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TrevMon's Fall 2022 Preview - Colorado Buffs Football

TrevMon's Fall 2022 Preview - Colorado Buffs Football
By TrevMon • Issue #25 • View online
For this newsletter, I recommend you checkout the full online version of TrevMon’s 2022 Preview Colorado Buffaloes that includes additional metrics and player stats.
As Karl Dorrell embarks on his third year at the helm of the Colorado football program, it feels like a fresh start. This off season, with some budget and practical constraints relaxed, Dorrell hired six new coaches, leaving running backs coach Darian Hagan as the sole hold-over from the prior staff.
As this report is published, the Pac12 leadership and Rick George are confronted by the pending 2024 departure of USC and UCLA for the Big Ten. CU must confront the realities of network markets and the professionalization of college football. Hopefully when the dust settles, CU has a path forward for maintaining competitive balance for football and non-revenue sports while not compromising on the student-athlete experience. Some considerations…
  • Aligning on Academics - strategically align with other AAU institutions to extent possible to create a future for competitive student-athletes
  • Location matters - CU is attractive to networks and conferences because of travel logistics, Mountain time zone, alumni bases (West/Midwest)
  • Back the Pac - Give Pac12 commissioner George Kliavkoff leverage in media/conference negotiations to generate attractive options
Success Factors 
  • Conditioning Advantage - in the second year Strength Coach Turley’s regime, look for the Buffs to be less injury prone, functionally stronger and more explosive, particularly in the trenches. 
  • Element of Surprise - with new scheme on offense and a new look on defense, effectively install new schemes, early opponents will not have the benefit of film
  • Stepwise improvement needed in QB and OLine performance could generate positive spillovers. These positions groups have a shot at being the most improved in FBS
  • Step-up the Pass Rush the new scheme should play to strengths at DL and Edge 
  • Rise to the occasion in the Back 4 - with only one of the starting defensive backs returning, the young rooms will need to step up
  • Positive Culture - despite significant attrition (21 scholarship players, 30 newcomers), the CU at the Game interviews series with current players reflects a team confident in themselves, coaching staff and the upcoming season. According to BuffStampede editor Adam Munsterteiger, there also seems to be genuine camaraderie amongst the coaching staff.

Offensive Outlook
Offensive Coordinator Mike Sanford brings a new Offense that is expected to be physical and multiple (Pro, RPO, West-Coast, Spread). Sanford has said that his Offense will feature similar formations in pass and run and will move the ball around. It was evident in the Spring practices that the Tight Ends and Running Backs will be more involved in the passing game. 
Offensive Line
New O-Line Coach Kyle DeVan inherits a group that was among the poorest statistical performers in all of college football. Last year, the unit had an injury plagued off-season that prevented the starters from working together until the start of Fall season. Coaching was another problem, so bad that the previous Oline coach was relieved mid-season, after which the unit showed signs of improvement down the stretch. 
Three starters return, although the top two performers have graduated. Spring Practices went well for the top 6. The projected starters at Tackle Frank Filip (RT) and Jake Wiley (RT), were healthy throughout. Casey Roderick (RG), the returning starter at Right Guard looks like to be in top form. The Buffs also added transfer Tommy Brown (Alabama) who is well received by coaches and players alike who will step in at Left Guard. Sophomores Noah Fenske (C/G) and Austin Johnson (C/G) are in close competition for the starting job at Center. 
Unfortunately, injuries to Edgar Amaya (G), Anderson Jackson (G), and Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan (T), left only two scholarship players practicing with the second team this Spring. Freshman early enrollee Travis Gray (T) worked with the twos, and Fenske and Johnson rotated with the second string at Center and Guard. Four new additions will bring much needed depth and competition to the room (Aarron Eckhardt (T) , Alex Harkey (T) , Carter Edwards (T) , Van Wells (IOL). 
Forecast: Partly Sunny - the unit could be among the most improved nationally in statistical performance
Key Metrics to Improve: Opportunity Rate (FBS Rank 129) | Pass Block Efficiency (FBS Rank 127) | Sack Rate (FBS 123) Avg Time of Possession (FBS 127)
Breakouts: Casey Roddick (RG); Jake Wiley (LT)
Last year, with only two healthy freshman QBs, the Buffs QB was among the youngest and thinnest in college football. This year, the QB room has grown to six scholarships players, all healthy entering Fall camp.
