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2023 Colorado Football Preview: Running Backs

Is this the deepest group on the team?

NCAA Football: Houston at South Florida Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Additions: Alton McCaskill, Kavosiey Smoke, Dylan Edwards, Sylveon Wilkerson

Departures: Alex Fontenot, Deion Smith, Jayle Stacks

It’s hard to lose two experienced players like Alex Fontenot and Deion Smith and say that this unit took a massive jump. At least with the level that the Colorado Buffaloes have recruited at for the last 5 years. However, CU is no longer living in that new reality. Buff fans have been portaled into the Prime-a-verse, where Deion Sanders is king and his reign shakes things up. That means that the top six backs feature four new running backs in 2023, and they are all very fun.

Let’s start with the headlining name. Alton McCaskill transfers in from Houston after missing all of 2022 with a knee injury. As a freshman, McCaskill had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns. 18 TOUCHDOWNS. That is only slightly less than the 21 touchdowns that CU scored as a team last year. McCaskill is a Clydesdale of a workhorse back. He’s 6’1, 200 pounds and has definitely filled out a bit as he’s worked on rehabbing his knee injury. He may be worked in slowly due to his lingering ACL injury, but he says that he’s healthy and ready to go.

Second in the rotation is Kentucky transfer Kavosiey Smoke. Smoke has been behind some incredible backs at UK and still found a way to total around 1,600 yards in his career. He’s a little bit shorter, but he is STOUT and experienced at the Power 5 level. Smoke is a good catcher out of the backfield and a great pass blocker, and can run between the tackles. Expect a Mike Tolbert or (deep cut) Marion Barber role for Smoke this year for the Buffs.

One of the most exciting players on the whole damn team is true freshman Dylan Edwards. Committed to Kansas State and then Notre Dame, Dylan Edwards has known Deion Sanders for years and had to flip to Colorado when the opportunity presented itself. He is one of the fastest players on the team, in the conference and possible in the country already and he has absolutely flashed during fall camp. Dylan Edwards will also split out wide and play some slot receiver and will also be in the mix for kick returner. He’s still slight, at 5’10 and around 180 pounds, but he is stronger than he looks and he will make people look silly in the open field.

Anthony Hankerson is the lone returner from last years’ rotation and he has impressed in camp. He still runs with aggression and fanaticism, but he’s bulked up a little bit. Hank has continuity, he is polished and he runs with aggression. At 5’10 and 225 pounds, he can be an every-down back and will be a great weapon this deep in the rotation.

The last name to know is Sy’veon Wilkerson, who just got his waiver from the NCAA. Wilkerson was a 1,000 yard rusher for Jackson State last year, and also rushed for Delaware State for two years. Wilkerson is another stout back who runs with an urgency that is exciting. He bounces off the first tackler often and has some nice shifty moves in the phone booth, and only has one year left to prove himself.

This room is incredibly deep and one of the best rooms in the conference. McCaskill, Smoke, Edwards, Hankerson, Wilkerson. They all provide something a little different and if they all play to their potential, there’s more than a few starters in there. If the health remains, I’d expect McCaskill to lead this group, but even if a more even split is needed, it is in good hands.