It would be more than enough if the running preview was really just the Jarek Broussard preview. That guy came out of nowhere to dominate the Pac-12, and he’s healthier than ever in 2021. Luckily for us, and for RB coach Darian Hagan, this position goes deeper than their star. A mixture of old and new faces makes this the deepest running back room for the Colorado Buffaloes since 2002.
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the top. Jarek Broussard put up insane usage numbers last year. 156 carries (!!!) in 6 games led to 895 yards and 5 touchdowns. A 5.7 YPC average with an average of 26 carries a game is absolutely insane. If you extrapolate over a normal season (please don’t, the poor man needs rest), Broussard is running for 1770 yards. That would truly be one of the most special seasons EVER in Boulder. In 2020, Jarek Broussard was the driving force for the Buffaloes on offense. That looks to be the case in 2021 in Boulder, but he might have a bit more help. The 5’9 back, like some other Might Mouses before him to don a Buffs jersey, is harder to take down than he looks. He has insane lower body strength and balance, plus an arsenal of twitchy moves to escape harm’s way. His top-end speed was blunted last year by a continued ACL recovery, but now that he’s ditched his knee braces and he’s stronger than ever, expect that high speed to get higher. He’s shifty, he’s smart, and he’s strong. I don’t know how Darian Hagan keeps doing it. Rodney Stewart, Phillip Lindsay and now Jarek Broussard are a trio of overlooked running backs that do nothing but run for a lot of yards. Hagan just brings a little magic to their development.
Behind Broussard was my presumed 2020 starter, Alex Fontenot. Another Texan, Fontenot came on strong in 2019 to nearly get to 1000 yards. A dislocated hip kept him out of action last year, but similar to Broussard, he should now be fully healthy and ready to go. Alex presents a different profile, at around 6’ and 200 pounds. He’s a bigger back that is not afraid to run through tackles, but he still likes to make some of those shifty moves. Fontenot is also a great pass blocker and pass-catcher out of the backfield, something that we haven’t seen much of from the other backs mentioned here. It remains to be seen what Fontenot’s role on this team is going to be. We know that Darian Hagan likes to ride one guy all season if he can, but the talent may just be too much for him to do that. In 2002, Chris Brown, Bobby Purify and Brian Calhoun were a clear 1-2-3 that still left plenty of rushes to go around. Expect Fontenot to take the Purify role in 2021.
There’s a few other names that will likely see the field in 2021. Ashaad Clayton was an exciting freshman talent in 2020, and he is again an exciting freshman talent in 2021. Clayton was a highly-rated signee and has the classic Clydesdale frame at RB. Over 6’ and 200 pounds, like Fontenot, Ashaad has great speed off the line and plenty of power to shrug off tackles. Hagan likes to bring freshmen along slowly if he can, and that was true of Clayton last year. He looked to be moving on briefly this summer, but he’s back in the fold and ready roll. We don’t know much about him in college, as he has less than 10 career carries, but he has a chance to be a star by the time he’s done here. Behind Clayton is a lot of guys that are exciting but haven’t played much - Joe Davis and Deion Smith. Davis is a classic battering ram of an RB that doesn’t have too much shiftiness. Smith is one of my personal favorites, but he has struggled with injuries in college. He has the wheels to make a difference and we might see him return some kickoffs this year.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jayle Stacks. The TB/FB hybrid is going to be one of my favorite players. At 5’11 and 230 pounds, he is a blocker extraordinaire with feathery hands. He is a great receiver out of the backfield, and anyone who’s played madden knows that the FB wheel route is undefeated. Stacks is a great goal line play and adds some versatility to the offensive scheme. What a player.