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Colorado Buffaloes Recruiting: Early Signing Day Roundup

The Buffaloes had themselves a day.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of Early Signing Day, the Buffs have the 35th best recruiting class and the 6th best in the Pac-12. Mel Tucker went hard with his first recruiting cycle, targeting size and athleticism at every position with the hopes that Colorado can grind people into dust with a physical brand of football. This class is loaded with those kinds of athletes who can contribute from day one.

Early Contributors

Brendon Lewis, QB

Lewis is a dual-threat QB from the Dallas area. He’s not the biggest, fastest or the hardest thrower, but he’s just a playmaker, plain and simple. His throws look somewhat soft, but accuracy and poise are traits that cannot be undervalued. If Colorado is unable to land a graduate transfer QB this offseason, there’s a good chance Lewis beats out Blake Stenstrom and Tyler Lytle to start next year. He’s definitely a prospect to get excited about, even if he has a limited role on a run-heavy offense.

Antonio Alfano, DL

Alfano doesn’t technically count as a 2020 recruit — thus why CU’s recruiting class isn’t rated higher — but he’s the real prize. A former five-star who committed to Alabama, Alfano officially transferred today and will appeal the NCAA for immediate eligibility. If he suits up next year, the Buffs will have one of the most disruptive DL tandems in the country with Alfano and Mustafa Johnson.

Guy Thomas, OLB

Thomas is the highest impact JUCO commit the Buffs have. As a high school, he was a four-star recruit who committed to Nebraska, made the wise decision to leave the program, and has since starred Coahoma C.C. in Mississippi. He’s a terrific pass rusher with good acceleration and bend off the edge. Colorado is somewhat thin at edge rusher — Carson Wells and Jamar Montgomery are the only returning OLBs — so Thomas will counted on to step up right away.

Christian Gonzalez, DB

The Buffaloes were thin at defensive back before a rash of injuries decimated their depth. After a season in which former backup QB Sam Noyer played safety, the Buffs will have a few young playmakers ready to go. Gonzales is a four-star DB from Texas who can play either cornerback or safety. He’s a natural playmaker who has tremendous instincts, good body control and smooth athleticism. He’s good enough to start as a true freshman, but he will likely be a depth piece (for now) behind Derrion Rakestraw (Sr.) and Mark Perry (So.).

Brendan Rice, WR

Rice is a huge get for Colorado considering the Pac-12 offers he had as an Arizona recruit. As 6’2, 205-lbs., Rice is a big athlete with smooth athleticism. He gets where he wants on the field and knows how to use his body to make the catch. He’s a polished weapon who can play right away for a Buffs receiving corps that will lose Laviska Shenault, Jr., Tony Brown and K.D. Nixon. Dimitri Stantey might be the Buffs No. 1 option, but beyond him, Daniel Arias, Jaylon Jackson, Maurice Bell and Rice will all compete for playing time.

Jordan Berry, DL

Berry is a massive defensive lineman (6’3, 330-lbs.) who decommitted from LSU before choosing CU. Just about every major program offered him because it’s hard to find an athlete that size. Jack Barsch wrote in his commitment article, “[Berry] is gigantic, but he’s also technical and athletic, and his arms are like turbines swatting away ball carriers and blockers. As a 4-3 defensive tackle in high school, he could play NT or DE in this 3-4 scheme, and that versatility, plus his size, could let him play early for this program.

Jaylen Striker, CB

For all the injuries the Buffs had in the secondary, there were some positives. K.J. Trujillo was thrown into the fire as a true freshman and looks to have the mental makeup to be a lockdown corner. Tarik Luckett played as well as any true freshman receiver-convert. Mekhi Blackmon was solid until he was injured. For all the positives, though, they still need depth, and that’s what Striker will bring for now. He’s the MacIntyre special at DB — JUCO transfer, 6’2 with long arms, press coverage extraordinaire — so we will hope he’s more Ahkello Witherspoon than Dante Wigley.

Justin Johnson, DL

Johnson is a JUCO commit who redshirted this past year and will have three years at Colorado. He’s the smallest offensive or defensive lineman Tucker recruited (he’s still 6’3, 285-lbs, lol). He’s more of a depth piece right away, but there’s plenty of potential in him as a 3-4 defensive end with the versatility to play on the edge as well.

Commits for the Future

Jake Wray, OT

Carson Lee, G/C

Gerad Lichtenhan, OT

These three are all huge linemen who will be developed over the next two or three years before they play major snaps. Jake Wray is the prized recruit who dominated Georgia high school and had been committed to Ohio State. Gerad Lichtenhan is absolutely massive at 6’8, 320-lbs., but he’s relatively raw and will need some time to learn. Carson Lee is an in-state commit from Cherry Creek. Lee is the most likely of these three to play early, as he is physically ready and has the cerebral makeup to play center.

Devin Grant, OLB

Alvin Williams, OLB

Mel Tucker spent a lot of his recruiting resources on pass rushing, mostly because his defensive scheme requires pressure on the QB. That focus shows in both the star commits and the depth/upside players. That starts with Grant, the edge rusher who has been relatively unheralded for an Under Armour All-American. He’s a bit undersized (6’2, 230-lbs.), but he’s built solidly and has plenty of burst as a versatile athlete. Alvin Williams would be a prized CU recruit most years, but in this class he’s a depth piece with upside. He’s a thin edge rusher whose calling card in his nonstop motor.

Mister Williams, ILB

When discussing how important size is in college football, Tucker made the exception that quarterbacks, running backs and inside linebackers don’t necessarily need it. Mister Williams is one of those 6’0 inside linebackers who just flies around to make plays. The Buffs are fairly stacked on the inside — everyone returns: Nate Landman, Akil Jones, Jon van Diest, Jash Allen and Marvin Ham — so Williams will have plenty of time to develop.

Toren Pittman, STAR

Pittman is a twitchy athlete with a 6’3, 200-lbs. frame. He makes plays around the field that is needed at the STAR position in Tucker’s defense. He isn’t quite a Davion Taylor-level athlete (no one is) but it’s easy to see him growing into that role with his nose for the football.

Chris Carpenter, WR

Keith Miller, WR

Carpenter and Miller showcase how much depth this class has. Carpenter is an elite athlete whose long strides make it look like he’s gliding past would-be tacklers; he could very reasonably win the kick returner role with open field ability. Miller is a giant receiver at 6’5, 200-lbs. and he knows how to use that size to bully defensive backs. Darrin Chiaverini has some amazing clay to mold in these talented receivers.

Montana Lemonious-Craig, ATH

Montana Lemonious-Craig (!!!) is an athlete who will play either receiver or safety at CU, depending on team needs. He’s another smooth and coordinated athlete whose calling card is his ball skills. He could contribute right away, but I would bet on him getting a bit bigger and stronger.

Caleb Fauria, TE

Louis Passarello, TE

Caleb Fauria is the most exciting tight end commit CU has had in a long time. He’s the son of CU great Christian Fauria and cousin of UCLA menace Joseph Fauria. It’s easy to see how the strong their bloodlines are, as Caleb has the size (6’5, 220), speed and ball skills as the Fauria before him. Louis Passarello doesn’t have the same athleticism, but he’s the more physical tight end who loves to use his huge frame (6’5, 240-lbs.) for jump balls and run blocking.

Josh Watts, P

After what felt like seven years, Alex Kinney’s eligibility finally ran out. The Buffs went from Darragh O’Neill to Kinney, so there’s going to be ridiculous expectations placed onto Josh Watts. He’s Australian, is 6’4, 200-lbs., and can rugby punt. He’s going to be amazing.