While none of the commits for the 2014 class have officially signed on the dotted line to become Buffs and not many carry offers from big time programs, there are some legitimate athletes that are the under-the-radar types that Mike MacIntyre seems to fine success with. He has used classes with less talent to build Duke’s defense up, build San Jose State into a Top 25 program and to get guys like Addison Gillam, Chidobe Awuzie, Micheal Adkins and Tedric Thompson to become Buffs in 2013. All of these guys were commits after MacIntyre and staff had taken over and this group, along with Sefo Liufau, were the Buffs biggest freshman contributors.
In the Pac 12 where you need to make plays, the Buffs seem to have potential impact playmakers at WR and RB, even after losing their biggest playmaker in Paul Richardson. The Buffs have a strong WR corp in Nelson Spruce, DD Goodson and Tyler McCulloch. They have speedsters, with much praise and notice from fellow teammates and staff, that sat idly on the sidelines while Richardson made big plays but anyone that watched Buffs practice saw major ability in Devin Ross, Jeff Thomas (though rumors are he may be headed out of Boulder), Elijah Dunston and Bryce Bobo. Even with this great deal of young depth which will include 4 redshirt freshman and a sophomore, the Buffs added two recent commits that may add to this group in Lee Walker and Donovan Lee.
Donovan Lee (Chaminade College Prep-CA) 5'9" and 170 - Lee is an athlete that could be used at slot receiver or cornerback. He changes directions effectively and could be used to help the Buffs pedestrian return units. He is a 3-star commit with multiple MWC school offers.
Lee Walker (Madison Senior-CA) 6'0" and 160 - Walker is a dynamic return man with speed and great field vision. He had been a signed commit to Arizona last year but did not qualify. A year later the Buffs were able to nab the San Diego area prospect. A 3-star commit that flew under the radar due to his year off. Size reminds you of Paul Richardson when he came in to CU.
The Buffs running back group includes their top two rushers in Christian Powell and Michael Adkins, along with Terrence Crowder, Donte Abron and the 2013 season offensive scout player of the year, Phillip Lindsay. The Buffs added a commit in October in Jomon Dotson.
Jomon Dotson (American Canyon-CA) 6'0" and 175 - Dotson has multiple offers including ASU, Boise, ISU and Yale. In the past two seasons alone, Dotson rushed for 50 TDs and amassed 4152 yards on the ground. Bigger programs are poking to see his interest and is a needed playmaker to keep on board. Being as the Buffs lacked a home run threat, adding him to the mix in a thin RB corp will add some competition at least.
The quarterback position had 8 players heading into the 2013 season. After transfers and graduation, the Buffs only have 3 QBs going into 2014 spring ball. Sefo Liufau took over mid-season after Connor Wood struggled. It is Liufau’s team but the Buffs need depth at QB and have a commit from Cade Apsay.
Cade Apsay (Canyon-CA) 6'2" and 176: Apsay is on the slender side for a quarterback, but has the frame to grow. He was one of the first commits to this class and has garnered attention from multiple programs but has stayed commited to the Buffs. He has a strong arm and is very accurate with the ball. He can also can be a threat with his legs. He thrived in a spread/pistol shotgun system and should fit well in the Buffs offense. He had an offer from Arizona and interest from multiple big schools.
The Buffs offensive line loses two starters and 4 in the last 12 months with the graduations of Jack Harris and Gus Handler after losing Alex Lewis to transfer and David Bakhtiari to the NFL. The Buffs return starters Stephane Nembot, Daniel Munyer and Kaiwi Crabb but lack youth experience after this group. Alex Kelley, Marc Mustoe and Brad Cotner all received limited snaps through the season and will be pushed by Jonathan Huckins and many other young Buffs that didn’t receive snaps due to injury, redshirt and the Buffs luck at limited injuries to their starters throughout the season allowing the youth to develop. The Buffs offensive line still lacked a push and the staff is smart to be seeking more talent along the offensive line. The Buffs have commits from 3 lineman currently.
Isaac Miller (Silver Creek-CO) 6'7" & 250 - This Colorado product was Colorado’s first commit for the 2014 class. He will need to grow into his height but is that typical lean Colorado product that turns into a LT starter at CU like the Buffs have had over the course of the last decade. A 3-star commit.
Elijah Rodriguez (Cypress Creek-TX) 6'5" & and 270 - Rodriguez is a 3-star commit that has offers from across the country. He has stayed committed to the Buffs. Rodriguez has the ability to pull, get downfield on screens and looks to be a great run blocker. Out of the group at this position, he is probably closest to playing time early.
Josh Kaiser (Mission Viejo-CA) 6'5" and 275 - Kaiser is a 2-star that played LT but appears to be recruited as a guard. He protected SJSU commit Ian Fieber’s blindside and is part of a school that produces multiple Division-I prospects with six already committed to FBS schools.
