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The Colorado Buffaloes need to bet on talent

Players make plays, players win games

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As I was reading and dissecting Bill Connely’s 2018 Colorado Buffaloes preview, plenty of stats stood out to me. Enough that I wrote an article just breaking down his preview. But I want to put a spotlight on one particular stat that is thrown into his big table that he puts in at the end: the 2 year and 5 year recruiting ranking. The 2 year recruiting ranking is a respectable 43rd, which includes the 2017 and 2018 class. The 5 year recruiting ranking is an unspectacular 57th. This does not include the fact that the 2014 class had over half of its members leave CU football before their eligibility was completed.

Essentially, the Buffs took a step up in natural talent recently, with the 2017 class heralding a new era. Under Coach Chiaverini’s guidance as recruiting coordinator, the Buffs have invited themselves back to Texas with immediate success. Some new coaching hires (Chiaverini chief among them) led to a renewed focus on recruiting and it has paid off.

This year, all of that work pays off. The highly touted freshmen of last year are older and wiser. The 2018 class, full of touted JUCO players, has a lot of ready-made players that should contribute. More than HALF of the roster is made up of players from these two classes, so ready or not, they need to contribute. And CU would be wise to give them every opportunity.

For the first time in a while, it seems that the Buffs have non-speculative depth at most positions. Yeah, the offensive line is thin and dealing with a lot of injuries, and safety is one concussion or tweaked hamstring from falling off a cliff, but all in all, it looks like the Buffs have talent everywhere on the two deep, not just the starting lineup. The two model positions for this are DB and WR, which makes sense given Coach MacIntyre’s specialty and Coach Chiv’s recruiting chops. Both positions are low on production, but no member of CU’s fanbase is worried about their quality. In fact, both are primed to be better in 2018 despite losing some serious talent. No Bryce Bobo? Enter Juwann Winfree. No Shay Fields or Devin Ross? Just plug in Laviska Shenault and Jay MacIntyre. Beyond that, there’s four-star talent in Tony Brown, KD Nixon, Maurice Bell, and a proven Pac-12 player in Kabion Ento. I mean, that’s three captains surrounded by extreme talent that is about to step up.

They’re being covered by a DEEP group of CBs that have something to show. The two returning starters are Trey Udoffia and Dante Wigley, and they might be the least talked about of the bunch. Chris Miller is a redshirt freshman that is the most physically gifted, Delrick Abrams is a JUCO transfer with crazy length, and this is where previous listings would end. But this year, it’s not the case. Ronnie Blackmon is forcing himself onto the field with smart play. Mekhi Blackmon was a late addition to the 2018 class that is assimilating quickly. Both the wideouts and the defensive backs show true, quality depth brought on by the strength of the recent recruiting classes.

For the Buffaloes to succeed this year, or to reach the potential of this team, they need to bet on the young guns. MacIntyre has never shown a preference to youth, often trying to redshirt as many players as possible. He’s certainly not the only coach that leans towards veterans. But with a roster that’s laced with athleticism and talent from the younger years, he will have to reach out of his comfort zone and let them learn. Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis are good Pac-12 starters at MLB. But Nate Landman may be great. You have to take that chance, even it means taking one of them off the field or moving them to a new spot on the field (as they have started to do with Lewis). Chris Mulumba really improved last year and Mustafa Johnson is stout and quick at the point of attack. At the beginning of the year, they absolutely should start. However, Terrance Lang and Israel Antwine are too good to just keep as rotation pieces. They may be more inexperienced, but they will make up for whatever mistakes early. For the Buffs to stay competitive this year, and more importantly, the next few years, they need to hurry up and leverage the immense amount of new talent they have gathered.