Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
It can often take a year or two for a recruiting class to develop and make a difference on the field.
Colorado’s 2018 class figures to be in the spotlight a bit sooner. The Buffaloes don’t have much of a choice.
Coming off a disappointing season in which they went from first to last in the Pac-12 South, the Buffs (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12) have a lot of holes to fill, and their latest class, which was essentially wrapped up on Wednesday, aims to fill them.
CU signed 20 players in December and added another in January. On Wednesday, outside linebacker Alex Tchangam, from De Anza (Calif.) College, and running back Travon McMillian, from Virginia Tech, joined the class.
Tchangam and McMillian figure to be among many players in the 2018 class that’ll play quickly.
“The exciting thing about this class to me, we have more guys developed earlier that are ready to play,” Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
That’s good, but it’s also because the Buffs need immediate help. That’s evident in the makeup of this class, which includes six junior college transfers — more than CU has signed in one recruiting cycle since signing seven in 1984.
In addition to Tchangam, cornerback Delrick Abrams, defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson, tight end Darrion Jones, safety Aaron Maddox and Buff back Davion Taylor are JUCO transfers that could start immediately — or at least challenge for starting roles.
Tchangam, who had 12 ½ sacks last season at De Anza, could boost a pass rush that didn’t exactly strike fear into opponents last year.
“A glaring miss for us last year was we didn’t get the 13 sacks out of Jimmie Gilbert (that they got in 2016) and all the pressures and hurries,” MacIntyre said. “We have some guys on campus we feel like can do it, but we found a young man that we think has special talent in Alex Tchangam.”
McMillian fills a major hole at running back after Phillip Lindsay, who finished No. 2 on CU’s career rushing list, graduated.
“I do like our running backs that we have,” MacIntyre said, “but it’s hard to pass up on a guy that’s graduated from college and played a lot of football.”
The Buffs say they like their returning backs, but they didn’t show much faith in them last season and none of the experienced returners — seniors Kyle Evans and Donovan Lee and junior Beau Bisharat — has ever displayed the ability to be featured backs.
That’s why they were pursuing JUCO transfer Rakeem Boyd (who ultimately signed with Arkansas) before McMillian expressed interest.
“He sought us out,” MacIntyre said. “The first person he called was Phillip Lindsay to find out about us.”
CU jumped at the chance to add McMillian, a 6-foot, 210-pound former quarterback who ran for 2,153 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three years at Virginia Tech.
“He’s an all-phase running back, which helps,” MacIntyre said. “He knows how to block, understands pass protections. This was a unique situation that a young man sought us out and really wanted to be here. I’m excited about having him. I think he’s an all-down back that can do everything.”
In addition to the JUCO transfers and McMillian, the Buffs have several true freshmen that could see the field in 2018.
Given their struggles at defensive line last year, Israel Antwine has a real shot to make a difference.
“He’s built like a Greek god and I think he can step on the field as a true freshman and play and play well and (we can) win with him,” MacIntyre said.
Offensive linemen typically take two or three years to develop, but with CU’s lack of experience up front, Frank Fillip, listed at 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, could push for a job.
“It’s rarely been that we’ve been able to sign an offensive lineman that’s going to come in at 280-plus, played really good football and is really bright that I think right now could step on the field and play as a freshman,” MacIntyre said. “Does he or not? I don’t know but, I think he can.”
Others, such as receiver Daniel Arias, outside linebacker Joshka Gustav and safety Hasaan Hypolite could be on the field this fall, as well.
A disappointing season in 2017, combined with struggles in developing Pac-12 level starters at key positions – such as running back and the offensive and defensive lines — has put some pressure on this class to perform quickly.
MacIntyre and the Buffs will be counting on this group to step up in the fall.