Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Colorado Football: Buffs Recruiting Starts the Rise

(Note: In advance, thank you to Allbuffs community, The Ogre and others like Adam Munstertiger for helping me get some of the info I needed for this blog post)

For all the hate and pot shots for the Colorado football program and slightly deserved based off their 10 straight years of losing, the simple fact is the University of Colorado football program is on the RISE!  While wins must ultimately happen, the way to do more than hope for a bowl game and seek to eventually win a conference title is with better recruits.  Colorado has been recruiting at the bottom part of the Power 5 schools for at least the last 6-8 years.  That is probably why they have spent the past 10 years losing, but starting with the vision of the Champions Center at Folsom to the hiring of Darrin Chiaverini a switch has flipped in Buffs football recruiting.  Yes, the Buffs need to close on  them, but the simple fact is a commit from a Houston with two other Power 5 offers is only the third best recruit the Buffs have with commits from guys with offers from the likes of Alabama in Laviksa Shenault and other 4-star with over half a dozen P5 offers in Jaylon Jackson, the simple fact is the Buffs are on the rise.  The recruits for the 2017 class considering CU and putting them in their Top 5-12 list is something CU and especially the state of CO state hasn't seen since recruiting hype was in its infancy in the early 2000s.  For all the CSU love the simple fact is all 5 of their commits are higher rated than the Top 5 group the Rams put out last year (which CU also beat with a small class and a 4-9 campaing with their 2016 class)!

Here is a breakdown of the players considering (or that considered) Colorado and their position rank  according to Rivals:
Quarterback has been a void for the Buffs since... Joel Klatt whom fell into CUs lap after a minor league baseball career ended prematurely.  Joel Klatt is the last quarterback to take CU to a winning season and bowl game (don't give me Brian White whom filled in for the concussed Klatt) in the same year.  CU has failed to land any true blue chip quarterback and with as much respect as I can try to squeeze out of me, the simple fact is the group they have got in the last decade have not been Power 5 level quarterbacks.  Their current roster make-up shows it in the lack of Power 5 offers outside of CU.  MAYBE they had offers that went away when they committed or ones that didn't get reported or posted online, but the simple fact is they don't have a great offer list.  That may be why CU fans clamored at the proposition of having Davis Webb and Sheriron Jones commit within a month of each other and are still begging to FINALLY get that signal caller.  It appears the Buffs have a very legit opportunity to finally do so.

Tyler Lytle (21 PRO)
-Lytle has offers from a dozen Power 5 schools.  Education seems to be important to him with him strongly considering Ivy League schools.  His announcement could come any time.  He is thought to be a strong Buffs lean and while he hasn't announced a Top 4-12, he simply seems to like what the Buffs are telling and selling him.
Jack Sears (11 DUAL)-Sears appears to be strong Westwood lean but has kept CU on his short list.
Tate Martell (1 DUAL)-Martell is committed to THE Ohio State but had the Buffs listed among his Top 5.  Martell having CU in his Top 5 with the likes of these programs is just one of the examples that CU is rising up the charts for recruits like a Taylor Swift song after another break-up.

Wide Receivers
Commits: Laviska Shenault (50) & Jaylon Jackson (36)
As noted in the intro, both of these guys had the choice of going to numerous other Power 5 teams but chose to come to CU.  With the fast paced, receiver friendly offense CU is planning to run, the desire to come to Boulder increases.  CU will have 4 WRs that were a 4-star ranking including these two and Shay Fields and Juwan Winfree come 2017.  The list looks like it won't stop growing.

Tight End
Tight End is under utilized in this system to date, but the Buffs do have big play ability when they use the tight end.  They also haven't had a recruit with the accolades of Josh Falo.

Josh Falo (8)-Falo is the brother of NJ Falo (suspended Buff OLB/DE).  The Falo family LOVES Mike MacIntyre with a previous family member playing for him at Boise State.  Falo  has been pretty mum on where he intends to go,  but has CU among his top few by all accounts.  He is a kid that could play the George Frazier roll and be utilized on both offense and defense if he does come to Boulder.

