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Colorado Football 2023 Preview: Wide Receivers

The top line receiver group is incredible

NCAA Football: Colorado Spring Game Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Departures: Jordyn Tyson, R.J. Sneed, Montana Lemonious-Craig, Daniel Arias, Maurice Bell, Chase Sowell, Jaylon Jackson, Grant Page

Arrivals: Jimmy Horn Jr, Xavier Weaver, Jaylen Ellis, Tarvarish Dawson, Willie Gaines Jr, Jacob Page, Omarion Miller, Adam Hopkins, Isaiah Hardge, Javon Antonio

The wide receiver room for the Colorado Buffaloes left no stone unturned during the offseason. ALL scholarship wide receivers either graduated or left for the Buffs, leading Deion Sanders and Brett Bartolone to completely restock the room to their taste.

Xavier Weaver is the most experienced member of this wide receiving corps. One of the all-time leaders in receiving at South Florida, he transfers with one year left. He is big, not crazy big, fast but not crazy fast, strong but not crazy strong and a good route runner who doesn’t always dust his defenders. He just happens to be a very good receiver that is very good at catching footballs. Weaver has an insane catch radius and knows how to get open in the small, savvy ways that are repeatable. He may end up CU’s leading receiver when it’s all said and done in 2023.

Next up is Xavier Weaver’s teammate, also formerly of USF. Jimmy Horn Jr was one of the first transfers to hop on board to Coach Prime’s wild ride. He is an explosive player who does not let his 5’8 stature limit him. An All-American at kick returner, he has short speed, long speed and doesn’t go down on first contact. Horn will line up in the slot most of the time, but expect him to get the ball often and in a position to run upfield. He was the first player to “earn” his jersey number in the spring and has been one of the most vocal leaders on offense. Expect Horn and Weaver to get the lion’s share of targets at the WR position and continue their great work together.

The last of the expected starters is Javon Antonio, a transfer from the D2 school Northwestern State (confusingly located in Louisiana). Antonio is bordering on tight end size, with a 6’4, 230 pound frame. He was highly productive at the D2 level, catching almost 100 balls over two years, with plenty of touchdowns thrown in. Javon is obviously a huge red zone threat with his size and ability to box out defenders. He is also a great deep ball threat and is surprisingly proficient at high-pointing the ball. With his natural size, this obviously makes it harder for almost any DB to match up with him on contested catches. His natural physicality and huge frame lets him bring something a little different than the rest of the receivers.

For the sake of expediency, let’s look at the rest of the speedsters as one group. Willie Gaines, Tarvarish Dawson and Jaylen Ellis all have ELITE speed. Gaines joins CU from Jackson State, where he was a deep ball threat. Dawson transfers in from Auburn, where he lined up in the slot and was slated for a big role in this year’s team. Finally, Ellis transfers in from Baylor. His track star speed and 6’3 frame makes him a natural long bomb target, but injuries have hampered his ability to be consistently productive. All three are in the rotational role for the receiving group, and I expect to see all three this year when it’s time to take a shot downfield.

Let’s end this all with a look at the freshman most likely to play, Omarion Miller. The one-time LSU and Nebraska commit came in athletically gifted but raw from Louisiana. He has has flashed in camp and made some nice contested catches. He has a natural WR#1 frame, at 6’2 and around 200 pounds and if he ends up being reliable as a true freshman, he needs to see the field. Seasoned CU fans will remember how frustrating it was to see true freshman Laviska Shenault clearly be the best athlete on the field...only on punt coverage. Omarion Miller is not Shenault, but he has the ability to be a freshman that absolutely deserves to be playing over some capable vets.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Travis Hunter here. By all accounts, he will be lining up at DB and WR for the Buffs this fall, and doing it as much as possible. IF he does end up playing a decent amount of WR, Hunter is obviously the top target on this offense. His natural athleticism and speed made him both the #1 WR and #1 DB recruit coming out of high school. He’s been practicing at receiver in the spring and the fall, and I expect to see him often on offense, at least at the beginning of the year. He is a weapon at a caliber that has not been in Boulder since Shenault and will need to be accounted for.

This group is deep and versatile, much like the running backs. These skill positions will cause issues for defenses.