Colorado Buffaloes Recruiting and Depth Chart Update - Wide Receivers

LINCOLN NE - NOVEMBER 26: Paul Richardson #80 of the Colorado Buffaloes beats Alfonzo Dennard #15 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers for a touchdown during the second half of their game at Memorial Stadium on November 26 2010 in Lincoln Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Colorado 45-17. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

With recruiting heating up and fall camp around the corner, it is a good time to assess how the Buffs are looking at each position going into the season and for the upcoming years. So far we have covered quarterbacks and running backs. Next up are the wide receivers. Below is the depth at the position by eligibility year as we stand today:

Summer Eligibility Chart - Wide Receivers
Toney Clemons Dustin Ebner Paul Richardson
Logan Gray Mario Conte Jarrod Darden
Jason Espinoza   Alex Turbow
Kyle Cefalo    
Keenan Canty Austin Vincent Gerald Thomas
Parke Robbins Nelson Spruce Jeffrey Thomas
  Tyler McCulloch Peyton Williams
  Drew Ebner  
  Connor Wilhelm  

2011 Season - Colorado returns two starters from a year ago in senior WR Toney Clemons and sophomore Paul Richardson. The Buffs will have to replace Colorado's all-time leading receptions leader in Scotty McKnight but with the way Richardson emerged at the end of last season as a true freshman, CU might have found one of its better playmakers in recent memory. McKnight caught 50 balls a year ago for 621 yards and seven scores, leading the team in all three categories. McKnight, a seventh round draft pick in the 2011 NFL draft, was mister dependable becoming the 10th player in NCAA history to catch at least one pass in every game he appeared in. But Richardson, in his first collegiate season, probably would have lead the team in receptions if he would have started the season from the beginning. Although he played in all 12 games a year ago and finished third on the team in receptions with 34 and second in receiving yards (512) and touchdowns (7), he didn't really get into the game plan until the seventh game of the year against Texas Tech. Richardson came out of nowhere to haul in four receptions for 79 yards and two scores, his first of his career. Two games later against Kansas, he grabbed 11 balls for 141 and two scores. By then, Buff fans knew they had something special. The freshman led the Buffs over the last five games with 27 receptions for 450 yards and six touchdowns. His 17 yards a reception average helped stretch the field, a major reason why Colorado was able to have its two most productive offensive games. Richardson did most of this damage as the number three receiver behind McKnight and Clemons. This year, expect Richardson to be front and center and the top target for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Toney Clemons also a solid junior year in 2010. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior wideout,  played in all 12 games, finishing second on the team with 43 receptions for 482 yards and three touchdowns. He caught a pass in every game except the season finale against Nebraska with his top performance coming against Texas Tech when he hauled in eight receptions for 98 yards. Clemons a heralded transfer from Michigan two years ago is one of the teams vocal leaders. Clemons was hurt for much of the spring with a hamstring pull. It is imperative that both Clemons and Richardson stay healthy the entire season.

Depth - Depth may be an issue in 2011 for the Buffs which is why we have seen new wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy get really aggressive in recruiting. Colorado is in search for a viable third and fourth receiving option. With Toney Clemons graduating after the season as well as 2011 third receiver candidates Jason Espinoza and Kyle Cefalo, Colorado will need some playmakers for the future. The 2011 and 2012 classes each have three incoming wide receivers to address those needs. The Buffs also brought in Georgia transfer Logan Gray to compete for the third receiver spot. Gray, who graduated from Georgia in the offseason, will be eligible to play in 2011 under NCAA rules because he graduated from Georgia in four years and will be attending a school that has a graduate program not offered at Georgia. Gray’s younger brother is a student at Colorado, which was a big reason he chose Boulder along with his preferred graduate program. Gray had nine receptions for Georgia last season for 105 yards and a score.

As for the third receiving spot, it figures to come down to senior Kyle Cefalo, redshirt freshman Keenan Canty, senior Jason Espinoza and Gray. Cefalo, a 5'10" 170 pound former transfer from Oregon State, played in 11 games a year ago grabbing six receptions for 35 yards. Espinoza, another senior, only caught one ball in 2010 but caught 13 in 2009. Keenan Canty, a player we heard good things about this time last year, redshirted his first year on campus. Gray is the biggest receiver of the bunch at 6'2" 199 pounds. 