The competition for the starting QB job is rebooted now that  JT Shrout is cleared for full participation. A starter will not be decided until Fall camp, and will likely be determined by who has the best command of the offense.  
Overall the PFF Grades between Brendon Lewis and JT Shrout are close, although Lewis now has much more collegiate snaps.  In the two Spring scrimmages, Brendon showed signs of quicker reads and release.  JT Shrout was limited in Spring drills to 7 on 7 drills, where he did flash his arm talent.
There will also be a stiff competition in Fall Camp for the third string QB. Drew Carter, returns as the likely third string QB heading into Fall. He will be challenged by Houston transfer Maddox Kopp (RS-Fr) is a big 6-5, strong arm and legs who should fit in well with the new scheme, although he threw a few picks in the Spring scrimmages, and walk-on James Mott looked good enough in scrimmages to make a bid for the depth chart, and incoming Freshman Owen McCowen, a promising left-handed, mobile QB who is also the son of former NFL QB Cade McCowen. 
Forecast: Partly Cloudy
Key Metrics to Improve: Average time to throw (3.19 to ~2.6 secs); Average depth of target (FBS Rank 159)
Breakouts: Shrout if he wins the QB job
Wide Receivers
New Wide Receivers and newly promoted Assistant Head Coach Phil McGeoghan’s room was thin in the Spring. He has a mix of youth and experience if the returning seniors are a factor. Daniel Arias (Sr) returns as the leader in snaps (438) and deep targets (8) from last year. Incoming transfer RJ Sneed (Sr, transfer) is an experienced pick-up who will likely play both in the slot and on the outside. Sneed looked sharp in route running and good in space. Seniors Maurice Bell and Jaylen Jackson were limited participants this Spring, but give the room veteran presence and higher floor. Sophomore Montana Lemonious-Craig (So) showed well this Spring and will compete for a starting position. Fellow sophs Chase Penry (So) and Ty Robinson (So) were dinged up and out for most of the Spring, but are expected to be in the rotation. Early enrollee Grant Page (Fr), was held out of Spring practice due to injury. Page is joined by Freshman Chase Sowell and Jordyn Tyson, who according to a Texas Scout, underrated wide receiver prospects in last year’s Texas class.
Forecast: Partly Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: Average depth of target (FBS Rank 159 in QBs) | Pass Route Grades (improve to mid 70s)
Breakouts: Walk-on Jack Hestera could crack the rotation
Tight Ends
Clay Patterson, the new Tight Ends coach is also the Coordinator of the passing game. Patterson’s passing game will look to feature the TE, as was evident in the Spring games. Brady Russell, who led the team last year in both receptions and receiving yards, is the alpha of the group. Brady was a limited participant in the Spring, as were. Caleb Fauria, and Luis Passarello. Eric Olson took a step up this Spring. Olsen is a big target who should also be able to handle blocking assignments and looks ready to set into the second TE starting spot.  Austin Smith is learning the position and needs to develop physically, but he is a former sprinter who can create mis-matches. Incoming Freshman Zach Courtney adds a large body (6-7) to the room.
Forecast: Partly Sunny 
Key Metrics to Improve: Average depth of target (FBS Rank 159) | Pass Route Grades (Target Grades mid 70s) | Targets | Blocking Grades (Target Grades mid 70s)
Breakouts: Eric Olson
Running Backs
The transfers of Jarek Brousard (MSU), Ashadd Clayton (Tulane), and Josh Davis (SUtah) left Coach Darian Hagen’s room short-handed this Spring. Returning part time starter Alex Fontenot was limited this Spring, and held out of both scrimmages. When healthy, Fontenot is a viable Pac-12 starter, who averaged 90 yards a game in 2019. Deon Smith, who graded nearly as high as Fontentot in limited carries (PFF Run 53), had a good Spring. Jayle Stacks, a full-back hybrid type, also had good reps in the Spring. Stacks will have an opportunity to play more tailback because of his skills as pass blocker and receiver. Walk-on Charlie Offerdahl was the star of the Spring Showcase, and may factor into the rotation. With only five scholarships in the room, incoming Freshman Victor Venn (FR), and Anthony Hankerson (FR) who will get a chance to crack the depth chart early. It will be a tall order for the freshman to pick up the offense and be competent enough in pass protection and receiving to break into the three-deep.
Forecast: Partly Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: Run Grades  (improve to mid 70s) | Grades  Pass Block (improve to mid 70s) | Grades Receiving (improve to mid 70s)
Breakouts: Stacks is a versatile full-back and tailback hybrid that could fill a stronger role in the new system.
