in total yards, and last in passing efficiency. The quarterback situation needs to be settled with Tyler Hansen the starter (for the moment), but he needs time to throw. The line gets everyone back, but it has to be far, far better after a miserable year in pass protection and doing nothing for the ground game. The backs, led by Rodney Stewart, are all quick, and the receiving corps should be solid with Scotty McKnight, Markques Simas, and Toney Clemons forming one of the best trios the team has had in years.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tyler Hansen
129-231, 1,440 yds, 8 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Rodney Stewart
198 carries, 804 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Scotty McKnight
76 catches, 893 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Rodney Stewart
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior QB Tyler Hansen
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Toney Clemons
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Nate Solder
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Solder, 2) Stewart, 3) WR Scotty McKnight
Strength of the offense: Experience, Receiver
Weakness of the offense: Passing Efficiency, Pass Protection


Projected Starter: Finally, Colorado has settled on Tyler Hansen as the starting quarterback … maybe. Thrown into the mix as a true freshman when Cody Hawkins wasn’t getting the job done, he has been in and out of the starting slot over the last two seasons. Last year he completed 56% of his passes for 1,440 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he finished fourth on the team with 61 rushing yards with a score. The 6-1, 205-pounder became a better passer as the season went on throwing for over 250 yards in three of his final four games, but the three interceptions thrown in the season finale against Nebraska were costly. He’s not the passer that Hawkins is, but he’s the better runner.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Cody Hawkins , the coach’s son, has gotten every chance to live up to his immense prep hype, but he has struggled completing just 55% of his career passes for 6,184 yards and 49 touchdowns with 38 interceptions. The main problem has been his inability to come up big in the clutch, but with his live arm and experience, he’s still just good enough to see time and push for the starting job. At 5-11 and 190 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s a baller who can get hot at times and bomb away. The key will be to limit the mistakes after throwing 11 picks and just ten interceptions.

True freshman Nick Hirschman got to school early and got a chance to get his feet wet in offseason practices. The 6-4, 220-pounder from California is a strong, accurate passer with just enough mobility to get by, and he’s poised and mature enough to get the starting nod if the coaching staff wants to start from scratch. He doesn’t make big mistakes and he’s great at getting the ball to receivers in stride.

Watch Out For … more of the same. In theory, it’s Hansen come rain or shine, but the coaching staff will get very, very itchy if the offense doesn’t pick up the production.
Strength: Experience. Hawkins has played in 33 games and Hansen has 13 games under his belt. The two have been through the bad times, and a few good, and aren’t going to be fazed by anything that comes their way.
Weakness: Efficiency. The big plays simply haven’t been there on a consistent basis. The two main quarterbacks combined to throw for 2,717 yards and 18 touchdowns with 18 interceptions, while the team finished last in the Big 12 and 111th in the nation in passing efficiency.
Outlook: Things haven’t changed from the end of last year when Hansen was the clear No. 1 and Hawkins the clear backup. Hirschman isn’t there yet and will almost certainly redshirt, even though he had some nice moments in spring ball. Overall, the key will be to cut down on interceptions, keep the chains moving, and be more efficient. The offense will sacrifice a bit in the passing game if that means more effective running from Hansen.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Everyone wanted 2008 super-recruit Darrell Scott to be the one to carry the Colorado out of the doldrums, but junior Rodney Stewart became the far better back out of that recruiting class leading the team with 622 yards two years ago, even though his season was cut short by a broken leg, and 804 yards with nine touchdowns last year. The 5-6, 175 pounder might not be all that big, but he’s extremely tough and very fast running the 100 in 10.7. He can cut on a dime and needs to be used more as a receiver as well as the main rushing option.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-8, 180-pound redshirt freshman Quentin Hildreth fits the Colorado mold of runners with tremendous quickness and the ability to run inside or out. A walk-on, he stepped up his play this offseason and proved to be decent enough to be the No. 2 back in the rotation and possibly a third down playmaker and kick returner.

While he skipped time this offseason dinged up, junior Brian Lockridge will be a regular part of the rotation after running for just 54 yards with a score last season. He missed all of 2008 with a hernia problem and hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but the 5-7, 180-pounder is extremely quick and moves really, really well when he’s in space … in practices. He has to show off his whells more when he gets his chances.

The team doesn’t have any true fullbacks, but junior Tyler Ahles will serve in the role when he’s not working at linebacker. The 6-2, 245 pounder will only touch the ball on short yardage situations and he might never catch the ball, even though he was a good running back and H-Back in high school, and he’ll make his biggest impact on defense and special teams.

