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Buffs Preview 2014: Breaking down the wide receivers & tight ends

Who will step up to replace Paul Richardson?

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Only losing two receivers in an offseason sounds pretty good to most college football fans. However, when one of those receivers was the heart and soul and almost half of your offensive production, than you might realize it will be harder to replace Paul Richardson.

I'm not exaggerating when I say Richardson was the heart and soul of last year's Buffaloes offense. He had 35 percent of the receptions, 45 percent of receiving yards and was 48 percent of CU's touchdowns. He finished 2013 with 83 receptions for 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns before being taken by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the NFL Draft in May.

Junior Nelson Spruce will take over as the #1 receiver this season, but Spruce isn't known to be the big-play guy like Richardson was. He is a great third-down receiver and is a great leader for the younger receivers. Former running back D.D. Goodson will also be another experienced player that will help the offense move the chains.

Redshirt freshman Bryce Bobo has been the player asked to try and replace some of Richardson's production. That will be a very tough task for Bobo, considering he has no game experience, but he did show his big play ability in the spring game, catching a 67-yard TD from backup quarterback Jordan Gehrke.

For the tight ends, sophomore Sean Irwin surprisingly beat out veteran Kyle Slavin during spring practice. Irwin only caught one pass last season, but his athleticism and good hands, will help add another pass catcher to make plays in Brian Lindgren's aerial offense.

Wide Receivers

Starter: Nelson Spruce, 6-1, 195, Junior -- Westlake Village, Calif.

Spruce is a well known name in Boulder and has been a playmaker each season so far. He led the Buffs in receiving in 2012, with 44 catches for 446 yards, and had 55 catches last season alongside Richardson, even returning a kickoff for a touchdown in an onside kick gone wrong for Cal. Spruce will take over punt return duties and was elected by his teammates to serve as one of six team captains for the 2014 season.

Tyler McCulloch, 6-5, 215, Senior -- Albuquerque, N.M.

Nursing a foot injury in the spring, McCulloch is still projected to be in the starting lineup vs. Colorado State -- that is if he is 100 percent healthy. McCulloch has been a starter since the first game his freshman season in 2011, but was hampered much of last season because of injury only posting 14 receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown. His tall size (6'5") is still a great weapon for the Buffs, and hopefully he can get healthy enough to contribute this season.

Bryce Bobo, 6-2, 190, Redshirt Freshman -- Covina, Calif.

If Bobo plays like he did in the spring game, Buffs fans might be looking at the next Richardson. Bobo made some big plays which built expectation that he may be a starter vs. Colorado State. He caught a 67-yard touchdown where he got hit twice and was able to stay on his feet to score. He also reeled in a 43-yard reception from Trent Sessions that set up a Terrance Crowder score late in the game to help the Black Team win. A very high rated receiver out of Charter Oak High School, Bobo has the speed and size to help replace Richardson, and is one of the most highest upside players for the Buffs this season.

D.D. Goodson, 5-6, 170, Senior -- Rosenberg, Texas

Goodson played running back his first two seasons, but was converted last season. He had 22 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns, most notably a 75 yard score that he reeled in from Paul Richardson on a trick play against Oregon. Goodson lacks the height of a receiver, but his speed and big plays make up for it. He will be looked upon to be the Buffs starting slot receiver, and is one of the hardest working receivers on the team, earning the Iron Buffalo Award this past spring.

Shay Fields, 5-11, 170, Freshman -- Bellflower, California

One of the biggest tasks in the offseason for Coach MacIntyre was to replace Richardson with playmakers, and Shay Fields is one of those guys. Fields has been one of the most anticipated recruits to come to Boulder in a couple of years. Fields could see playing time very early this season since his big play abilities might be needed. Fields showed in high school that he can be a great slot receiver but also is a deep threat on the outside. As a senior at St. John Bosco he caught 82 passes for 1,617 yards and 18 touchdowns and decommitted from USC before ending up in Boulder. He could be returning kickoffs this season and might develop into the #1 receiver for the Buffs in the future.

Other receivers:

Elijah Dunston, 6-0, 185, Redshirt Freshman -- Reseda, Calif.

Coming from CU's pipeline of Chaminade Prep, Dunston will figure to get into games when substituting in for Bobo or Spruce. A tall, strong receiver with great upside.

Devin Ross, 5-9, 170, Sophomore -- Altadena, Calif.

A reliable slot receiver, Ross burned his redshirt last season by playing special teams and rotating in, finishing the season with 6 catches for 24 yards. Very quick and agile, will be competing in the return game, and subbing in for Goodson.

Jay MacIntyre, 5-10, 185, Freshman -- Boulder, Colo.

Yes, he's related to THAT MacIntyre. The coach's son figures to probably redshirt this season, but is a very athletic player switching from quarterback to play wide receiver. A very disciplined player (as most coaches sons are) MacIntyre resembles as a Jaxon Shipley type player, and could be a solid contributor in the future.

Lee Walker, 6-0, 175, Freshman -- San Diego, Calif.

Wesley Christensen, 5-10, 185, Senior -- Chico, Calif.

Robert Orban, 6-6, 195, Redshirt Freshman -- Denver, Colo.

Tight Ends

Sean Irwin, 6-3, 245, Sophomore -- Cypress, Texas

A little bit of a surprise starter, Irwin was able to beat out Kyle Slavin for the top spot at tight end. Irwin is more a receiver tight end and only has one career reception thus far, but he has improved greatly since last season and will be looked upon to make some big plays, especially in the red zone.

Kyle Slavin, 6-4, 245, Senior -- Littleton, Colo.

Slavin is the most experienced tight end on the Buffs and is a great run blocker. He did catch nine passes last season and has seen game action since 2011, but he is going to be mostly used on running situations and on kickoff returns, as he is one of the best blockers on the kick return unit.

Dylan Keeney, 6-6, 220, Freshman -- Granite Bay, Calif.

Hayden Jones, 6-6, 225, Freshman -- Sacramento, Calif.

Connor Center, 6-7, 245, Fr.-RS --Clifton Park, N.Y.

Chris Hill (TE/LS) , 6-2, 225, Fr.-RS -- Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Brian Boatman, 6-3, 220, Fr. -- Centennial, Colo.