Having seen only about four of these guys actually play a game in person, watching about 10 minutes of highlight films on the other guys, reading hundreds of news articles and interviewing a handful of coaches, we feel that we are completely qualified to put some judgment down on the Buffs recruiting class of 2009. Seriously, not many are really qualified to do such a thing but we feel we have to be in the top 10 of knowing something about recruiting. We are trying to get the rest of the SBNation Big 12 blogs to do something similar to this so we can be in the know of how our competition is doing (we already have Kansas', we will post that tomorrow). Here we go.
With some commentary, grade your coaches' performance this recruiting cycle?
Grades, grades, grades. Yes, so subjective but it's fun. The Buffs finished 5 - 7 in the 2008 season. That being the case, I believe the coaching staff did a good job addressing certain needs under the circumstances. I would give CU a B grade. That might be higher than most would care to admit. Surely everyone would give Hawkins and Co. a solid B if WR Diante Jackson would have committed to Colorado. If WR Emory Blake and S Byron Moore would have surprised us all and committed, he would have pushed an B+/A-. Hawkins never had a shot at Byron Moore and we all should have known that after Moore said USC was his dream school and he had a propensity to create a little drama. The Diante Jackson situation was out of Hawkins hand as well. He got him to commit but something happened between Jan 1st and signing day inside the walls of the Jackson family that Hawkins had no control over. I believe if Diante Jackson had it his way, he would be a Buff. That is all I have to say. With that being said, Hawkins still did a decent job at addressing the needs at wide receiver (if Andre Simmons qualifies) and he hit one out of the park in addressing the need at defensive line. He may have found two - three players that could play from day one. He gets a B because safety is still a concern that wasn't addressed but all in all, this is what was to be expected. It wasn't the 2009 class that was going to bring us back, it is the 2008 class that is supposed to right the ship. I also think CU got some sleepers that will make Hawkins look really smart.
What were some of the major needs this year and did your coaches' adequately address them?
Coming into the cycle, I would have ranked the needs as follows: Defensive line, wide receiver, offensive line and safety.
Hawkins addressed the needs at defensive line with two speed rushers and two interior lineman that fit the part of a plugger. The class darling was Nick Kasa (6'7", 250 pounds), ranked as the 5th defensive end in the nation and the 42nd player overall according to rivals.com. Standing 6'7", he has a great first step and the ability to be solid against the run. He more than impressed against big talent at the Army All American game. He was a Florida commit but after Urban Meyer realized he had a ton of depth at defensive end and told Nick he was going to move him to offense, Kasa changed his mind and attend Colorado. The other defensive end was a from Connecticut in Forrest West (6'2" 230 pounds). Not highly ranked, West was injured his junior year so he fell off the radar a little. But during his sophomore year, he was getting calls from major programs all over the country. More on Forrest later. On the interior, the Buffs signed big Edward Nuckols (6'2" 290 pounds), a four star recruit from California. He is very athletic and even played a little fullback in high school. He has a huge bottom half and looks very much like a prototypical interior lineman. DT Nate Bonsu, from the 5A state championship team in Allen, Texas, has supposedly already added weight and will come in closer to 280 pounds. He rounds out an impressive foursome on the defensive line.
At wide receiver, Andre Simmons (6'3" 205 pounds, 4.5 forty) is the one player out of this class most prepared to play right away and the player the Buffs need to play right away. He will still have a difficult time qualifying but he is very talented and has great size & speed. Simmons is 6'3" which is the smallest wide-out the Buffs signed. We like the sound of that. The other two wide-outs are Terdema Ussery and Jarrod Darden, both from Texas. Ussery (6'4" 190 pounds) will be asked to add some weight but he looks to be a strong student of the game and has good wheels. He is not scared to go over the middle and make contact. Darden comes in at 6'5" and looks to be the prototypical red zone receiver. Speed will be something we will watch for in fall ball as he was injured his senior season but we like his size. We would have liked to add another wide receiver, someone with a little more explosiveness like Diante Jackson. We would have also liked to have a backup plan like JUCO Markish Jones or Jewel Hardy in case Simmons doesn't pan out but we got who we got.
