Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Andy Colwell / THE DENVER POST
Andy Colwell / THE DENVER POST
For years, the first Wednesday in February has been almost a national holiday in the college football world.
This year, for the first time, that holiday comes early.
From Wednesday to Friday of this week, the early signing period in college football will make its debut. For many teams, the 2018 recruiting class will be nearly locked up by Wednesday.
As of Monday afternoon, CU had 19 players verbally committed, most of which the Buffs expect will sign this week.
Here’s a preview of how CU’s class is coming together and what to watch for this week.
Loading up with JUCOs
As of Monday afternoon, CU had five junior college players verbally committed and there’s a good chance they’ll wind up with six or seven.
Last year, the Buffs added five junior college players, the most at CU in one recruiting cycle since 2000. Getting six or seven would be the most since Bill McCartney signed seven in 1984.
From 2008-13, CU signed a total of just six JUCO players in those six classes combined. Head coach Mike MacIntyre has signed 17 JUCO players in the last four classes.
It would be tough to top the CU record for one year, though. In 1982, Chuck Fairbanks signed 15 junior college players, although only 11 enrolled, according to CU.
Loads of skill on the way
CU has done a nice job in the past couple of years of loading up on offensive skill players and the Buffs are adding more this year.
Valor Christian quarterback Blake Stenstrom, the son of former Stanford and NFL quarterback Steve Stenstrom, is loaded with potential, and he will have a chance to develop next year behind Steven Montez, Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle.
Receivers Daniel Arias (Mill Creek, Wash.), Dimitri Stanley (Cherry Creek High School) and Dylan Thomas (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) are all committed and each brings good size and athleticism to the table.
Running backs Jarek Broussard (Dallas) and Deion Smith (Houston) have the ability to be “special” according to one CU coach.
One of the most intriguing prospects is tight end Darrion Jones, from Los Angeles Harbor College. He’s got two years to play, and at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, he could be a huge asset immediately.
Where are the D-linemen?
As of Monday, only one defensive lineman had given a verbal commitment: defensive end Tava Finau from Luther Burbank High in Sacramento.
Expect CU to have two or three linemen in the fold by the time this recruiting cycle is wrapped up.
In addition, the Buffs will add Jalen Sami this winter. A 6-foot-6, 320-pound nose tackle from Vista Ridge High School, Sami signed last February and gray-shirted this year.
Bolstering the secondary
One year after losing three members of the secondary to the NFL, the Buffs will lose three more starters – senior safeties Afolabi Laguda and Ryan Moeller and cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who decided to skip his senior year to enter the NFL Draft.
Help is on the way, as the Buffs have five defensive backs committed in this class.
Cornerback Delrick Abrams, Jr., from Independence (Kan.) Community College, and safety Aaron Maddox, from Pima (Ariz.) Community College, are considered among the best JUCO prospects at their positions.
In addition, the Buffs have three prep defensive backs committed: safeties Ray Robinson (Highlands Ranch) and Hasaan Hypolite (Missouri City, Tex.) and cornerback L.J. Wallace (Buhach, Calif.).
Here’s a full list of the players CU had committed, as of Monday:
Quarterback (1): Stenstrom
Running back (2): Broussard, Smith
Receiver (3): Arias, Stanley, Thomas
Tight end (1): Jones
Offensive line (3): Frank Fillip (Houston), Josh Jynes (DeSoto, Tex.), Josh McMullen (East Central Mississippi Community College)
Defensive line (1): Finau
Linebacker (3): Joshka Gustav (San Bernardino, Calif.), Clyde Moore (Newport Beach, Calif.), Davion Taylor (Coahoma Mississippi Community College)
Defensive back (5): Abrams Jr., Hypolite, Maddox, Robinson and Wallace
Reason to worry?
Every year, there seems to be a couple of players that change their minds in the final hours and flip to another school. There are a couple of CU commits to keep an eye on this week:
Fillip: According to several reports, he took an official visit to Notre Dame last weekend, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he decided to sign with the Fighting Irish.
Stanley: Although his father, Walter, played receiver at CU in the early 1980s, Dimitri could land in Seattle. He took an official visit to Washington over the weekend.
Others to watch
A few players who aren’t currently committed to CU that could wind up in Boulder:
DE Jordan Allen, City College of San Francisco: Highly rated pass rusher visited CU on Dec. 1 and had five CU coaches visit his home on Dec. 12. He has also recently visited Michigan State and Tennessee, and 247sports.com predicts he’ll sign with TCU. He’s also got interest from Arizona State, Nebraska and other Power 5 programs.
DL Israel Antwine, Millwood (Okla.) HS: Currently committed to Oklahoma State, he visited CU in October, and the Buffs haven’t stopped recruiting him. Flipping him from OSU would be huge for the Buffs.
RB Rakeem Boyd, Independence (Kan.) CC: A former Texas A&M redshirt, Boyd took an official visit to CU as a high school senior in 2016. He recently got a new CU offer and on Sunday night posted a graphic on Twitter of him wearing a CU uniform. He could be a February signee.
DL Mustafa Johnson, Modesto (Calif.) JC: He visited CU last weekend and is down to the Buffs and Kansas. He’s told coaches where’s going, but won’t reveal it publicly until Wednesday.
OG Chris Murray, Mater Dei (Calif.) HS: A four-star prospect, Murray visited CU on Dec. 8 and was very impressed with the campus and the Buffs coaches. Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA and others are in the mix, too. Murray won’t sign until February. He is playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 6 and will announce his decision that day.
DL Caleb Tremblay, American River (Calif.) CC: One of the top JUCO defensive linemen in this class, Tremblay visited CU in June. In the past two weeks, he’s visited Washington and USC.