The defensive side of the ball has been ugly for the Buffs. There were more flashes of showing a sign of life and players looked like they kept chugging along compared to the 2012 squad. Still, the team was a far way away in the majority of Pac-12 contests. The team's biggest deficiency was a lack of pass rush finishing last in the Pac-12 with only 17 sacks.
The defensive line made little noise early on. Fortunately a large contingent of sophomores (Tupou, Solis, Kafovalu & Henington) came on late and got significant reps to close out the season. Kafovalu accounted for 3 sacks in the last 4 games and was a huge bright spot. Jimmie Gilbert and De'Jon Wilson got some playing time and redshirt Derek McCartney used a greyshirt and redshirt previous two seasons to bulk up and impressed the staff throughout fall ball. The Buffs will need this group to grow up quickly and make an impact to make a substantial leap from the 2013 team. The four commits on the defensive line are:
Eddy Lopez (Coronado-Texas) 6'4" and 275 - Lopez has the size that is tough to find at DT from a HS senior. He plays a little high but uses his arms well. He has been bumped to a 2 star by scout and 3 star by Rivals. He is not highly recruited, but the Buffs needed more size along the DL to compete in the Pac 12.
Jase Franke (St. Bonaveture-CA) 6’4" and 260 - Franke has the size to play tackle, DT or DE. Franke has good speed for his size and played primarily DE and has really good closing speed for a defensive lineman reacting quickly to a play and making the tackle. Franke has offers from Arizona and Boise State, two programs that have seen more success and gone bowling while the Buffs sat idle. He is a legit 3-star prospect.
Sam Bennion (Logan-Utah) 6'6" and 245 - Had an offer from BYU and Weber State. Had 10 sacks as a junior. Large frame that looks like he can grow into it.
Michael Mathewes (Mission Viejo-CA) 6’5" and 250 - Good speed for size. Has a motor that doesn’t stop. He uses his hands very effectively and is what I’d consider a violent tackler, throwing a player down to the turf and rolling with them to ensure a tackle rather than just tapping them. He looks like a player that is a steal and reminds me of Addison Gillam’s plays and tackling from this season on the defensive line.
The linebacker position was a question mark going into the season and it found a gem from a Mike MacIntyre recruit in Addison Gillam, whom was a first team freshman All American by many publications. The Buffs lose the solid contributions of Derrick Webb but gain Deaysean Rippy whom was a 4-star recruit that chose Pitt over dozens of top level schools. He is the best recruit that can play this year. The Buffs also have Woodson Greer III who took a large number of snaps in 2013 before getting hurt against UCLA. A group of other LBs got playing time, including special teams ace Brady Daigh whom went from fill-in starter in 2012 to occasional spot duties in 2013. The Buffs sport three commits, all listed as MLB prospects, though the size and speed and necessity will probably cause some changes. MacIntyre seems to recruit middle linebacker heavily and move them around where needed due to their leadership ability and team first attitude
Grant Watanbe (W. J. Brennan HS-TX) 5’11" and 225 - Watanbe was one of the first prospects the Buffs picked up for the 2014 class. He is a tackling machine with over 160 in his junior year. His HS team is 15-0 and about to play in the 4A Texas title game. He leads a defense that has only allowed 51 points in those 15 games. His steadfast early commitment has had other times shy away but Utah had offered.
Ricky Gamboa (Chaminade-CA) 6’0" and 215 - Gamboa had some smaller offers before accepting the Buffs offer. He also has led his team to the state title game in Division II State Championship.
Zach Brown (Henry Senior-CA) 6’3" and 235 - Brown is the largest of the LB prospects with offers from MWC schools and Army. Like Gamboa and Watanbe, he committed prior to the season and hasn’t waivered.
The Buffs secondary saw marked improvement with Jered Bell at Safety and another year under their corners belt. They lose senior Parker Orms whom played through injury often. Talking injury, Terrel Smith sat the season with an injury of his own taking away some much needed depth. Tedric Thompson was a big positive for his spot duty and a bright sport. At corner, Greg Henderson continued his stellar career at CU but became less of a game changer factor against upper echelon Pac 12 competition. Still he is a very good cover corner. Kenneth Crawley saw improvement as a sophomore and played most snaps allowing Yuri Wright to redshirt. Chidobe Awuzie was a solid nickel corner as a true freshman. Still, the group was thin beyond the starters and needed to add more players with size and have done just that:
Ahkello Witherspoon (Sacramento CC-CA) 62" and 180 - This JUCO addition is already committed to the Buffs. He has significant height and size already for a Division I cornerback. He is an intelligent young man that seemed to choose CU due to its strong academics and faith and family being a big part of the programs mantra under MacIntyre. He will have four years to play three and will be needed with Henderson only having a season remaining and the heavy passing of the Pac 12.
