The Colorado Buffaloes have a strange relationship with tight ends.
Despite having a rich history of dominant tight ends, headlined by 2001 Mackey Award winner Daniel Graham, there hasn’t been much talent in the tight end room as of late. Despite having the famed tight ends coach Jon Embree as head coach, they haven’t exactly developed any real threat at the position, not since Quinn Sypnewski and Joel Klopfenstein graduated in 2005.
If you were asked to choose the best Colorado tight end of the past 10 years, who would it be? What about the past 15 years? Unless you have strong opinions about Riar Geer, or believed in the potential of Nick Kasa, the answer to this question is probably Brady Russell.
The amazing thing about Brady Russell is that he was a zero-star walk-on from nearby Loveland who was the best tight end the day he stepped foot on campus. Everyone watching fall camps was bemused by the long-haired kid who made a play every time he was on the field. He displayed so much pop and feel for the game that it was only a matter of time before he ran away with the job.
Brady Hustle, as he’s known, is a very good tight end, as we all know. He’s both CU’s best lead blocker and proved capable of being a security blanket for whichever Buffs QB is taking snaps. As long as he stays healthy, his position will remain productive. Beyond him, however, we have no idea what to expect.
Introducing the 11 other tight ends
Matt Lynch, Sr. — Originally a 3-star QB prospect from nearby Broomfield, Lynch committed to UCLA but never saw any real action. He eventually moved over to tight end before transferring back home. He played in three games and didn’t catch a pass. He’s most likely second on the depth chart, behind Russell.
Nick Fisher, Sr. — The biggest guy in the tight end room at 6’5, 265-lbs., the transfer from William Jewell College is mostly a depth piece who will get the most action on special teams.
Jared Poplawski, Jr. — Maybe the most talented player here, Poplawski has never been able to stay on the field. After numerous knee and shoulder injuries, he’s a major question mark heading into 2021.
Nico Magri, Jr. — Absolute unit at 6’3, 280-lbs., Magri is a walk-on from Monarch H.S. and has played exclusively on special teams.
Luke Stillwell, So. — Luke Stillwell looks like his name is Luke Stillwell, if that makes any sense. He’s another QB-turned-TE so he’s still learning the position. He’s a good special teams guy who could develop into something down the road.
C.J. Schmanski, So. — Another kid from Monarch, Schmanski is a walk-on whose best chance at playing is through special teams.
Kanaan Turnbull, So. — Originally from Loveland, by way of Independence C.C., Turnbull is new to the team as a walk-on.
Alec Pell, rFr. — The first of many talented freshmen, Alec Pell has only just converted from linebacker to tight end. He’s a versatile athlete and Karl Dorrell said he’s progressing well at his new position.
Caleb Fauria, Fr. — The son of Buffs great Christian Fauria, Caleb certainly has the size and athleticism to excel at the position. He also has a background in basketball and was noted for his rebounding ability. It’s only a matter of time before Fauria emerges as a red zone option.
Louis Passarello, Fr. — Passarello was a three-star recruit whose 6’5, 255-lbs. frame is a great foundation to build upon. He’s still a developmental prospect, but should thrive in CU’s competitive tight end room.
Erik Olsen, Fr. — The Buffs’ top recruit in the 2021 class, Erik Olsen is the prize jewel here. Taylor Embree, before leaving for an NFL job, commending his size, athleticism, toughness and blocking ability. Dorrell also mentioned his improvement through spring camp. He’s going to be really good.
So why do the Buffs have 12 tight ends?
It seems to me that the Buffs have one standout at the position, some very talented freshman, a few upperclassmen who are mostly there for depth and leadership, and a bunch of walk-ons from the Boulder suburbs. It’s probably smart to load up on dudes who are 6’4, 250-lbs., especially since most of them have experience at other positions.