Defensive Tackles
Other than Inside Linebacker and Offensive Line, the defensive line appears to be the area the Buffs are going to be void of depth the most headed into 2017 and will need an immediate impact player here.  Right now, the Buffs have put themselves into an interesting position

Greg Rogers (9)-Rogers is a man child at 6'-4" and 305 lbs and ranked among the Top 10 DTs in the country.  He is part of a very talented group of Las Vegas recruits the Buffs are in on.  His Top 6 below shows CU sticking out like a sore thumb compared to the success in recruiting and on-field.  To be included in that list is similar to Martell having CU listed.

Damion Daniels (19)-Daniels hails from an area the Buffs now have three of their commits from, Texas!  He is also a large young man at 6'-2" and 310.  He is at a dozen that he can't choose from but the Buffs are listed among SEC, Big 1G and Texas.  At least CU is considered above UTSA but to make a short list with nearly two dozen top Power 5 schools is no small feat.

Noah Ellis (35)-Ellis is bigger than the two guys previously mentioned at 6'-4" and 315.  He is a local kid from Valor Christian.  A school that CU has failed to gain much traction.  Part of the difficulty may be Valor opened and was an immediate power and CU has been at the lowest it has over that span.  Ellis seems to be fairly open right now but his offer list includes Alabama and many other Power 5 products.

An area of great need for both the middle and outside positions.  The Buffs lose Kenneth Olugbode and are still unsure of how healthy and what impact Addison Gillam will have after two consecutive injury riddled seasons after a promising freshman campaign.  The Buffs have offers to multiple guys, but not a lot of talk here other than a very big name:

DeAndre Wilder (28)-Wilder is an OLB prospect from Florida that can pretty much choose where he wants to go as evident by his Top 11 (LSU isn't being shown on here).  Wilder is the perfect 3-4 OLB pass rush specialist the Buffs could use.  Maybe him having CU on his back is some crazy metaphor for helping put the Buffs on his back.  Coincidence?!  Probably!To continue the pipeline to Florida established last year will require a heavy amount of Jim Leavitt pressure and love.


Historically, the Buffs have placed many players from in the NFL and appear to have two in Tedric Thompson and Chidobe Awuzie that will help end the Buffs drought of two years without a player picked in the NFL Draft come 2017.   It appears they have a great deal of interest from players maybe looking to add their name to the list of Thorpe winners at CU.

Alex Perry (16 CB)-Perry is part of a foursome from Bishop Gorman that have offers from the Buffs.  Perry seems to have really enjoyed his visits with CU.  He has family that lives in Parker and he appears to have the Buffs among his favorites and may have helped open the eyes of some of his teammates.  His offer list is littered with Pac 12 and Big XII (-2) offers
Bubba Bolden (20 S)-Bolden is a verbal to USC but has said he will visit Colorado and appears to not be 100% sold on USCs commitment to him.  CU will probably look to get the Las Vegas group out on an official as a group and try to sell CU to them
Michael Lee (28 CB)-Lee recently committed to Kansas with offers from across the country and Power 5 programs.  Kansas landed a close friend and appears to pulled off quite the package deal.  CU was part of his Top half dozen schools prior to his commitment.
Trajon Cotton (Unranked)-I put Cotton here because CU was Cotton's first offer and showed their desire to have him long before Cotton started gathering offering by the bundles this off-season.  He has offers from a dozen Power 5 schools in less than a 5 month time frame.  Cotton seems to get along well with other Buffs recruits and has been talking up the Buffs.  Cotton appears to  be very tied to Josh Falo but seems to truly love what the Buffs have to offer.

The list above is simply the guys that are highest rated that over the past decade had ignored CU.  There are areas of great need at position groups that definitely need to pick up that have been lacking in Power 5 level ability (i.e. offensive line minus Tim Lynott) but the guys above were few and far between and instead CU has a legit shot at over a dozen guys that would previously turn a blind eye to the Buffs and certainly not have them in their Top 5-12 group with the likes of OU, Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, USC, etc.  The tide appears to have turned!