All that being said, incoming freshman Nelson Spruce, Tyler McCulloch and Austin Vincent will certainly have the opportunity to upstage some of the veterans similar to what Richardson did a year ago. McCulloch and Vincent were late post signing day additions to the team while Spruce was one of the first Embree commitments. Spruce has good size at 6'2" 190 lbs. He hauled in 73 passes for 1,292 yards and 18 touchdowns during his senior season. He looks to be a great route runner with decent spend and good hands. He also seems like a savvy player with good football instincts from what we have seen on film.

Tyler McCulloch comes at 6'5" 195 with good hands. As a senior, McCulloch earned first-team All-State recognition at both wide receiver and defensive back, along with first-team All-District 2-5A. He only played in five games a year ago after suffering a lacerated liver and spleen during a game which was a major reason why he was under recruited. He had 40 receptions for 570 yards and 9 scores in only seven games of action.

Austin Vincent was the last of the 2011 wide receivers to sign. The 6'1" 175 pound speedster from Desoto, Texas originally committed to Iowa but that commitment was put on hold to improve his test scores. He did get his scores up and committed to play for the Buffs after visiting Boulder this past spring.


2012 Recruiting - As noted above, Colorado also has three verbal commitments for the 2012 class, all three from the state of Texas where Bobby Kennedy has many connections.

Gerald Thomas, a 5'10" 170 pound receiver from The Colony, Texas committed to the Buffs on July 5th. He has one of the better offer lists of any prospect in the 2012 recruiting class. He had offers from Arizona Wildcats, Arizona St. Sun Devils, Boise St. Broncos, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa St. Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks and Minnesota Gophers.  Thomas is also a track star listed as running a 4.37 forty, which he ran at the TCU's summer camp this offseason. He had the sixth fastest time in Texas in the 400-meter dash with a time of 48.8 seconds. As a junior, Thomas had 71 receptions for 1,185 yards and 12 touchdowns and was a standout at camps. ESPN describes Thomas as "an undersized, sub-package prospect that has some quickness and acceleration abilities that are very attractive. He is diminutive in stature and built like a scatback/RB with terrific ball skills and we feel could have a bright future in the return game." Rivals ranks him as a 3-star prospect.

Jeffrey Thomas, a 6'3" 180 pound receiver from Duncanville, Texas committed to the Buffs in June. He held offers from the Iowa St. Cyclones and Boise St. Broncos at the time. ESPN describes him as a player with "great size, long arms, deceptive elusiveness and a sneaky extra gear. He is very tall and despite his lanky frame he actually exhibits very good coordination and body control." Thomas caught 21 passes for 364 yards and eight touchdowns last year before a knee injury cut short his junior season. Thomas is rated a three star on Details from the Fort Worth Nike Camp described Thomas as someone who "passes the eyeball test without question, but he's got the quick feet of a slot receiver and showed the ability to get vertical on the cornerbacks."

Peyton Williams, 6'1" 185 pound three star receiver from Soutlake, Texas committed to the Buffs in mid-July. Williams had offers from Pittsburgh, Tulsa and Minnesota before calling the Buffs name. ESPN says "Williams is a very crisp and consistent performer as a wide receiver that splits time in the slot and on the outside. You like his attention to detail and precision when it comes to route running and he catches the football extremely well. Has good height." The Dallas Morning News ranks Peyton Williams as 41st ranked player in the Area 75, head of his two other fellow wide receiver commits. Williams, who also runs track,  earned all-district honors after catching a team-high 56 passes for 684 yards and six touchdowns as a junior. He was part of his high school's championship 4x400 relay team this spring.

Bottom Line: Clemons and Richardson will be counted on to be the primary weapons on the outside for the Buffs in 2011 as well as replace the dependability and consistency of Scotty McKnight. Richardson has big time playmaking ability and will only approve as he gains experience, is coached by Bobby Kennedy and continues to add weight. Clemons, Richardson and the other receivers should also see more green grass to run in with Jon Embree's desire to increase the involvement of the tight ends in the offense. If the tight ends are able to attack the middle of the field and keep the safety's occupied, we could see more big things from Richardson and Clemons. The Buffs are not very deep at the position but many feel the duo could be one of the better groups in the Pac-12 when the season is all said and done.

A key for the Kennedy and the coaching staff is to find a solid third and fourth option whether that is Gray, Cefalo, Espinoza, Canty or one of signees from the 2011 class.

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