Evan White (Cherokee Trail-CO) 6’3" and 190 - White is one of only two Colorado prep commits. White has a height advantage over almost any safety. He was lightly recruited with NM State and CSU being the only other known offers. He has covers skills so White could move anywhere in the secondary. White was a big hitter in high school making many catches turn into pass break-ups by dislodging the receiver from the ball, but will have to add wrapping up to his repertoire with players in the Pac 12 level much bigger than the Colorado prep competition he faced. He also saw time at WR so his ability to get a ball in the secondary is something many other secondary players struggle at.
Jaisen Sanchez (St. Louis-HI) 6’1" and 193 - Sanchez continues the Buffs run at grabbing players from the Hawaiian Islands. Sanchez is a big hitter like white and seems to read plays well by reading the quarterback, breaking quickly on plays to break-up passes and create turnovers. He had offers from FCS schools and Hawaii.
The Buffs special teams started out the season struggling, but after early gaffes on mainly kick coverage, the Buffs were solid. The addition of recruits like Lee and Walker, along with the youth at receiver will push last years solid, but not flashy return starters. One thing that has been a model of consistency the past 12 years has been long snapper. The Buffs have had three consecutive four year starters. While they have players capable of long snapping, none have done it in college game time speed, so they went after one and have a guy enrolled for spring 2014 in Wyatt Smith.
Wyatt (Tucker) Smith (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC-MS) 6’3" and 230 - Smith was rated the #2 long snapping prospect coming out. He has 3 years to play and is a welcome addition to a team that has been spoiled by the consistent play of long snappers. He had an offer from Troy and schools like Florida and Arizona State were showing interest. Darragh O’Neil and Will Oliver will have another solid guy that knows how to do it.
Talking the 2014 Class
This current class isn't one that will wow the recruiting services. It has players that will need a year to develop but they are guys that have fundamentals and are the type of guys MacIntyre and staff have thrived with at the lower levels. In order to get that higher recruit interested, it is going to take more than a 4-win season unfortunately. A bowl game would go a long way in showing that the progression in becoming a relevant program is happening and allow those players that are choosing Oregon State, Arizona, Washington and other slightly better BCS level schools because they have started to win and see those programs succeeding.
Immediate impact guys for this class are the JUCO signees and otherwise, it is unknown. This current team has depth and experience at every position and allowing most of a class to redshirt and develop for a program looking to go from 1 win to 6 wins in two seasons is a big positive to keep stepping up that ladder.
The Buffs seem to be at their limit for signees but may be accounting for a grayshirt, some attrition from guys taking off or being able to use scholarships count towards previous classes. A big time recruit that was under the radar would help the Buffs faithful questioning this class, which I can see, but there also players that show fundamentals that missed with other classes such as watching nearly every DL play high and not use their hands in the previous 5-6 years and it showed in this year’s defensive line play. This year’s group doesn’t have the BCS offers and as some have put it, appear more like a MWC recruiting group than Pac-12 but MacIntyre has probably had many of these guys targeted as guys he thought were going to bypass San Jose State and he has been in their ear. The Buffs biggest weakness is in the trenches and it would be nice to get a JUCO OT and DL in the program to help push the returning players and hopefully get a starter that has had some playing time and can contribute. The good thing is unlike the Hawkins era, the staff is at least in the ears of top recruits with offers to roughly a dozen 4-5 star recruits that wouldn’t even look at Colorado typically and maybe early playing time and wanting to rebuild a once proud program will appeal to this group.
This staff has emphasized California as the state to recruit and with the talent level and amount of programs in the state and Colorado having at least one game a year in the area this must be their main focus. Colorado is losing the top-end talent to other programs but has been for the last half a dozen years. This group of recruits doesn’t know Colorado as a conference power the group a half dozen years knew about or a national power but as a whipping boy in the Pac 12 and previously in the Big XII. It is a sad fact that can only be turned around with wins and some local buzz that looks to still be at least a year away. Hopefully at this time next year, players like Eric Lee whom already has multiple FBS offers stay in Colorado and joins the Buffs. Still, there are positive things on the horizon with the facility improvements that were made public and approved by the regents early December. That is a vision that will be able to be sold more thoroughly to future recruits. For now, MacIntyre and staff will have to do what he says and coach 'em up and continue to have the team buy-in to what the staff is building.
What are your Christmas wish list as a Buffs Football fan for recruiting?
As a lifelong Buff fan, I myself would like to see MacIntyre keep this current group all committed, especially guys with offers like Dotson and Rodriguez. I would like to see another Addison Gillam type that is a diamond in the rough that makes an immediate huge impact from this class (I am on record that I believe that is Michael Mathewes) and an impact offensive lineman/defensive lineman from the JUCO ranks or Rodriguez. I think the main recruits we need are the 2013 group that redshirted or got very limited snaps to make a big stride in order to get to the 6 wins the Buffs need to continue to gain momentum and not step back as they have lately.