RB: Alex Fontenot, Jarek Broussard, Jaren Mangham, Ashaad Clayton, Jayle Stacks, Deion Smith (injured)
Out of nowhere, the Colorado Buffaloes fielded a competent, even GREAT, running game last year. After losing all-timer Phillip Lindsay and band-aid Travon McMillian, a lot of people, including myself, expected some struggle in the run game. Thanks to some tough blocking by the big boys up front, some holes opened up. Even more surprisingly, Alex Fontenot took control of what looked to be a crowded backfield and showed out. By the end of the year, Fontenot and the ground game was a dependable part of the winning game plan. Even though he is out for at least the first game, I’d expect some more success from the ground game this year.
I’ve already mentioned him a lot, but I really like Alex Fontenot. His running is style is smooth, slippery, and repeatable. He never gets hit straight on, he’s strong enough, fast enough, and slick enough to work in almost every situation. He slithered his way to almost 1,000 yards last season, and while that is probably not even close to possible this year, he is capable of being a Pac-12 workhorse again. Fontenot needs to work a bit on his pass blocking, but he’s disastrous there by any stretch of the imagination. he is also a pretty natural receiver out of the backfield, which might factor in more in 2020 due to a change in offensive coordinators. In short, he has everything you look for in an RB1, and I really hope he can return to the field relatively quickly.
Just because Fontenot CAN carry a backfield doesn’t mean he have to. There is a deep stable of talent for Darian Hagan and the Buffs to work with. Jaren Mangham burst onto the scene as a highly-recruited true freshman. He scored against CSU and Nebraska, and then took a backseat as Fontenot rose to carry the load. The 6’2 runner has power and speed, two great things to have, but seemed to the wrong holes at times. Mangham is now a year older and wiser, and he will get the ball plenty at the start of this year as well. Jaren is hard for any edge defender to take down due to his size and speed, and he can really burst through the second level when given the chance. However, he seemed to get washed at the line of scrimmage at times last year. A more spread out offense, which is predicted for the Buffs, may help his reads a bit at the line of scrimmage. I expect Jaren to definitely get a lot of goal line work, and he’ll be used plenty between the 20s as well. Mangham is also a natural receiver out of the backfield.
The surprise of this group, and the man who earned a starting not against UCLA, is Jarek Broussard. Broussard was forgotten last year. He spent about a year rehabbing a major knee injury and missed the 2019 season. Now that he’s fully healthy, it seems like Broussard is showing some of the wheels that made CU nab him out of Texas. Jarek is never going to be huge, at 5’9, but that’s less of a big deal at running back. He is a great receiver out of the backfield, and Jarek might be the quickest guy on the team when it’s all said and done. If he can protect the QB during pass plays, it will be hard to get him off the field. He truly is electric in the open field.
The last guy that gets his own paragraph came into Boulder with the most fanfare. After LSU dropped him off of their list, Ashaad Clayton decided to look around the country and after a crazy recruiting cycle, he chose the Buffs. Darian Hagan gets his guy again. Clayton has everything you want to see in a back - he’s big at 6’ and around 200 pounds, he’s a home run threat, he’s strong enough to break tackles, and he’s a natural. When you create a RB in NCAA Football 2014, he is what you end up with. Clayton has a lot of hooplah, and the fact that this room is deep to relegate to 4th on the depth chart is a good thing. He will have to earn the playing time he gets. Ashaad will have fans salivating every time they see #0.
Jayle Stacks is a prototypical fullback, if those still existed. He packs 230 pounds in a 5’11 frame and he will run people over. I don’t know how much he will play this year, but I for one welcome the biggest backfield possible.
This group is really good, everybody. If you want to place bets on consistent performers in 2020, this is the position I would pick.