On the way are four true freshmen who’ll all get their chances to shine early on. Tony Jones is a 5-7, 180-pound speedster was the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year running for 34 scores. 5-11, 190-pound Trea Jones was clocked in the 100 in 10.8 seconds and is a home run hitter who’s coming off a broken leg. 6-2, 230-pound Cordary Clark is the thumper in the bunch who was also a top sprinter for his Alabama state champion relay team. Californian J.T. Torres is a tall, tough 6-1, 215-pound former quarterback who might end up being used on the defensive side. He could become a whale of an outside linebacker.

Watch Out For … more of a rotation. The Buff offense went nowhere when the ground game was held in neutral, and now more backs will be given their chances. Stewart won’t carry the load by himself.
Strength: Speed. The Buffs could put together a tremendous track team of quick speedsters. The incoming freshmen will only upgrade the speed and athleticism of the group. Tearing off big runs shouldn’t be a problem if the backs get some space.
Weakness: The line. The backs didn’t exactly help the cause, but an inefficient passing game and a miserable year from the line made it impossible for anyone to get any room to move. The line is loaded with veterans this year, and the backs should be a bit more effective.
Outlook: Colorado has recruited a specific type of back, and while injuries and a colossal bust in Darrell Scott, the nation’s top recruit a few years ago who gave zero effort before transferring, have kept the ground game in check, there are now several very quick, very athletic options. If the rest of the offense is good enough to keep Big 12 defenses from teeing off on the running game, the production should be better.
Unit Rating: 7


Projected Starters: One of the few bright spots over the past few seasons has been Scotty McKnight, a 5-11, 185-pound senior who came up with 91 catches over his first two seasons before exploding for 76 grabs for 893 yards and six touchdowns last year. While he’s not the flashiest receiver and he has had problems staying healthy, suffering a broken ankle three years ago, an arm injury early last year, and foot problems this offseason, he’s ultra-tough, makes every catch that comes his way, and is consistent.

6-2, 215-pound junior Markques Simas became a key part of the passing game working at the X after Josh Smith left the team. The one-time star recruit isn’t a burner, but he was able to average 13.6 yards per catch finishing second on the team with 43 grabs for 585 yards and three touchdowns highlighted by an 11-catch day against Oklahoma State. He started out slow, but he finished up with a roar making 31 catches over the final four games.

Junior Toney Clemons started out his career at Michigan making 23 catches in two seasons before transferring to the Buffs. The one-time star recruit for the Wolverines was considered a top-shelf prospect, but he didn’t blow up right away and he didn’t fit the Rich Rodriguez Wolverine offense. At 6-2 and 205 pounds he has excellent size and is a tough, physical target who won’t get shoved around. He’s also a decent deep threat and should become a key playmaker at the inside Z position.

Taking over the starting tight end job from Riar Geer, who finished third on the team in receiving, is Ryan Deehan, a 6-5, 245-pound junior who caught ten passes for 91 yards as a No. 2 tight end. He stepped up his play over the last two years and is starting to play up to his prep potential. A good, tough recruit, he’ll become a far bigger part of the passing game and will be a solid blocker.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior walk-on Jason Espinoza has an incredible combination of strength and speed, but he’s only 5-8 and 185 pounds and only caught 13 passes for 136 yards and a score. He’s an inside quick target on the H who’ll work in a rotation with Scotty McKnight and should be dangerous when he gets on the move.

Only 5-10 and 165 pounds, sophomore Kyle Cefalo is a tall, thin target who’ll work with Toney Clemson at the Z. A great baseball player who started out at Oregon State before going the JUCO route to get to Boulder, he’s an athletic young target who showed excellent promise this offseason.

5-11, 190-pound sophomore Will Jefferson got a little work in as a true freshman catching six passes for 45 yards, but he has the potential to be a playmaker on the outside with some more time. With a great burst, he could be used as a kick and punt returner as well as a deep threat who should become an occasional home run hitter.

After missing 2008 with a broken leg, senior Luke Walters played in six games last year but failed to catch a pass. The 6-3, 235-pounder is a good receiver with nice hands and plenty of time spent in the program, but he has to get back into the swing of things with the passing game after essentially taking a few years off.

