Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
In danger of falling too far behind during a game against Arizona last season at Folsom Field, the Colorado Buffaloes needed to gamble a bit.
Down 14 and facing fourth and goal at the 2, the Buffs went for it, with quarterback Steven Montez faking a run and throwing a jump pass to wide open tight end Chris Bounds in the end zone.
Moments later, Montez found Bounds for a 39-yard touchdown. CU didn’t win the game, but a rare big game from a tight end kept them in it.
Leading up to fall camp, which begins next week, BuffZone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffs. In this installment, we take a look at the tight ends, which are led by Bounds.
Aside from that game against Arizona, Colorado’s tight ends haven’t made much of an impact in the passing game in recent years. During the past two years combined, tight ends have accounted for 11 catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
With Bounds, sophomore Jared Poplawski and junior college transfer Darrion Jones, the Buffs may have more options than in the past, however.
“I think there’s more ability, but now they have to execute,” co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. “They have to show they can do it consistently day in and day out.”
Considering the talent the Buffs have at receiver, there may not be a lot of passes going to the tight ends, but Chiaverini, entering his first year as the play caller, sees the possibility of using them more.
“I think it’s going to vary by who we’re playing against, but you’ll see us be more dynamic with personnel this year than we have in the past,” Chiaverini said. “You’ll see us utilize those guys more and get them into positions where they can make plays. It’s going to be game by game and some of that stuff is personnel and game plan stuff.”
Bounds is the most experienced of the group and has proven to be a solid blocker and pass catcher when given the opportunity.
“I like Chris Bounds’ athletic ability. I like his ball catching ability,” Chiaverini said. “He’s a smart player. He’s tough. He’s going to be a big part of what we do offensively.”
If healthy, Poplawski will be, too. A true sophomore, he played a bit on special teams and offense last year before tearing his ACL. He’s spent the offseason getting healthy and appears to be ready to go for fall camp.
“He can play in the back field, he can split out, he runs excellent routes, he can catch the football,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Jared really helped us in the first six games (last year). We were going to use him some more. His knee is back, and he’s doing really well. So you’ll see us using him in multiple spots, and he’s a multidimensional tight end. He’s not just an end-liner or an H-back; he can do both.”
And then there’s Jones, who has exceptional athletic ability and, if he gets the offense down, he could be explosive. Walk-on Brady Russell has impressed coaches, as well.
“It’s not a big overall group, but it’s a group that has a chance to get better and be a part of our offense,” Chiaverini said.