Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Breaking down Colorado Football Commits...

With less than 48 hours until the antiquated fax machines start beeping and humming (anyone ever hear of scanning?) with signed letters of intent, it is time to break down the University of Colorado football commits and dream of what may come immediately and the next 4-5 years.  Note, with 48 hours left CU fans know too well a commit may choose to jump ship or someone completely off the radar or that were believed to be going elsewhere could commit so this list may or may not change. But let's talk about the 2015 commits and who is already on-campus, who is slated to sign and the holes they may potentially fill immediately or in the future. 

The Buffs return 6 full-time starters and 2 part time starters/position players (TE and FB).  They lose both Guards-Kaiwi Crabb and Daniel Munyer; slot Slot (H)-DD Goodson, and TE (part-time) Kyle Slavin.  Additionally they lose hybrid WR/TE position in Tyler McCulloch. 

The Buffs offensive line has seen two positions depart due to graduation or other reasons (transfer and early entry in 2013) over the past three seasons.  The Buffs have some options between Gerrad Kough, Shane Callahan and position maneuvering with Sam Kronshage to replace the two guard openings.

Potential Immediate Contributor(s):
Tim Lynott (ASU, KSU, Miami(FL), Oregon, Oregon St, UCLA, WSU, Multiple MWC )-Lynott is the local kid (Regis Jesuit High School) that stayed home after turning down bigger offers.  Lynott has been raised a Buff fan and his commitment was a must have to instill a stud recruit into the group, keep the local kids at home and not have the negative press of another in-state departure and to help strengthen an area of weakness.  Lynott played Guard while he could have played Tackle in high school because it was seen that his impact at the next level would be at Guard and rather than have to make the transition, it was decided to get him used to that position for the 2014 season.

Lynott's strengths are getting his hands inside a defenders pads and being able to power through a guy.  He can also use his mobility to get to the next level (LBs), which is key in college football, and pull as well.

Lynott has the potential to push the other guard candidates due to already having the size (6'-4" and 295) to play at the Power 5, Pac 12 level.  However, the strength and ability at the Pac 12 level is much greater than anything you can see in Colorado prep football.  Fall camp will be interesting to see whether Timmy Lynott Jr. can make the immediate jump or whether it is in his best interest to develop for another season.

Probable Redshirt(s)
Dillon Middlemiss (Wyoming)-Middlesmiss is another local kid keeping the strong tradition of Colorado offensive lineman at the Division I level.  He is 6'-5" and 275 and played for one of the best offensive lines in the state in 2014 at Pomona High School.  He committed early and has not waivered, thus why his offer list may be small.  He is kind of under the radar locally with the more discussed Lynott, but Middlemiss has the potential to join the long list of local offensive line that became starters at CU.  It probably is at least a year (most likely two) and 25 pounds away before Middlemiss can push anyone ahead of him.  But by 2017 with graduation and his development, Middlemiss should push the time as a Redshirt-Sophomore.

Middlemiss has good fire off the ball and keeps moving his feet.  He also continues through the whistle and getting downfield but he uses too much forearm and not enough inside hand control and must improve upon this.  Getting on campus early should help Middlemiss and give him an extra half a year to get comfortable and maybe push for 2016 playing time.

Aaron Haigler (Iowa State, SJSU, Utah St)-Haigler is a giant, 6'-7" and 250 lbs, that needs to put on a lot of weight and gain the experience at Tackle after 2014 was his first full season at the offensive tackle position.  Haigler is very much of the Matt Lepsis, Nate Solder breed of tall, athletic offensive tackles.  His timetable is probably similar to that of Middlemiss of not really being ready until 2017, but he is a recruit that has the frame and length you look for in a pass heavy offense like CUs. 

The Buffs lose Tony Jones, whom was CU's second leading rusher in a crowded 4-man rotation.  Even with the departure of Jones, CU is still in need of playmakers at the position with Christian Powell in his Senior season and no true go to guy emerging yet.

Potential Immediate Contributor(s):
Aaron Baltazar (Transfer from Boise St; UCLA, Washington, SDSU, Cincy)-Baltazar played for Boise State as a true freshman and had 50 carries for 234 yards and 2 TDs.  After an injury at BSU and coaching change, he decided to transfer last year.  He was initially signed with Washington State but did not enroll.  While his verbal came late into the mix and out of nowhere, he has proven the ability to compete at the Division I level already.  Baltazar is a small back but has a build similar to Philip Lindsay.

