Wilton Speight or Dorian Thompson-Robinson?
The Colorado football team enters tonight’s Pac-12 opener against UCLA unsure of which quarterback will play for the Bruins.
The Buffaloes (3-0), however, will be ready.
“We’ll be ready for either one and hopefully we can adjust,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
MacIntyre believes UCLA (0-3) coach Chip Kelly will run the same offense, regardless of which quarterback is in the game, but Speight and Thompson-Robinson do bring different skills to the table.
Speight, a graduate transfer senior from Michigan, is in his first season with the Bruins, but has 17 career starts – including UCLA’s season opener against Cincinnati. Speight injured his back early in that game against Cincinnati.
The 6-foot-6, 232-pound Speight was Michigan’s starting quarterback in a 45-28 win against CU. He is a solid pocket passer and not a threat as a runner (in his career, he has minus-87 rushing yards).
Thompson-Robinson is a true freshman who has started the last two games, and what he lacks in experience, he makes up for with his dual-threat ability. He’s thrown for 522 yards this season and rushed for 49 yards in the Bruins’ loss to Fresno State on Sept. 15.
“Mainly we’re worried about (Thompson-Robinson); he’s a scrambler,” CU defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson said. “We kind of know how to work a pocket passer. Scramblers, we’ve noticed we’ve had a little more trouble with. That’s where a lot of yards have been gained on us. We’ve been preparing on keeping him in the pocket and closing it.”
Linebacker Nate Landman added: “We do a great job of having a great scout team. Our quarterbacks do a great job. Our scout team does a great job of simulating that. We’re ready for both of them.”
Gearing up for Shenault
While the Buffs prepare for two quarterbacks, UCLA is trying to figure out to stop the multi-talented Laviska Shenault of Colorado. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Bruins were so focused on Shenault this week that two different members of the scout team wore Shenault’s No. 2.
Shenault comes into the game leading the country in average receiving yards (151.7) and catches (8.7) per game. He’s lined up in five different positions – outside receiver, slot receiver, H-back, running back and wildcat quarterback – and also had 10 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Reinforcements for Bruins
UCLA gets two key players back this week from suspension: offensive lineman Boss Tagaloa and tight end Devin Asiasi. Tagaloa
The Bruins might, however, be without receiver Christian Pabico, who has been dealing with an injury. He has four catches for 46 yards this season.
Buffs on the mend
A few Buffs that have dealt with injures lately are hoping to be on the field Friday night, including Jaylon Jackson, who has yet to make his CU debut.
A redshirt freshman receiver, Jackson has missed the first three games with a foot injury, but is listed as probable in CU’s injury report this week. Since his sophomore year of high school, in 2014, Jackson has played in just one game because of injuries.
Receiver Juwann Winfree (ankle) and left guard Brett Tonz (ankle) are both day-to-day, but appear to be on track to return against the Bruins. Both sat out of CU’s Sept. 15 win against New Hampshire.
Reserve inside linebacker Akil Jones has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, but MacIntyre said this week “we expect Akil to be ready Friday.”
So far, so good
MacIntyre said this week that he’s liked the rotation CU has had at outside linebacker.
Senior Drew Lewis has played the most snaps (167) on the outside, while Carson Wells (89 snaps) and Jacob Callier (55) have rotated in. Nu’umotu Falo has played 30 snaps outside.
“So far I think it’s worked out well,” MacIntyre said. “We’ve got a lot of speed on the field. We have guys rotating in. What I’ve noticed is they’ve been fresher as the games have gone on. Our pass rush, we haven’t always gotten to the passer, but we’ve harassed them.
“We’ve gotten there, we’re fresh, we’re more athletic. I hope as the season goes along, I believe that will carry out dividends and will help us in some situations where we have to get some pass rush without being able to have to blitz. Having those athletic guys out there and rotating them in keep them fresher and enables them to be at a higher tempo, at a higher speed late in the game.”
The Lewis/Wells/Callier trio had combined for just 1.5 sacks, but seven QB pressures.
Buff back Davion Taylor has had success on the outside, as well. In 120 snaps, he has three pressures and two fumble recoveries.
A few other notes going into tonight’s game:
- CU head coach Mike MacIntyre comes into this year with a 12-33 all-time record in Pac-12 games, including 8-1 in 2016. In his other four seasons, the Buffs have had conference records of 1-8, 0-9, 1-8 and 2-7.
- MacIntyre is 1-5 in his career against the Bruins, while UCLA’s Chip Kelly is 2-0 against CU (both wins coming during his tenure at Oregon).
- CU has bottled up the UCLA run game in recent years. In 2014, the Bruins rushed for 309 yards in a double-overtime win in Boulder. In the three meetings since, CU has held them to 258 yards (86 per game). In the last two meetings, UCLA has just 120 yards on 65 carries, an average of 1.85 yards per attempt.
- Keep an eye on the offensive line. Last week, redshirt freshmen Colby Pursell and Jake Moretti were both in the starting lineup. It’s rare that CU has had two freshmen in the starting lineup. Also in that game, redshirt freshman William Sherman played quite a bit at tackle and is vying for a starting job. CU has never had three freshmen linemen in the starting lineup.
- CU linebackers already have three interceptions this season. The last time linebackers had four in a season was in 1991.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.