Here lies the "Post-Two-A-Days" depth chart. It holds some interesting nuggets. I know some of them have been discussed, but here's my two cents. I only managed to catch one flu-shortened practice this fall--a mistake I won't make next year--but one that means my impressions of guys are limited.
We'll go offense first, because it seems like the thing to do!
Well obviously we've got senior Tyler Hansen in there, but he's not the same guy that we've seen. He has worked on his mechanics a bit, but he's still adjusting to the changes. He's solid and can make just about all of the throws, but he still has to improve his consistency. It sounds like he isn't hesitating any after being knocked out last season with that spleen-rupturing hit, which is excellent news!
Behind Hansen is redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman. I didn't get to see him and how much he's progressed since the spring game, but the fact that he has a tight hold on the 2nd spot even after missing most of fall camp thus far makes me think he's doing pretty well. This coaching staff wouldn't still consider him the #2 guy if he wasn't working hard in spite of his ankle injury. The rumors persisted throughout camp, but true freshman Walkon John Schrock grabbed a hold of the #3 spot and wouldn't let go. He is now in front of two scholarship players in Burnette and Dorman, though all three are all newcomers to the program. Hopefully we won't have to see much of anyone besides Hansen out there this year.
Follow the jump because there's more than one player on offense!
Again, we've got a clear #1 in senior Rodney Stewart. He's the man and I have a feeling he's going to carry the ball a bunch this year. They'll spell him, but he's definitely going to have every chance to rush for the nearly 1,200 yards he need to beat Eric Bieniemy's career rushing mark at CU. He has supposedly been working on cutting down on his negative runs (though he got better at it last season), and his straight-line speed may have improved. I'm very excited to see him in action this year.
After Stewart, we've a couple of young guys in Tony Jones and Josh Ford. I think both will surprise people when they get to carry the ball. Jones will remind just about everyone of Bieniemy. He's compact, but also pretty thick, and he looks like he'll get even stronger. He runs with a chip on his shoulder, and why shouldn't he? He ran for a ton of yards and TDs for one of the top high school programs in the country, and he only really got a scholarship offer at CU. He is going to be a very capable replacement for Stewart next season, and this year he should get his chance to turn some heads. I have a feeling Ford earns his scholarship next offseason. He's worked incredibly hard (another guy who played very well for a top high school program) and he seems to impress the coaching staff. He supposedly has a chance to pass Jones up to become the primary backup to Stewart before the Hawaii game. It will be interesting to watch to say the least!
Behind those guys is Brian Lockridge, who at least will be returning kicks this season, because 4th is pretty far down the depth chart. After Lockridge is D.D. Goodson, another sub-5'8" back who may get a chance to return punts. He's not currently listed there, but coaches have said that he will be given a chance to earn the job.
Ryan Deehan is definitely the starter here as the most balanced of our TEs. He's a proficient blocker and a good receiver, but there may be a tight end on the roster who has more to do with our offense's flexibility than Deehan. That man is Matt Bahr. They've been working hard on him as a receiver, but he doesn't have to be Shannon Sharpe out there. He's definitely capable of hauling in the occasional ball that will go his way, which is good, because lining him up at TE is almost like having a third tackle on the field. Deehan will be important, but Bahr may be the difference between us having a solid offense and a good one.
Behind those guys is DaVaughn Thornton who is getting closer to being a complete tight end. He's a very good pass-catcher, but he still doesn't get a ton of push when he blocks. I know a lot of people were concerned that he still couldn't crack the two-deep, but I would argue that he is actually the primary backup to Deehan and not simply the 3rd tight end. I guarantee that if Deehan goes out, Bahr won't be the guy in one-TE sets, it will be Thornton. I'm certain that by next year, he'll be ready to start.
After Thornton is Kyle Slavin, who is also waiting for Deehan to graduate. He looks like he may be a better blocker than Thornton at this point, but he's not as dynamic of a receiver. He needs to improve overall before he gets his shot, though. I'm not sure we see much of him this season unless injuries really hit the TEs. After Slavin is Scott Fernandez, another converted offensive lineman. He has a solid shot to take over for Bahr next year. His development will be interesting to watch. He's a solid blocker, but he will have more time to work on becoming a receiver than Bahr had. If he can improve in that area, he may surprise some people down the road.
One of the few "shakeups" on the depth chart occurred with the wide receivers. Senior Toney Clemons is listed as a "co-Starter" with true freshman (and late signee) Tyler McCulloch. Clemons has been a guy that the coaches have been on about consistency because of his dropped passes, and McCulloch is a guy that they have been praising for his ability to catch anything thrown his way. My guess is that Clemons will earn his "starter" title back at some point, but it won't be easy for him. I got to see McCulloch a bit and he is pretty surprising. He is very smooth and I think he's going to be a very good receiving threat for us for a long time.
