Note: This story was actually written by Cam Ellis, but he’s new to the Ralphie Report and doesn’t have an official byline yet.
It’s really here. This weekend, CU’s march to six, or probably four, or maybe two wins gets underway. And after an, uh, eventful offseason brought about as much change as legally allowed to Boulder, it’s finally time for football the way it was meant to be played: at 10AM.
If you haven’t familiarized yourself with suburban northeast Texas, Saturday’s 2028 Big 12 Championship Game preview is a great opportunity to do so. TCU was, technically speaking, in the National Championship game last year, and the AP has them ranked 17th to start the year. It’s about as good a test as you could ask for CU in the first month, unless you wanted them to play a top-10 team led by a Heisman winner or something crazy like that. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but for now, here’s who to keep an eye on against TCU.
Shedeur Sanders, QB / Travis Hunter, WR/CB
It wouldn’t be a serious list without them, but at the same time, it’d be kinda boring to talk a bunch about both of them at this point? So together they go. They’re obviously the stars of the team – Hunter is a legitimate candidate to be in New York come December, clapping alongside three other dudes while Caleb Williams accepts his second Heisman, and Sanders is the best QB to suit up for CU in what, 10, 15, 20 years? The stats from his sophomore season at Jacksonville State (3,732 yards, 40 touchdowns, only six interceptions) are insane, and anything close to that this season would be a wild success. Watching him and Hunter play for what figures to be one of the faster and vertically-inclined offenses in the country will make the inevitable bad loss (coughnebraska) or two a bit more tolerable. And speaking of Hunter, it’ll be interesting to see how often and in what scenarios Hunter plays both sides of the ball, especially considering the depth CU has at both of his positions. Still, let’s not overcomplicate this: they’re the guys.
Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan, OT
Two things stick out about Christian-Lichtenhan: he’s one of only nine scholarship players who survived The Great Purge, and one of the few players – according to the official roster on their site, at least – taller than 6’9. And when I say one of the few, what I mean is that he’s the only player. On the entire University of Colorado football team, Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan is the only player over 6’9. Hope they’re fast! (It also makes him the tallest player in CU football history, which is wild.) Pass-protection’s an early season work-in-progress for most teams, but things are going to get ugly real fast if CU’s line is especially porous. Fortunately, having someone with the size, experience, and talent (only two sacks allowed last season) like Christian-Lichtenhan at left tackle goes a long way in giving Sanders and the rest of the skill players time to gel early in the year. Given how many players left in the offseason, both on their own and also with some … light … encouragement, it feels telling that the new coaching staff was happy with the left tackle they inherited.
Alton McCaskill, RB
For all the talk about CU’s quarterback and wide receiver rooms, the hipster answer for deepest position on this year’s team may be running back. McCaskill’s a Dude. In his one year at Houston, he ran for 960 yards while averaging over 5 yards per carry. He also scored sixteen touchdowns. That’s not a typo; look it up. McCaskill, Kentucky transfer Kavosiey Smoke, and holdover (!!) Anthony Hankerson give CU a bunch of intriguing options. It does sorrrrrrta sound like McCaskill’s still trying to get his legs under him and mayyyybe won’t play a whole bunch this weekend, but if he does get a half-dozen or so snaps, they’ll be worth watching. And honestly, whatever: if he doesn’t play, and you need someone to watch, there’s always Travis Hunter. It’s Week 1.
Someone, Literally Anyone, On the Defensive Line
Some of the quotes about how the defensive line has looked over the summer have been suspect. It doesn’t really help that no one seems to be able to say what kind of front they’ll run, but still – it’s going to be a weakness on the team, at least to start. Granted, I haven’t been up to Boulder in a few weeks, but last time I was in a team store, I didn’t see too many sweatshirts with the slogan, “There’s been some positives and there’s been some negatives.” But in a way, that makes watching them exciting! Right? Whether it’s Taijh Alston (a transfer), or Chazz Wallace (a transfer), or Jordan Domineck (you get the point), someone’s going to flash. Getting a sense of how the front will look this season isn’t what you get out of bed for, but once you’re out of bed, might as well tune in.