No. 19 CU (5-0) at USC (3-2)
When: 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Los Angeles Coliseum
TV/Radio: Fox Sports 1/ 850 AM
As a running backs coach, Colorado's Darian Hagan will often focus on that position when he watches games on television.
In recent years, he watched Virginia Tech and remembered seeing Travon McMillian run the ball for the Hokies.
"I was impressed with him, but I never thought he would be a Buff," Hagan said.
Hagan is now enjoying the opportunity to coach McMillian, a senior graduate transfer who is off to a stellar start for the No. 19 Buffaloes (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12).
McMillian has rushed for 528 yards and four touchdowns. His 105.6 yards per game ranks fourth in the Pac-12, and he's the first CU player since Rashaan Salaam in 1994 to rush for 100-plus yards four times in the first five games of the season.
"I knew he would be a really, really good player for us and it's all panning out," Hagan said.
McMillian rushed for 2,153 yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons at Virginia Tech, including a career-high 1,043 yards as a freshman in 2015. While he had success at Tech, McMillian said he came into this season determined to be a better all-around back.
"This entire offseason I dedicated my life to my footwork, jump cuts, pass protection — making sure my hands are inside and I'm striking — and having good eyes," he said. "That's what it's about. When you're a running back, you have to have good eyes. You have to see the backers, see the flow of the defense. I worked extremely hard this offseason just to become a better student of the game and really understand what's going on."
McMillian has proven to be a major weapon for the Buffs because of his all-around talent.
At 6-feet, 210 pounds, he's a bigger back, but has shown breakaway speed with touchdown runs of 75 and 49 yards. He has also shown his ability to be a power back, gaining tough yards in each of CU's last two games, against UCLA and Arizona State.
"As a bigger back with speed, you can break tackles, you can punish people, you can get the extra yards," Hagan said.
McMillian did that late in the fourth quarter against ASU, running seven times for 31 yards on the final drive that ran out the clock. That included a 10-yard run to get the final first down, which enabled the Buffs to kneel on the ball and seal the win.
"He knew we had to have one last first down," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He had a Herculean effort to get there. That was a big part of our game. He's a big part of our offense. We need him to be around that 100-yard mark each game hopefully."
As good as McMillian has been as a ball carrier, MacIntyre is equally impressed with what McMillian has brought to CU off the field.
"He is really a team guy, which is really exciting to see," MacIntyre said. "He's come in here and been a phenomenal team guy."
Prior to this year, McMillian has spent almost all of his life on the east coast. It hasn't taken him long to fall in love with Boulder, though, and he's enjoying being a major contributor to the Buffs.
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes for the team," he said.