Darrin Chiaverini liked what he saw from running back Travon McMillian on Saturday.
For the scattered dozens in attendance at Folsom Field for Colorado's open scrimmage, it's probably difficult to disagree with Chiaverini's assessment.
While Saturday's exercise gave the Buffaloes an opportunity to break out the pads under the scrutiny of a full referee crew, it also provided a glimpse to how the competition is playing out to replace Phillip Lindsay in the Buffs' backfield. In one sequence Saturday McMillian, the graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, caught a swing pass along the perimeter and immediately eluded a defender with a surprisingly nimble move for a player carrying a 6-foot, 210-pound frame.
After the juke, McMillian was free and clear to follow some solid downfield blocking to the goal line.
"I like Travon. He broke that tackle in space and I've seen that all camp," said co-offensive coordinator Chiaverini, who spent Saturday's scrimmage in the pressbox to mimic the on-field setup for his new play-calling duties this season. "He's one-on-one with the (linebacker) and he makes him miss and he goes 50 yards.
"Here's a kid, they told him he wasn't good enough (at Virginia Tech). They told him to go somewhere else. He's run for over 2,000 yards in his career in college football. That's hard to do. He's going to have a big, big role in our offense."
Chiaverini jokingly said the running backs who spent the most time with the first unit on Saturday, McMillian and Kyle Evans, should be referred to as "thunder and lightning." Yet it was clear the thickly-muscled McMillian and the 5-foot-7, 180-pound Evans have skills beyond the stereotypical thunder-and-lightning dynamic. While McMillian was making highlight-reel cuts on the outside, Evans was pushing piles forward on a couple interior runs during the opening segment of the scrimmage.
"Kyle Evans is a kid that came back from dislocating his hip (in the spring of 2017). That's a testament to Kyle Evans' character and who he is as a person," Chiaverini said. "A lot of people probably would've hung it up. That kid never complained. He just worked his way back, and he's put together now for a little guy. I like where our running backs are right now."
It is unlikely either McMillian or Evans will shoulder the sort of load Lindsay carried last year, when he accounted for 90 percent of the CU rushing attempts recorded by running backs. Still, there is a chance the group approach led by McMillian and Evans — and one that may also include Beau Bisharat, Donovan Lee, and redshirt freshman Alex Fontenot — can be equally productive.
"Travon is catching up to everything really well...and Kyle Evans is doing well," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "Beau Bisharat made some nice runs I thought today, too. You always want to have a 1-A guy and stay with him and go from there. They're still competing, but I've been pleased with the guys that are going at it. I'd say Travon and Kyle are kind of ahead a little bit, but Beau and Donovan Lee are coming along real well.
"I feel like we have enough guys. I'd say if we played today, it would Travon and Kyle Evans getting most of the (time), then Beau."