Defense Outlook
Defensive Coordinator Chris Wilson is in his second year as Coordinator and has assumed coaching duties for the Edge Linebackers. Going into the 2022 season, Coach Wilson has installed a 4-3 base defense that plays to Buffs strengths on the Defensive Line and Edge, and should result in an improved Pass Rush (FBS Rank 127) . Coach Wilson is also emphasizing a reduction in positioning and assignment errors with better on field communication.
The Defense returns 54% of overall production (FBS Rank 102) from last season, and must replace six starters. The Defense looked great at times last year, particularly in the Texas A&M game. But as the season wore on, the Defense was overworked because the Offense could not stay on the field (FBS Rank 125 in opponent time of possession), and fatigue and injuries took a toll. The Defense allowed an average of 28.5 points per game (FBS Rank 77), not bad considering how low they ranked in other key metrics, like 436 yards per game (FBS Rank 101), 6.1 yards per play (FBS Rank 106), and 1.1 takeaways per game (FBS Rank 101). 
Key Metrics to Improve: Pass Rush (FBS 127); Takeaways per game (FBS Rank 101); Coverage (FBS Rank 105); Opponent Time of Possession (FBS Rank 125)
Defensive Line
New Defensive Line coach Gerald Chatman’s room returns more production than any other unit on defense (78%). The starting Defensive Line could be one of the best units in the Pac-12, anchored by top veterans in the rotation Terrence Lang (DE) Jalen Sami (DL), Na’im Rodman (DL) and Janaz Jordan (DL), all of these players have pro-potential, which Jordan surprisingly the one with the highest pro-grade. Sami had the highest pass rushing productivity, PRP (3.5) last year. PRP is a composite measure of pressure (sacks, hits, hurries relative to the amount of pass rush snaps). Lang had a much higher PRP in 2020 (4.8) than he did in 21. Na’im Rodman (Jr) was a part-time starter who played consistently well last year. Rodman showed his bull rush in the Spring scrimmages. Senior Justin Jackson (DE), who had the second highest pass rush composite rating, (PRP 2.8) and a fast first step, figures to be in the rotation, especially in passing situations. 
According to OL coach Kyle Devann, there was not much of a performance gap between the first and second units this Spring. Redshirt freshman players Ryan Williams (RS-FR) worked with the twos, and Allen Baugh (RS-FR) and Tyas Martin (RS-FR) worked mostly with the third unit, as did walk-on Mason Maddox (Fr), who is a dark horse candidate to crack the rotation. Aaron Austin is now onboard as a true freshman.
Forecast: Party Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: Sack Rate (FBS Rank 127) | Avg line yards 2.81 (FBS Rank 100) | Power Success Rate 80.0% (FBS Rank 113)
Breakouts: Ryan Williams (RS-FR)
Edge Group
Coach Wilson (DC) also assumes coaching responsibilities for the Edge players this year. The room is stacked with seniors who have been slowed by injury, (Thomas, Montgomery) that look to finish Strong, as well as several emerging prospects (Williams, Grant). Add the incoming Freshman that will join this Summer, and the Buffs have arguably more talent and depth on the Edge than they have had since the 2017 roster (Devin Taylor, Alex Changham, Carson Wells).
Guy Thomas (Sr), who was injured for half of last year, returns with the most snaps of the edge rushers (281) will likely start. Jamar Montgomery (Sr) is in great shape, and was one of the top performers in the Spring scrimmages. According to Devin Grant, Montgovery is the best pass rusher on the team, and he had the highest PRP grade (5.9). Graduate transfer Chance Main (Sr) will likely play both Edge and inside at Tackle and Defensive End. Main worked with the first and second units in Spring practice and looks to be a high-motor contributor up front, his PFF grades were high (70s) albeit against FCS competition. Alvin Williams (So) made a big jump this Spring. He was consistently in the backfield and around the ball, and will likely see significant time on passing downs. Devin Grant (RS-FR) actually had the highest in PFF DEF (69.2) grades in the room last year in a small sample size. Joshka Gustav (So), who sat out this Spring to recover from injury, is an all around player who is competent in both pass rush (PRP 5.6) and run stop and could also play standing up at SAM or WILL. Zion Magali is another freshman who looked good in Spring practice. Shakaun Bowser and Kaden Ludwig are incoming freshman.