Redshirt with Potential Immediate Contributor:
Donald Gordon (SJSU)-Gordon has good size (6'-0" and 200 lbs) and has the speed to burn as well (4.4-40).  Gordon's highlights show the ability to pull away from defenders, which is a must for a high school running back since the speed level grows exponentially at college,  and his highlights also show him churning his legs continuously and taking initial contact in the backfield but using his core strength to continue the play and make plays because of it.  That is a vital part of a Colorado RB in this offense since there is not a fullback and extra blockers to lead the way.  Running back is a position that can have immediate impact since speed can not be taught.  While Gordon does not have the offers that others do, there has been concern that he would be flipped to a bigger school if they come calling late.

Other Considering: Patrick Carr-Carr is a short and stocky back with a lot of speed and was previously an Arkansas commit before they picked up a commit from a higher sought recruit.  His offer list is extensive and he would be a big get.  After losing out on Jomon Dotson, the Buffs may end up with enough RB commits to ignore the position next season when they have bigger needs elsewhere and fewer scholarships to give out (only 9 scholarship Seniors currently on the 2015 roster).

After going into last spring with 2 scholarship quarterbacks and picking up an equipment manager as a third arm, the Buffs signed a Quarterback in 2014 (Cade Apsay) and have more depth from walk-ons/transfers but the Buffs needed another signal caller to compete and provide depth in this class with Sefo Liufau headed into his junior year.  Air Force transfer Jaleel Awini is also an intriguing candidate at the position but there is still discussion on where exactly he ends up.  We will see this spring.

Steven Montez (Air Force, NMSU, UTEP)-Montez was an under the radar kid for CU.  He came into the Buffs summer camp with 4-star kids from California and the El Paso, TX-Del Valle High School product outperformed his counterparts.  Montez put up great numbers and fortunately the local Power 5 schools had their focus elsewhere.  Montez has great height, 6'-5", but needs to add weight to his maybe 200 lb frame in order to take the pounding at the Pac 12 level.  He is an intriguing candidate that had a monster senior year after dealing with injuries his junior year that kept his numbers lower than what was seen from him this year.  A big positive is he doesn't make a lot of bad passes throwing only 6 INTs to 73 TDs in the last two seasons.

The Buffs return their top two receivers in Nelson Spruce and Shay Fields.  Both again should lead the team, but the Buffs lost seniors DD Goodson and Tyler McCulloch.  Donovan Lee should take many of the snaps that went to DD Goodson and Bryce Bobo showed flashes to knife through the defense and should see more snaps as his understanding of the offense grows.  The Buffs continue to garner interest from recruits, even though they have depth beyond this group at the position.  This is because CU's offense and the Pac 12 is big on the passing game and Wide Receiver has became a more sought after position as a player than the undervalued Running Back position.

Justin Jan (N/A)- Jan (6'-3" and 205) has the size and height that reminds you a little of Tyler McCulloch's game.  Yet, he has got very little attention outside of the Buffs.  He fills a need of potentially moving to Tight End or filling what people are calling the TyGucci postion for the future but definitely needs a year to fill out his wiry frame.

Other Considering: Jeremy Kelly-Kelly (6'-1" and 170 lbs) needs to put some weight onto his wiry frame but he has an extensive offer list (.  While Carr is considered a longshot to end up a Buff, Kelly has been high on the Buffs for quite some time.  His commitment will not be announced until Signing Day and he is keeping his cards close to his vest.  Kelly's tape shows good speed, the ability to change direction quickly, read the field to make that next move and some very long arms that just appear out of nowhere grabbing the ball on offense (and defense).  He would also be a good candidate as a good Nickel or Free Safety.  He has some showboating to him which the Buffs could use that excitement.

This Buffs offense doesn't use a Tight End consistently but value having a versatile player, as shown by Sean Irwin getting more snaps than Kyle Slavin last year.  Still, the Buffs are hoping 2014 commits Hayden Jones can help provide the versatility that Irwin did and the pass catching Slavin/McCulloch brought in knifing through the middle of the field in Dylan Keeney.

