I'm writing some positional outlooks for our beloved Buffaloes. They are based on what I've read and seen of the players we've got.
This much-maligned position has gone through many changes over the past season, and it looks like it has gone from a weakness to a strength. It's finally something we can be proud of. We hit the jackpot with one walk-on, but it's not preferable to be fielding all walk-ons when we hit the field. There were a couple of times last year when that was the case (well, at least former walk-ons). Now we have some pretty impressive physical specimens at the WR position and we have a group of guys that other teams will envy. When was the last time we could say that? The beginning of the decade? It also helps that we've got a new guy coaching who might be the best hire of the Hawkins era (or at least up there with Ashley Ambrose). Robert Prince is as pumped up on the practice field as any of the players and it's rubbing off on them.
- Scotty McKnight, Sr
- A former walk on who will leave CU with most of the receiving records. He has become a legitimate WR, not just a possession type guy either. He has been given that title because he has generally been double-covered since he was our only receiving threat for much of his career, but he will get downfield this year. He is also a legitimate NFL prospect. Maybe not a high draft choice, but he is every bit as technically sound, intelligent and dedicated as guys like Wes Welker. He will probably lead the team in receptions for a fourth straight year, and he will be a security blanket for his QB. He is a leader on offense, and I would be surprised if he isn't voted a team captain this year. Another senior who will be sorely missed. Has looked 105% after his leg injury in the spring. He also might be involved in some trickery, as he's a former QB (hint hint...). He's not afraid to go over the middle, and he is a willing blocker. He also sets a great example for the younger guys; what hard work will get you (just look at his career numbers!!!). While it's true that he was simply the only receiving option for much of his time at CU, he has also worked hard to become a real D1-quality receiver.
- Travon Patterson, Sr
- We all know the story: Transferred from USC after they were hit with NCAA sanctions. Behind some really, REALLY talented receivers there and he wanted a chance to start fresh and catch some passes. He is ridiculously fast, but also able to change direction on a dime and should be able to contribute in the kick return game and offer a HUGE upgrade as a punt returner. He is competing with Toney Clemons, Brian Lockridge and a few other guys for those roles, but I would bet he wins out. He is just really shifty and will definitely be able to take some returns back for touchdowns. He also will help stretch the field as he works his way into the receiver rotation. He's an excellent pick up for Kiesau (the guy who recruited him) and Hawkins.
- Andre Simmons, Sr
- The biggest non-factor last year based upon the hype. Contrary to popular believe, he did see the field, they just never threw the ball his way. I would bet it was partly due to unfamiliarity with him on the QBs part. Anyway, if he's academically eligible this year, it is really too bad. He could stand to sit the year out and come in after McKnight and Patterson have gone. They may try to redshirt him, because he's going to have a hard time beating out those guys in front of him, and they really don't need him this year. He definitely has some size and some speed, but it may go to waste on the bench. I would love to see him be successful, because he worked his butt off to get here and he's dealt with all sorts of things related to his kid and family, but we'll have to see. I really think a redshirt year would be great for everybody involved.
- Kendrick Celestine, Jr
- Here's a guy that has also dealt with a lot to be on the team. Another story we know well: left the team, worked his way back onto the team. He is fast and he has been around, but he has quite a few guys in front of him. He will contribute on special teams, and maybe next year he will compete for some playing time.
- Kyle Cefalo, Jr
- He's a former Oregon State Baseball player, but suffered an arm injury and fell back on football. An odd path, but he is here and fighting for time on the field. He is a bit like McKnight is size and style, but he doesn't run routes as well as the senior does. He is working on it and has been a mainstay on the second unit. This may not be the season we see much of him, but he could be on the field quite a bit for his senior year.
- Toney Clemons, Jr
- As much press there has been for the most recent WR transfers, this is the guy, THE GUY, to watch. He is the complete package. He is big, strong, fast, quick, a precise route runner, has great hands and will get downfield and block. While I'm pegging McKnight to lead the team in receptions, I think Clemons will lead the team in yards. He should have a crazy yards-per-catch average. And it's not often you get a guy like this who also has a chip on his shoulder. Holy cow. There hasn't been a player like this at CU since Hawkins arrived. I'm not big into feeding the hype-machine, but I feel completely comfortable holding Clemons to enormous standards. I would stack him up against any receiver in the country right now. And we will get to see a pretty good one when we play Georgia and A.J. Green. I can't wait to see that match up.
- Jason Espinoza, Jr
- As hard as this guy has worked, I'm OK with the fact that we won't see that much of him this season. He's an average receiver and a pretty meager punt returner. And who breaks their collarbone twice?? But in all honesty, he is a hard worker who knows the system, has dependable hands and will help the younger guys. He provides solid depth, and he has been running with the twos this fall. I guess I'm just bitter about his punt returning last year, hehe.