The question has many layers to peel to get that answer, kind of like an onion or as Shrek may say like an Ogre!  But we will start with the easy ones:
Facilities-There is no understating how big of an impact the Sustainable Excellence Initiative which encompasses the Champions Center, Indoor Practice Facility, Dal Ward renovations and Touchdown and Champions Club seating in Folsom have done to lift Folsom Field from a beautiful stadium in a gorgeous setting to a top of the line, state of art, incomparably beautiful stadium in a gorgeous setting. Boulder is stunning, the views from the east side of Folsom are unmatched in college football but CU sorely lacked facilities that compared to the top 80-90% of Power 5 schools and were noted amongst the worse in the Pac 12.  The script appears to be reversed with only Oregon being mentioned above CU and not by far with a much more economically friendly budget (the weight lifting platforms are made of teak???!!).  Colorado Football no longer has to slide down the hill from Folsom Field locker rooms to  get to their practice facility but can now practice on the Folsom adjoining Franklin Fields or Indoor Practice facility.

Recruiting Mindset-While Troy Walters was a very solid recruiting coordinator and coach, the work that Darrin Chiaverini did in two months on the job was enough to take an ugly looking class in 2016 to a respectable one by helping get 4 of CUs Top 6 2016 signees in the last month of recruiting.

The Buffs are more social media savvy/active and it all starts with Chiaverini.  They appear to be offering higher ranked players, that they wouldn't even attempt to go after in previous years, while waiting on the lower rated guys/guys without another Power 5 offer.  In fact, out of over 200 offers less than 10 of those have no other Power 5 offers and a few from that group appear to be package deal types with a higher rated teammate.

Getting over the hump-Talk is cheap and ten consecutive seasons of losing has tested even the most patient and apologetic of fans, but the simple fact is this, CU has visions to make improvements no the field that started with funneling money into the program from boosters to recreating a completely broken down and over matched football program.  The Buffs have changed that appearance playing teams competitively after being blown out in the first couple years under Mike MacIntyre.

The timing of the release of the Gospel According to Mac, the Champions Center completion and blending the tradition of CU with new age technology and vision have culminated in the next generation of football players that look back at those classes Bill McCartney pulled in and said "We are the pieces this program needs to be great again!"

Thursday, June 9, 2016

CU and CSU Athletics Dramatic Changes

The 2011 and 2012 College Football Seasons for the Colorado Universities (University of Colorado and Colorado State University) may be some of the darkest days the state has seen from their football programs since the early 80s or possibly ever.  By the time the 2012 season had ended, CU had gone a combined 4-21 and CSU a combined 7-17.  Both programs had seen attendance reaching lowest levels.  The annual Rocky Mountain Showdown pitting the two schools between the two programs was only selling less than three-quarters of the tickets and actual rear ends in seats probably two-thirds of  capacity of Mile High Stadium.  They were both getting beat bad against better opponents and fan moral was near an all-time low. The programs saw something occur during that off-season that changed both programs for the better:
  • University of Colorado fired Coach Jon Embree and brought on Coach Mike MacIntyre and summer of 2013 fired Mike Bohn and brought in Rick George.  These move laid the groundwork to establish a true structured football program with a coach that had worked his way up the coaching tree to be in MacIntyre's position and strategy by Rick George to raise more money for the athletic department in less than 3 years than CU had raised in a full decade to help finance improvements in the athletics facility.  
  • Colorado State began laying the groundwork for a bowl season in 2013 with Jim McElwain running the football operations and Jack Graham spearheading an aggressive Power 5 level spending plan to bring in high quality coaches/improve athletics and to build an on-campus stadium to replace the dilapidated, dated and inconvenient Hughes Stadium.
The work the two schools did paid off big-time in 2013.  

Colorado State had a solid 8-6 football season with an exclamation mark comeback versus Pac 12s Washington State in their bowl game.  It got CSU fans re-energized for the program moving forward.  Additionally, that work combined with the effort/vision of Jack Graham and Tony Frank helped CSU begin putting together plans to develop an on-campus stadium.  While Graham was excused from his duties during 2014 and the on-campus stadium hit a snag, full approval of the on-campus stadium was reached at the end of 2014.

