Photo courtesy of Colorado athletics
With spring practices canceled and no players on the field, the Colorado Buffaloes’ coaching staff is forced to analyze its position groups with what they have on tape. Although Karl Dorrell made it clear he did not want his coaches “in the laboratory too long,” it is still impossible not to analyze their current roster and have some expectations.
Currently, Dorrell and his staff are left with a strong depth chart that lacks many outstanding holes. Unfortunately for them, one of the few holes happens to be the most important position in sports. Although there is still plenty of time for the roster to shift and guys to make their mark, there are several position groups that stand out for Colorado – for better or worse.
In the first of this two-part series, here are three positions groups to be comfortable with heading into the 2020 football season:
1. Defensive Line
Even with Antonio Alfano on an indefinite suspension for violating team rules, the defensive line is still one of the better parts of this team.
The Buffs bring back their starters in the middle of their 3-4 scheme with Mustafa Johnson, Jalen Sami, and Terrance Lang. While this defensive line began to flourish under Mel Tucker’s scheme, his departure does not mean they will regress. Defensive coordinator Tyson Summers is remaining at his post, meaning the defensive game plan should be more or less the same. That is excellent news for a team that began hitting its stride in the trenches during the end of the season. That includes a dominant performance against Washington at the end of October.
The real question mark for this group is whether Alfano can make his way onto the field. A former five-star recruit and transfer from Alabama, Alfano would bring an athleticism that has not been seen in Boulder in some time. While the staff awaits that situation to play out, they can still rely on their starting three to anchor a defense that will live or die in the front seven.
2. Running Back
The addition of four-star running back Ashaad Clayton improves an already solid Buffs’ backfield. Colorado already had a great one-two punch in Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham.
On top of that, Colorado also has versatile back Deion Smith, who can catch out of the backfield. With Fontenot being the oldest as a junior, Dorrell and company can rely heavily on them for the near future. That’s a nice comfort when building up a new offensive system as well as a new program.
The pair of Fontenot and Mangham already produced very well last season. The two combined for 1,315 yards and eight touchdowns behind a 4.4 yards per carry average. While a back-by-committee approach may be tough to rally behind at times, riding the hot hand has shown to be productive. With an inexperienced quarterback making his debut next season (either Tyler Lytle or Brendon Lewis), having a high floor from the running backs can give Dorrell a safety blanket in his offensive game plan.
With an already high level of production, adding in the highly-recruited Clayton to the room makes it all the more exciting. At this point, it is unclear who will take the charge as the main back in Colorado’s attack, but expectations for this group should only continue to rise as they will presumably rely heavily on the rushing game.
3. Wide Receiver
With K.D. Nixon electing to return for his senior season, he helps shore up a receiver room stacked with talent.
Nixon will most likely start alongside Dimitri Stanley. Stanley has shown strong progression in his first year and brings a true speed threat to compare to Nixon’s slot capability. Additionally, Daniel Arias should be involved in the three-wide packages. Arias is a strong 6-foot-4 with an ability to high-point the football.
While the back end of the receiver room also includes La’Vontae Shenault and Maurice Bell, the Buffaloes are bringing in several three-star recruits in Brenden Rice, Keith Miller, and Chris Carpenter. All have been more than vocal on social media about their excitement to join the team and play alongside other 2020 recruit Brendon Lewis.
Overall, this position group has a combination of experience and youth to explode early and often. With a room as vocal as Colorado’s receivers, it will not be a secret when they splash onto the scene in 2020.
Having strong skill position players in the backfield and out wide will be key for Colorado moving forward. That’s especially true with an inexperienced starter under center.
With the star power they already have in players who have been in the building for some time, it will give offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini new studs to rely on. This team has fewer holes than some fans may think. Although there is some time until the Karl Dorrell era officially hits the practice field, there is still plenty of excitement to be had surrounding this young team.