Offensive line was addressed extremely well too. The headliner is in-state product OT Jack Harris (6'6" 270 pounds) who was heavily recruited by Oregon but decided to stay instate. Gus Handler (6'4" 270) added a ton of weight his senior year but never lost a step. He is a very athletic guard and has the potential to be a good one. Finally, OT David Bakhtiari (6'4" 260 pounds) is one of the guys you would put in the category of a guy who might not have been the biggest name of the class but maybe one of the more successful ones. Hawkins calls him a gym rat and he has good genes with brothers and family members being successful football players. He dominated top flight defensive ends in the state of California all year but was a tight end last year so he didn't receive the exposure for being a lineman.
Who are the three prospects (one offensive, one defensive, one other) that we all should know about? Are their any players that you feel have a chance to play from Day 1 and contribute?
Offensive: WR Andre Simmons. If he qualifies, he will be integral in the Buffs offense. He has good size, speed and play making ability in a position of huge need for Colorado. The fact that he also chose CU over Kansas State is important as well. He is 4* and ranked is a top flight JUCO player.
Defense: DE Nick Kasa. Maybe the most frustrating part of last year's team was the lack of a pass rush. If Kasa can continue to add weight and stay healthy in the process, he has the ability to be an all-time great for the Buffs. He should wreak havoc in backfields for a long time.
Next Guy in Line: QB Clark Evans. Nuckols and Harris could easily go in this spot but it is funny how a recruit loses a little luster if he commits earlier in the process compared to later in the game. If Evans was a signee yesterday after a long fought recruiting battle, we would have been hooting and hollering about him coming to Colorado. He is 6'5" 225 pounds and can run with power. He fits the spread really well. Yes, he may need to tweak some things in the passing game but the guy has all the tools to be a good football player at Colorado. I really like what he brings to the table. He is also a star basketball player who has hit the 20 point mark multiple times this year and sounds like a real bruiser. Many people in California think we got a good one. Tim Tebow comparisons are out there.
We all had a couple players that got away that we really wanted. Who were those players and what attributes made those players hard to lose?
WR Diante Jackson was the one player that would have, on paper, helped the Buffs with his size and explosiveness. He was also a great kid and would have fit in well with the Buffs. Colorado needs playmakers and he would have fit that bill.
Guys like DE Colton Nash, Ath/S Terrell Williams, DE Iuta Tepa (long shot), S Stan McKay, S Nathan Fellner, S Bradley McDougald, DE Keenan Graham (long shot) and WR Emory Blake also would have been nice gets but no dice this time around. Diante Jackson was truly the one that takes the cake on this question.
Who is the guy that no one is really talking about or not as much but you feel will be a sleeper when his career is said and done? What are the reasons?
I had a chance to talk to Forrest West's coach and watch some of his film. His coach told me some great things about him and after watching him, I think he may be the missing peice to the puzzle when it comes to a solid combo guy who can rush the passer but also has a good motor when it comes to stopping the run. He has a great physique, something that Rodney Stewart had, that allowed him to be successful early. His coach said this about him: "He was the defensive MVP of the National Underclassmen combine, the big national one they had in New Jersey. He was doing some great things before he got hurt his sophomore year... Coming off his sophomore year, though, I was talking to Florida and USC and everyone in between about him." He is my pick for a guy that will out perform that 2* rating.
I know it's early, but what are the biggest needs to be filled with the 2010 recruiting class?
RIght now, wide receiver will still be a need next year. The state of Colorado should also produce a pretty strong class next year and QB Austin Hinder should be the top ranked player coming out of the state and a top 10 quarterback nationally. If that continues to be the class QB/Austin Hinder will be a top priority. The Buffs will have to circle around at defensive back (potential two starters graduating) and linebacker (potential two starters graduating) as well. The Buffs only have 13 seniors graduating next year so it will be a small class next year again. Tight end also may be a need as well.