The Colorado Buffaloes football program but a bow on their Spring season on Saturday with their annual Spring Game, the first of the Mel Tucker era. And if you were expecting offense, there was plenty of it. The Gold team (2nd team offense, 1st team defense) racked up 536 total yards on 58 plays en route to a 55-27 victory over the Black team (1st team offense, 2nd team defense). Here are my takeaways from the Spring season finale.
Who is the leader to replace running back Travon McMillian?
True freshman Jaren Mangham, a four-star recruit from Detriot, Mich., certainly made a strong statement with 12 carries for 149 yards and three touchdowns. The highlight of his day was this 65-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt-freshman Deion Smith added 60 yards on 15 carries for the Gold team. Local product Joe Davis, a true-freshman from Littleton, Colo., (Valor Christian) paced the way for the Black team with 60 yards on nine carries, while Sophomore Alex Fontenot added 34 yards. So, is there a clear leader to replace McMillian? The simple answer is no. Fontenot, who saw limited action in all 12 games last season, may get the starting nod when the Buffaloes open against Colorado State on August 30th. But make no mistake, any one of these young backs are talented enough to tote the rock in Jay Johnson’s offense. This position battle will be very intriguing to watch in the coming months.
The Buffaloes are LOADED at wide receiver
Even though star wideout Laviska Shenault, Jr. didn’t suit up on Saturday, it’s clear incumbent starter Steven Montez (23-44, 287 yards, 2 TD on Saturday) will have plenty of weapons to throw to. Sophomore Daniel Arias led all receivers with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including this 28-yard juggling score in the second quarter.
Sophomore Maurice Bell also eclipsed 100 receiving yards for the Gold team, finishing with six receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Dimitri Stanley led the Black team with seven catches for 98 yards, while senior Tony Brown and junior K.D. Nixon combined for seven receptions for 145 yards and a score. This receiving core is deep and should be the strength of the 2019 Buffaloes.
Juniors Nate Landman and Mehki Blackmon excel on the defensive side of the ball
As a sophomore in 2018, Nate Landman led the Buffaloes with 123 total tackles (per CUBuffs.com). Saturday at Folsom Field, the talented inside linebacker picked up right where he left off, with 13 total tackles and a sack to lead all defensive players. Playing alongside Landman
at inside linebacker on the Gold team was sophomore Jon Van Diest, a highly regarded recruit out of Cherry Creek high school (Louisville, Colo.) who’s been working hard to come back from an ACL tear suffered in 2017. Van Diest, who saw only 23 snaps last season, finished with nine total tackles and a sack on the day. Landman and Van Diest were joined by a strong performance from Mehki Blackmon, who finished with two tackles and two interceptions, including this pick-six in the third quarter.
Four players – Lucas Cooper, Uryan Hudson, Jacob Callier and Akil Jones – paved the way with six total tackles each for the Black team. Another intriguing position battle to keep an eye on this fall will be the inside linebacker spot alongside Landman. It’ll most likely be Van Diest or Jones who will replace Rick Gamboa, a four-year starter who amassed 315 total tackles (per sports-reference.com) during his career in Boulder, Colo.
Other notable Spring game performances
Sam Noyer (Quarterback) – Competing for a backup spot with Tyler Lytle, the junior completed 13 of his 15 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns for the Gold team. He also added a one-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Jalen Harris (Tight end) – The grad-transfer from Auburn who is expected to play a big role in Johnson’s offense had two receptions for 17 yards for the Black team.
Delrick Abrams Jr. (Cornerback) – The senior had five tackles and three pass breakups for the Gold team.
James Stefanou (Placekicker) – The 32-year old junior, who battled a groin injury last season, connected on all three of his extra point attempts and came up short on a 62-yard field goal attempt to end the first half.