Forecast: Mostly Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: Sack Rate (FBS Rank 127) | 
Break Outs: Alvin Williams, Devin Grant
Inside Linebackers
Coach Mark Smith’s room must adjust to the 4-3 scheme, where the three inside three backers (SAM, MIKE, WILL) play standing up. At MIKE, the Buffs return Senior Quinn Perry returns as the leading tackler among the inside backers. Also competing at MIKE is graduate transfer Josh Chandler-Semedo (MIKE), an all Big 12 performer from West Virginia, who has 31 career starts and is highly graded in pass coverage (71) and tackling (79). Sophomore Mister Williams (MIKE) ran with the second team. Robert Barnes (WILL) should build on his strong performances at the end of last season. Barnes is stepping into a leadership role with the team. Marvin Ham (SAM) was the other starter in the Spring. Ham is a fast linebacker who figures to be used more often in coverage. Others on the depth chart are Juco transfer Isaac Hurtado (SAM), who played with the second unit and flashed his closing speed. Early enrollee, Eoghan Kerry (WILL) repped with the second unit and held his own in coverage. This Fall, Aubrey Smith (MIKE), one of the highest rated recruits of the incoming class, will vie for early playing time. 
Forecast: Partly Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: COV Grades (Unit AVG is below 50 - poor)
Break Outs: Robert Barnes is a former 5 star who flashed toward the end of last season.
New Coach Rod Chance inherits a room that was hit hard by the transfer of starters Mekhi Blackmon (USC) and Christian Gonzales (Oregon). The freshman corners Kaylin Moore and Nikko Reed looked good in limited reps last season. Early enrollees Joshua Wiggans and Jason Oliver were on campus this Spring. Nigel Bethel (Jr) last year’s starting nickel back was injured this Spring, but is expected to be healthy and competing for a starting spot this fall. Jaylen Striker (Jr) will also compete for a spot on the depth chart at corner or nickel. Incoming freshman Simeon Harris and Keyshon Mills will provide depth.
Outlook: Partly Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: Takeaways per game (FBS Rank 101); Coverage (PFF COV Grades should be in mid 70s
Coach Brett Maxie’s room is thin with the transfer of starter Mark Perry (TCU). Although Senior Isaiah Lewis returns at Strong Safety. Lewis was the leading tackler last year and is pre-season second team all Pac12 selection. Trevor Woods, who had one start last year, will compete at Free Safety. Early enrollee Oakie Salvea was on campus in the Spring but was held out of practices due to injury. Torren Pittman also cross-trained both at corner and Safety, will likely be at Safety in the Fall. 
Several walk-ons ran with the ones and twos in the Spring scrimmages. Senior walk-on Anthony Lyle worked with the ones, sophomore walk-on Ben Finneseth was the leading tackler in the scrimmage finale, and sophomore walk-on Jordan Woolverton, a converted QB, had an interception in both of scrimmages. Dillan Dixon (Fr) and Juco transfer Jeramy Mack (So) are solid bodies who the Buffs are counting on to compete day one for the depth chart. Xavier Smith (Fr) is recovering from surgery, and may not be available this Fall. 
Outlook: Cloudy
Key Metrics to Improve: Takeaways per game (FBS Rank 101); Coverage Grades (improve to mid 70s) | Tackling Grades (improve to mid 70s)
Special Teams
Special Teams was a bright spot for the Buffs last season. Colorado was highly ranked overall in the Special teams Fremeau Efficiency Index ratings (FBS rank 24), and their PFF Special Teams (89.2) ranking, which combines kickoff return, kickoff, punt return, punt, and field goal efficiency into one overall rating, was the best in the PAC12.
Cole Becker returns and highly rated recruit Ashton Logon will assume punting duties.
Bottom Lines
  • Buffs Offensive Line will be in the top ten performance improvement by measures of Opportunity Rate (FBS Rank 129) | Pass Block Efficiency (FBS Rank 127) | Sack Rate (FBS 123
  • Buffs Offense will rank above 75 in Avg Time of Possession (FBS 127)
  • CU Defense will rank above 80 in Avg Opponent Time of Possession (FBS 125)
  • CU Defense will be in the top 20 movers up the charts by measure of Sack Rate (FBS Rank 127)
  • QB Time to Throw will be at 2.8 or below
  • If the above predictions hold true, then the Buffs will get the six wins needed for bowl eligibility
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By TrevMon

Notes on the University of Colorado Football Program

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