While at Cass Tech High School in Detroit, Jaren Mangham drew the attention of numerous college football recruiters.
Some loved his potential at running back, others at linebacker. He even had offers to play defensive back and wide receiver. In all, he had 49 scholarship offers, according to 247Sports.com, before deciding to play running back at Colorado.
“I just felt like (recruiters) knew I was an athlete and that I could play multiple positions,” the 6-foot-2, 215-pound true freshman said this week. “Running back is really where my heart was at.”
The Buffaloes couldn’t be more pleased with his choice.
During preseason camp, the competition for playing time at running back is one of the most intriguing battles at CU. There have been four running backs – Mangham, sophomore Alex Fontenot and redshirt freshman Jarek Broussard and Deion Smith – routinely highlighted by coaches, and there’s a good chance the Buffs will use all four.
Mangham, however, has shown ability that could ultimately push up to the top of the list.
“The sky’s the limit,” running backs coach Darian Hagan said of Mangham this summer. “Depends on what he does and how he dedicates himself over the years. He’ll be a guy that we haven’t seen around here in a long time.”
Enrolling in January gave Mangham a jump on learning the playbook and adapting to the college game and life and it’s paying off now.
Nearing the mid-point of preseason camp, Mangham said, “I feel like everything is just improving and starting to fall into place. My main goal coming out here every day is just to get one percent every day and that’s what I think I’m accomplishing.”
Mangham has exceptional potential as a ball carrier, but knows that pass protection is a key to getting on the field at CU.
Blocking was stressed to Mangham at Cass Tech, but the opportunities were limited, he said. That aspect of the game has reached a new level at CU.
“I come here and there’s different type of blitzes,” he said. “You can get some crazy blitzes, some normal blitzes; you just have to know what you’re doing in pass pro and you just have to be slow and pick up anything that you see.
“I feel like every running back can run the ball, because they wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t. But, I feel like pass pro, that’s what separates the running backs. I really want to put a lot of time into that, a lot of time and effort.”
When he does run the ball, Mangham could be a game changer and the type of power back that head coach Mel Tucker wants. Hagan said Mangham reminds him of former CU star Chris Brown, because both have a powerful, upright style of running.
“I feel like I always fall forward, but I can also make a guy miss,” Mangham said. “I feel like I can do a lot of things differently.”
Mangham also believes his experience playing linebacker helps him because he can read linebackers.
“If they’re leaning, I can tell if they’re coming or not,” he said. “Little hints like that just help me out because I played linebacker before.”
While confident in his own ability, Mangham also recognizes the talent around him.
“I feel like the competition is just making everyone better as a whole,” he said. “Whenever you see a fellow running back make a good play, we just go over there and compliment them, cheer them on and then we go out there and we know we have to do the same thing. We all came here for reason. We all want to play.”
It’s likely they will all play, but offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said it will be a challenge to manage the rotation.
“I’ve been involved in (rotations) in the past and it is hard because some guys get hot a little bit after they’ve been going and when you’re in constant rotation, that’s a challenge,” Johnson said. “As we continue to go this week, I think some things will reveal itself.”
There’s a good chance Mangham will be in the rotation, and that’s part of why he chose the play for the Buffs.
“I saw the opportunity here that I had before me,” he said. “I felt like this was the best fit. I wanted to come here and make my name known and stuff like that and get out on the field and perform to the best of my abilities.”