Chris Bounds (N/A)-Bounds is the lowest ranked kid in the class.  He comes from Chaminade Prep factory which has become a little pipeline to the Buffs.  Maybe the Buffs are trying to keep the pipeline flowing.  Bounds has college size at 6'-4" and 255, but probably needs to lose fat and build muscle to become a Tight End at the Pac 12 level.  There is also the possibility of Bounds moving to a Tackle or playing defense down the road, but there is probably a couple years to figure that out.

Colorado's defense struggled again in 2014 and while there were improvements at times, it ultimately led to a departure of Kent Baer as defensive coordinator.  The Buffs are going on two months without a defensive coordinator, so what direction the team goes is still to be determined in that regard. The next guy will start by looking for a replacement for cornerstone cornerback Greg Henderson.  Henderson was a solid 4-year starter but by year's end appeared to be no better than Kenneth Crawley and as long as he comes back healthy, his replacement Chidobe Awuzie appeared to be CU's best all-around pass defender prior to injury.  The Buffs also lose Terrell Smith at Strong Safety but should have Jered Bell and Tedric Thompson along with Evan White and Ryan Moeller to fill that vacancy.  The main question is who steps in as starter at Defensive Tackle for rotation player Juda Parker and who plays at Nickel (Awuzie to full time corner) or Sam LB based on formation and loss of Woodson Greer.  The good news is the 2015 Defense should have plenty of experience and be pushed by a group of back-ups and redshirt players that took a year to bide their time before contributing.  Also, the Buffs didn't wait around signing three JUCO players already on campus.

As noted above the Buffs lose Juda Parker but Parker was primarily just a rotational player.  The Buffs need some impact pass rushers at the Ends and another DT to step up, immediately, and help in the rotation along with seniors Justin Solis and Josh Tupou departing after 2015.  The coaching staff has not disappointed making the trenches the key of the last two classes and especially this 2015 class.  Derek McCartney led the team with 4.5 sacks, but the Buffs need to improve their sack total of 22 to at least 33 if they are going to move up in the Pac 12 standings.  The Buffs are adding a pass rush specialist in Samson Kafovalu becoming eligible to join the team again.  The Buffs needed him in 2014!

Immediate Contributor(s):
Jordan Carrell (Hawaii, Idaho, Fresno St.)-He already has the size to help at DT being 6'-3" and 275 and has developed a couple years already.  Carrell is a JUCO All-American and looks like he has the speed to help in passing situations that the Buffs have missed.  Carrell has a very low stance, playing in a 4-point bear stance often, and once he makes his read, he has a very explosive step for a guy weighing 275 that allows him to be in the backfield.  He uses his arms to keep offensive lineman off his pads, stunts well and already has the football IQ to help immediately.  There is little doubt based off his tape and size that he should be on the field in some capacity in 2015.

Potential Immediate Contributor(s):
Nathaniel/Blake Robbins (Southern Miss and FCS Schools)-Robbins is a large DE/OLB at 6'-5" and 260 lbs.  Pad level is so big and he understands it in his highlights.  He moves his feet continuously and accelerates through tackles and uses his arms.  He is definitely a guy that can help this young Buffs defensive front.

Frank Umu (CSU & FCS)-Umu flipped to the Buffs before Jim McElwain even decided to leave for the Swamps of Florida from CSU.  He wanted to play big boy football and appeared to just be waiting on a Buffs offer.  Umu is another Top 10 Colorado kid and allows CU to quiet some of the ridiculous hate they get from ignoring the in-state guys.  He is a beast and has the size (6'-2" and 280 lbs) and will only get bigger and cut fat into muscle

Lyle Tuiloma (Hawaii)-The Buffs continue the Hawaii pipeline with Tuiloma.  Tuiloma is large and has the size (6'-3" and 280) but probably needs to get some speed and get used to the college game.  He is behind Umu in development.

Brett Tonz (AFA, FCS)-Much in the same lines of Bounds, he probably was not PAC 12 caliber but CU is a Mike MacIntyre type guy.  Tonz needs to put muscle and weight on but has a good base at 6'-3" and 265 lbs.  He played OT, so he kows how to use his arms.  He played against smaller competition and his pad level was too high because he used his height to make plays at DT, but he will be facing bigger guys that are taller that he will need to adjust to.  A developmental type.