- Mario Conte, So
- First and foremost, he comes from Mullen. He has made some plays out there, and is still getting familiar with the playbook, partly because he still spends some time in practice as the long-snapper (not sure I've seen a snapper that is only 175, but hey, he's versatile!). He is a walk on and he has looked pretty good. He may get some time out there. Probably not this season, but he will be in the mix down the road.
- Dustin Ebner, So
- He is a guy I haven't seen much of, except that he has solid hand and some size. He is a walk on, and he is providing some depth. Can't comment too much on him because I haven't seen much of him (not a slight on him, there are just a lot of guys out there to watch). ***He apparently broke his leg in the scrimmage and will be out for at least 6 weeks***
- Will Jefferson, So
- Now here is a guy that I have noticed! He is awesome. That is really all there is to it. Patterson should see the field, but Jefferson won't just stand aside and let him, nor should he. He is a fighter and he is everything you want in a receiver. He is smart, runs great routes and is a pretty darn good blocker downfield. He also plays much bigger than he is listed. He was running with the ones at the start of fall practice, and he belongs there. He is fast and he plays fast. He changed his number to 16, so it is confusing the first time you see him out there (and you will), but he'll make you remember his number. He has made great strides this off-season.
- Keenan Canty, Fr
- He's lucky to have a guy like Patterson come in. They are very similar, and he can learn a lot about how to survive at that size. Canty is also lightning quick, like Patterson, and has a very good chance to take over punt return duties after he graduates. He has good hands, and despite his size and age, looks like he belongs out there. He is going to be a guy to watch down the road. Fortunately, he can redshirt this year, get stronger and a little bigger, and come back with a vengeance. I also love a guy that isn't afraid to block, especially when he is listed at 155 lbs.
- Jarrod Darden, Fr
- This may be his second year, but he looks like a completely different player...in the good way. I remember looking forward to seeing him last fall and coming away really unimpressed. He looked slow, lackadaisical and even bored out there. He was working on coming back from an injury, but I didn't care. I wrote him off. Big mistake. He may not play much this season, but he is going to be huge (literally) for CU eventually. He is a very big receiver at 6-4, and is learning how to use that to his advantage. He is still working on snagging the ball in traffic, but he will be unstoppable when he gets that down. He is so good at shielding the defender from the ball with his body, and he looks infinitely quicker than he did last year. Now he is no Travon Patterson, but he is quick enough to get separation from his defender and can let his length do the rest. He should also be a pretty nice red-zone threat with fades and jump-balls. We will see if they can employ some of that when he gets his chance to play.
- Paul Richardson, Fr
- Like Patterson, he was added just after fall practices started. He apparently is eligible to play this year, and was already practicing with the twos by the time they closed practices. I don't think they really need him this year, and he could stand to redshirt. He is still a little thin, but he has all the talent he needs to see the field this year. An excellent pick up by the coaching staff, especially if he can stay out of trouble. A friend has already dubbed him "PT (purse thief)," and while I'm not sure I approve of the nickname, I will definitely use it if he can make an impact when we play UCLA in the coming seasons. He is stronger than he looks, which will give him a chance to be successful this year.
- Alex Turbow, Fr
- I know very little about him. I believe he is a walk on, but I'm not sure. He has been out there, but like Ebner, I haven't seen much of him. He has some size, though.
There is no reason why they can't be the best WR corps in the country. I cannot believe I am writing that, but it is true. McKnight made the Biletnikof award watch list, and I think Clemons could make the list by midseason as well. Like I said before, I will gladly stack Clemons up against anybody in the country. If the QB can get these two, and Jefferson and Patterson the ball, good things will happen for the CU offense. Very good things. They will keep the safeties out of the box, which will open up the running game for us, and they all have been willing and able blockers in the scrimmages. I don't think teams will be able to match up with us downfield. It doesn't hurt that they practice against two of the best in the business every day in Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith. And they have proved to be quite a handful for our talented DBs. A few of the players have said it in interviews and elsewhere: "Get your popcorn ready."
Losing McKnight will hurt as he should leave as one of the most decorated receivers in CU history, if not THE most. We will also be losing Patterson and possibly/probably Simmons. But Clemons will have one more season, and guys like Jefferson, Darden, Richardson, Canty and Cefalo should be able to step up and round out the group nicely. We may not find another McKnight (how often to you find a guy that steady/talented/durable?), but we will have plenty of guys who want to make a name for themselves. And Robert Prince will do everything in his power to make that happen.
(I'm going to add this section to my Positional Outlooks to try to get some dialogue going on each of these positions)
-What was your impression of our Wide Receivers last season? What do you think/hope will change?
-What have you noticed recently(Spring scrimmage/Fall camp)?
-Where do these guys fit in recently or historically at CU? Will you remember any of them down the road?
-What are some of the specific things you like or have noticed about the guys we have at this position?
-What's your impression of the coaching and recruiting at this position?
If you have any questions or additional comments or insights, please feel free to email me at: David.Gerhardt@gmail.com