CSU followed their 2013 campaign with a 10 Win 2014 campaign and the above approved on-campus staidum.  While CSU lost the services of Jim McElwain to the football rich University of Florida, CSU hired a solid replacement in Georgia Offensive Coordinator whom helped lead CSU to a bowl game in 2015.  Additionally, the on-campus stadium utility installation began in 2015 with the groundbreaking lining up with the start of the 2015 season.  The visible load bearing foundation structure began late football season and current day has already seen a large section of the west infrastructure completed. 

Colorado State's spending on athletics and overall vision has paid off.  Recruiting has improved and their overall sports program has seen some of their best years of competition in history.  Additionally, CSU has positioned themselves to gain the attention of what they ultimately need to sustain the spending on athletics they have: A Power 5 conference!  The Big XII (-2) may say they are comfortable with their 10 members but the simple fact is they are looked at low in the totem pole in college football Power 5s due to their small conference numbers and lack of adjusting.  Everyone believes the Big XII will eventually expand but they seem to be taking their time to make a decision with any changes most likely not coming until 2017.  Colorado State has a solid overall athletic department, a solid local alumni base and are throwing themselves at the Big XII like the conference is Derek Jeter.  Their plan has been aggressive and sunshine pumping, but CSU hasn't sat back but looked forward to improving their position in the college athletics arm race.

University of Colorado
Colorado Football is just starting on Year 4 of life after Mike Bohn.  Mike Bohn was good at being a politician for CU but was awful at focusing his attention at the three most vital areas (The 3 F's) in college athletics: Fundraising, Facilities and Football.  He missed the mark heavily on these areas and helped to set CU back further than the hole the awful hires of Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree could do.  It's tough to recruit when you don't have money coming in to the program, losing regularly (sorry getting demolished) and have facilities that are at least 10-15 years out of date compared to your competition.  Rick George instantly tackled the two areas he could instantly attack to hopefully help the third improve in that aggressive fundraising plan that help improve the athletic facilities.  The Champions Center, Indoor Practice Facility and Dal Ward Renovations have already paid off even with the football team still not turning the corner in the all important Win column.  While CU has spent the past decade settling for 2-3 star recruits, the 2017 class already appears to be promising with 2-4 star commitments, 2 top in-state commitments and numerous 3 and 4 star recruits with multiple Power 5 offers strongly considering CU.  This class has the potential to be the type of class for Mike MacIntyre that Bill McCartney got in 1986 following his first bowl season and showing he wasn't just hot steam after going 7-25-1 to start his tenure.  The fundraising has hit unprecedented numbers and along with the facilities it appears football is rolling.  The athletic department continues to see success in their traditional powerhouse like skiing and cross country while having a NCAA tourney level team directed by the great Tad Boyle.

2016 to 2017 could be the launching point for both programs and complete opposite of .  Colorado State will be opening the new on-campus Sunny Lubbick Stadium at "Corporate Sponsor" in 2017 and are trying to continue their run at bowl games.  If that happens CSU may need to hope the Big XII gives indication they will add them or CSU may be eyeing a second head football coaching change in a 24 month period with Mike Bobo looking to move back into the Power 5 but as a head coach.  If CSU can manuever their way into a Power 5 conference, their spending will finally match the conference they are in and allow them to improve their athletics further and instead of being considered little brother will have to be looked at as an equal to Colorado.

Colorado meanwhile has visions of a bowl game.  Fans are torn on this after a decade long string of losing seasons and a lone bowl game in 2007.  Their hope is low, but the recruiting edge would finally pay off with a bowl game and the improvement in facilities allowing CU to go from a doormat that is happy to win a conference game and beat "little brother" CSU to a competitive Pac 12 program that earns more than respect from improving but earns Wins!

The next 15 months leading up to CSU opening their new on-campus stadium may be the most important 15 months these two programs have seen and the best chance these programs can get to where they need to is by winning.  Either way, there is no doubt that both Colorado and Colorado State have not been sitting back idly but attacking the arms race in college sports with great fervor.  Here's to a 2016-2017 campaign that sees both programs continuing on their improvement and attaining the visions laid out within the past 3 years.