The Buffs need both Kenneth Olugbode and Addison Gillam to put size on.  Both have the speed and have shown the ability but need to take the next step.  The Buffs lack depth at the LB position, but are looking for either young leader Rick Gamboa and  Greyshirt Grant Watanbe to step up to help push the older ILBs and provide depth.  Woodson Greer's replacement for the limited snaps the Sam LB got could come in Deaysean Rippy.  But like I said earlier, we are unsure where CUs defense goes in 2015.  Additionally, Defensive Ends like Christian Shaver and others may move back.

NJ Falo (SJSU and FCS)-Falo committed prior to the 2014 signing class and hasn't waivered.  Falo has the size to play at the college level already, but really needs to develop as a player.  Played on the line a lot as an OLB so he needs to work on his footwork and ability. But at 6'-2" and 225, he is the depth the team needs to get in to help a thin corp.

The Buffs lost Henderson and Smith but the amount of experience in the secondary is very impressive compared to the previous half a decade.  The Buffs should be very solid here, but they also add some players that will push the group that have played over the past couple years.

Potential Immediate Contributor
Afolabi Laguda (Illinois, Utah State, FCS)-He is a JUCO transfer that has good size at 6'-2" and 200 lbs and is at a position of need with the amount of injured players coming back this year.  He is already on campus, has three years to play 3, and will probably get enough reps to help get an idea if he will push the incumbents or help at Nickel.  He is the type of guy that may have helped redshirt Evan White who has ability and college size but could have used a year of experience in practice rather than getting thrown in the fire. 

Nick Fisher (Wyoming, NMSU, FCS)-Fisher is a big young man and looks like a 21 year old and not an 18 year old signee.  He has that personality that makes a young athlete have that extra IT factor and confidence you need as a young football player.  His highlights show a guy that knows when to time passes and he uses his arms to tackle and run through receivers at the same time rather than corralling them in and allowing the extra yards.  Good reaction time and adjusts well to the pass.

Isaiah Oliver (New Mexico)-Oliver is an athletic young player out of Arizona but will need to get some weight and muscle onto his frame at 6'-1" and 180 lbs before contributing at the college level, most likely at Safety.  He accelerates to the ball and has long arms. 

The Buffs are hurting here losing the dual legged punter in Darragh O'Neil and Kicker Will Oliver.  The good news is they have a couple guys that can help at Kicker on the roster and have a young guy they are bringing in that can immediately fill their punting role (and Kicker as well if things don't go as planned).

Immediate Contributor
Alex Kinney-Kinney is ranked as a Top 10 Punter by all publications and a Top 25 Kicker by some as well.  He regularly punted the ball 45-50 yards and average 41.6 ypa this season.  He also had 51 of 54 kickoffs as touchbacks and hit 75% of his FGs over the previous two years with a long of 57 yards.  Kinney has been told his sole focus will be at Punter.  He continues a long tradition of Colorado grown kids punting at CU.  And while he grew up in enemy territory (CSU country at Rocky Mountain HS in Fort Collins) and rooted for the ugly red N, he ultimately made the right chice in donning the black and gold (and silver) of Colorado.

2015 Colorado Recruit Class Wrap-Up:
The good news of this 2015 class and last year's 2014 class is the need to play true freshman continues to decrease.  While the Buffs still had one of the youngest teams in the country; only Shay Fields, Donovan Lee, Evan White, Eddy Lopez and Christian Shaver played as true freshman in 2014 and other than Fields and White, they were not leaned against heavily.  With the addition of the JUCO signings and some redshirt guys from 2014, it would appear only Kinney would be required to be counted on immediately as a freshman.   Timmy Lynott may prove to be too talented to not cycle in the mix with a thin experienced Guard group, but fortunately the contributions of true freshman is not a must as they were in previous years.  With what is expected to be a thin 2016 class, due to a small 2015 senior group, the Buffs have to improve in the Win column in 2015 and have some impact recruits to join in the 2016 class rather than another group of solid but for the most part developmental guys.