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Colorado Buffaloes football spring game observations

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What did CU’s glorified practice tell us?

NCAA Football: Washington at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

On a beautiful St. Patrick’s Day, your Colorado Buffaloes performed in front of an audience for the first time in 2018. I was there, trying to assess who has improved, who looked better physically, and who’s ready to break out. But let’s be honest. Spring football is a time for optimism. No games have been played, the players are fresh off of winter conditioning, and you’re practicing against yourself. It’s not hard to get excited. So, instead of trying to objectively tell you who was good and bad, I’ll just say who excited me the most. I’ll also post my tweets from the day on here to gather more thoughts.

The defensive front seven is as good a place as any to start. I was very impressed with what I saw out there.

This is absolutely true. Jalen Sami, while pretty raw, is gigantic and knows how to use it. He is all of 6’6 and 300 whatever pounds, and he bends pretty well for a guy that size. There were a couple times during OL v DL drills that he just bulldozed the center or guard on him. It will take a while, but he can be devastating in the middle. As the third/fourth player in the DT rotation (an improved Javier Edwards and Lyle Tuiloma are probably ahead of him, with Jase Franke optioning in), he will have plenty of time to get better at the finer points of being a hoss.

Terrance Lang has no such luxury, nor does he need it. Of everyone on the field, he excited me the most for next year. Because of his low weight, Lang redshirted last year after coming to Boulder as a highly-recruited prospect. Well, he’s back up to 270ish, and he wears it better than I wear 150. He has room for another 10 or 20 pounds, easy. Even at his svelte weight, he was flashing all over the field. He ran with the 1st and 2nd team defensive line during drills and scrimmage, and disrupted plays all over the field. His length was hard for CU’s offensive line to deal with (which may be a bad sign), and he moves so freely towards the ball for someone so big. There were multiple plays where scraped across the line and blocked a cutback for the running back like it was nothing. Lang will be in heavy rotation in the fall, and while it looks like Mustafa Johnson has his side locked down at DE, he may overtake Chris Mulumba for the starting job when it is all said and done.

I touched a little bit on the rest of the DL, but they showed about as expected. Mulumba was in and out of practice, Mustafa held his own and sometimes exploded for a nice stop, and Jase Franke was solid as always. It’s important to remember that this unit changes drastically when Israel Antwine comes in the fall.

Let’s move up to the linebackers. This seems to be the first year under MacIntyre where every single LB spot has good starters and depth. On the outside, Nu’umoto Falo and Dante Sparaco saw a lot of run, with Jacob Callier coming in at times. Falo has proven he is a Pac-12 player, and Sparaco has all the physical gifts in the world. He had a few nice stops during the scrimmage, and if he can build on his promising freshman year, he will demand more time. Behind them, you have Shamar Hamilton, who can bend the edge in pass rush, and Carson Wells, who was spectacular during the scrimmage. Falo and Sparaco are both solid against the run and pass, with Callier and Shamar acting as pass-rush specialists at times. But I can’t stop thinking of Carson Wells. I mean, look at this play:

Wells reads the QB, immediately starts going backwards, picks it off, and takes it the distance. That is rare from a redshirt freshman. He is a pretty big body too, so I expect to see him this fall. Davion Taylor was a ballyhooed recruit for Buffbacker, but he seemed to still be in an adjustment period this spring. He is bigger than I thought, but he didn’t get to really showcase his speed.

On the inside, there is unprecedented depth. It seems like the Buffs have at least two plus starters with great options beside them. Rick Gamboa remains solid as always, and we all know exactly what we’re getting from him. But the emergence of Nate Landman can’t be overstated.

He is a heat-seeking missle, and I love how close he plays to the line of scrimmage. CU has no choice but to give him more snaps. Drew Lewis is still freaky fast and seems to be a little more in control this season, and Akil Jones surprised me. He is solid, almost stocky looking, but he can hit hard and move well. CU also has Jon Van Diest coming off a shoulder injury, and Chase Newman played a lot of MLB during passing downs because of how well he covers.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Laviska Shenault. Despite being surrounded by Juwann Winfree, Kabion Ento, and KD Nixon, he managed to look like the most athletic and physical WR on the team.

Laviska just has IT. The entire wide receiving corps showed well at times yesterday, and I’ll say now that they will probably be better than last year’s corps, which had 3 of CU’s top ten wideouts by production. Somehow, Tony Brown is the 4th or 5th best option, and he was really good. Coach Chiaverini has a lot of mouths to feed.

Some other things that stood out to me:

  • It was really nice seeing Jake Moretti out there after his injury, especially at 1st team LT.
  • Colby Pursell might be an upgrade at center
  • Will Sherman should start at guard
  • Trey Udoffia seems to have taken another step physically.
  • Kyle Trego may be a better depth piece at safety than anyone thought
  • Darrion Jones has some work to do at TE.
  • Alex Fontenot is somehow a skinny 205.

Here are a few more of my collective thoughts. Into the football-less abyss of summer we go. I’ll miss you, football.