Watch Out For … Clemons. He’ll see plenty of single coverage early on and should exploit it. The former Wolverine has the size, the speed, and the talent to quickly blossom into one of the Big 12’s best receivers if the quarterback play is consistent. His 12-catch, 144-yard effort in the spring game showed glimpses of his potential.
Strength: The starters. With McKnight and Simas returning, the team’s top two receivers are back. Throw in Clemons and the Buffs have one of their best receiving corps is years. The backups are promising after a few decent recruiting classes targeting the position.
Weakness: Speed and talent. Unless Clemons plays up to his offseason hype, this is a nice, serviceable group that will be fine, but hardly special. McKnight and Simas are fine, but they’re not deadly.
Outlook: There’s a nice mix of talents in place to potentially make the passing game far better with a little better quarterback play. McKnight has been a good producer and Simas and Clemons will each have their moments. There are too many walk-ons and too many unproven players to count on if injuries strike, but the starters should be good.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: To put it bluntly, senior Nate Solder has to be far better. The 6-9, 300-pound former tight end has the athleticism and he has the frame, but he has to go from being a good-looking tackle prospect to a dominating leader for the line. He struggled way too much in pass protection, and while he looked better this offseason, the coaching staff is looking for more. He’s the best player on the line, and now he has to start playing like it. If he has a big senior year, he’ll make some dough at the next level.

There will be a battle at left guard, but the hope is for more production from nine-game starter Ethan Adkins, a 6-4, 305-pounder who was originally a tackle prospect before bulking up and moving inside. A tall, skinny blocker when he first arrived, he hit the weights hard and has the body to handle the position, but he’ll be pushed hard for the job and he has to find one thing he can do at a high level.

While Keenan Stevens started the last nine game of the year in the middle after Mike Iltis went down, he hardly has a lock on the job. The 6-4, 305-pound junior is versatile enough to play either guard spot along with center, but he’ll get every shot to be the main man in the middle for the next two years. He’s a decent all-around blocker, but he’s not a dominant one. If Iltis is 100%, Stevens could be a key backup.

6-8, 310-pound junior Ryan Miller is WAY too tall for a guard, but he’ll get the nod at right guard after moving back and forth between tackle and guard. Trying to get healthy again after missing time this offseason, he’ll once again be a very tough inside presence, but he has to do more for the ground game. The former Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year was a top recruit for the Buffs, but he hasn’t shown off his skills often enough.

There will be a fight for the right tackle job with undersized sophomore Bryce Givens getting the longest look. Out this offseason with academic issues, he still has to fight to get playing time after starting for most of last year. At his size, he has to show off his athleticism and quickness to be stronger in pass protection. A superstar recruit, he’s a technician who doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, but he has to be more consistent.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Blake Behrens could take over the starting left job very, very quickly. The starter in 2008, the 6-3, 300-pound junior was a decent run blocker who was never healthy last season. Now that he’s getting back to being close to 100%, he’ll either be the starter or he’ll get almost half the playing time in a rotation.

Junior Mike Iltis might not be the starter at center, but he’ll be No. 1A on the depth chart. The 6-3, 290-pounder got a little starting time at guard and could move over again; he could end up being the main man on the left side if the position isn’t settled by fall. Fine again as he’s finally over a knee injury that killed his 2008, he’s back to being the blocker everyone expected him to be a few years ago.

At 6-6 and 305 pounds, sophomore Ryan Dannewitz is a much bigger option at right tackle than Bryce Givens, and he’s one of the team’s more athletic blockers. He might get squeezed out of playing time if Ryan Miller ends up moving over to tackle, but with his size, smarts, and quickness, he’s good enough to get an honest shot at the starting job.

Watch Out For … a lot of movement. Technically, five starters are back, but there a few players out this offseason hurt, others out with school issues, and there wasn’t much consistency across the front. The coaching staff doesn’t appear married to the idea of the ones on the depth chart being the main men all season long, so there will be some battles.
Strength: Experience. Not only are all the players with starting experience from last year back, but the reserves have logged in some time with all the issues this offseason allowing the twos and threes to see significant action.
Weakness: Blocking. The Buffs couldn’t protect the passer, allowing a whopping 44 sacks while only paving the way for 88 rushing yards per game. There’s way too much size, athleticism, experience and talent to not be a whole bunch better.
Outlook: Can the right combination ever be found, and will the coaches stick with it? There has been too much shuffling over the last few years and not nearly enough cohesion. It could be argued that the problems up front could mostly be blamed for the team’s problems, and there’s no excuse to not be far, far better.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2010 Colorado Preview | 2010 Colorado Offense
- 2010 Colorado Defense | 2010 Colorado Depth Chart
- Colorado Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006