On the other side, the undisputed starter is sophomore Paul Richardson. I still think we underestimate what he can do. I think I might have higher expectations for him this season than just about every other player on the roster. I think he can be truly great. I believe he easily surpasses 1,000 yards and 12 TDs this year. Behind him is the underrated Kyle Cefalo. He earned a scholarship for his final season, and I like him in the slot. Behind them is the graduate student from UGA Logan Gray, who figures to get some snaps in his season here, and Keenan Canty, who will be fun to watch when he gets his shot.
Backing up Clemons and McCulloch is another true freshman, Nelson Spruce who looks like he will be very solid for us while he's here. Behind him is senior Jason Espinoza who has some good experience here, followed by sophomore Jarrod Darden. The 6'4" Darden is still trying to make his impact as a redzone threat, but will have to work hard to get those snaps over McCulloch. Overall I think this is a pretty talented group with a lot of potential going forward.
I'm not sure I like the idea of having co-starters, but that's what we've got here going into Hawaii. Daniel Munyer and Gus Handler for now are neck-and-neck, but I bet someone separates themselves once we start playing games. The only advantage to this may be that they both will have some game experience (something that neither one has currently) in the event that one of them gets hurt at some point. That's not a great silver lining, but it's something. Shawn Daniels was also competing for the starting spot, but he injured his calf and is listed as "out for extended time." Hopefully he can come back from that and play a little in his Senior year. He may qualify for a 6th year of eligibility because he's missed so much time to injury, but that is rarely something to rely on.
Whoever wins the starting spot this year has a very good chance to be CU's starting center for a long time, as Munyer is a redshirt freshman and Handler is a sophomore. Behind those two guys is Kaiwi Crabb, who I believe is more of a guard and will probably be our right guard in 2012.
We have one of the most experienced set of guards in the nation with Ryan Miller on the right side and Ethan Adkins on the left. Both seniors have slimmed down and Adkins (down 25 lbs) in particular looks really good. They both can get out wide when pulling faster and are more agile. Adkins was a guy that I was pretty hard on early in the season, but he improved a ton as last year went on. I'm now looking for him to make another big jump. I think he has a chance to have an even better season than Miller, if only because the expectations are so uneven for them. Miller is considered an All-American candidate. He is good and a pretty fantastic athlete, but he's got a lot of progress to make before he is truly at that level. I think that shedding the weight may truly push him into the elite category.
Backing up Adkins is true freshman Paulay Asiata. I hope that Adkins stays healthy and that Asiata can redshirt. It's not because he isn't ready to play, he definitely is ready, I just want him to be able to start at left guard for all four years. He's going to be special. Behind Miller is senior Sione Tau, who really does look good. He's down to 335 lbs, and he looks quicker than he has in a long time (he's been here for what seems like 7 years, after all). He still could drop down a little more, but he's big and strong and can hold his own there. Behind him is redshirt freshman Kaiwi Crabb who will be primed to take over on the right side in 2012. He looks like he could also be a good one. The third-stringer on the left side is good old Blake Behrens. He has never quite been able to get back to his starting form of a couple seasons ago. He is a seasoned veteran who can step in if needed, though, but he may not see the field in his final season here.
We have two sophomore tackles this season, but I bet you'll be surprised to hear which one I'm more comfortable with. I'm a big Jack Harris fan and I think he's going to be an excellent right tackle. He's big (he looks just as big as Miller despite being 3 inches shorter), strong and mean, and he can move very well. I think he ends up holding down the fort on that side for the next three years and ends up being drafted. On the left side, David Bakhtiari has moved over to take over for Nate Solder and he's starting to look comfortable. I think the biggest thing he'll need to overcome is his height and arm length. He's got good footwork, but he's going to be facing even tougher matchups than he did last year. I hope he can take care of business there this season.
Backing up both of those guys is junior Ryan Dannewitz (whose parents are very nice. I met them at an event in LA in the spring), who has always been very solid. He has looked fine in limited playing time, and is a pretty strong kid. He may not be the primary backup at left tackle for long though, because grayshirt freshman Alexander Lewis looks really good there. He's listed as the third LT (Tau is the #3 guy on the right side) but I could easily see him moving up. He's still got to get bigger, but he's got incredibly long arms and looks pretty darn good there on the left side. If he puts on some more weight, he may push Bakhtiari for the starting spot in 2012.