Given the unique skills and exceptional talent of receiver Laviska Shenault, it could be tempting for the Colorado offense to look his way almost every time he’s on the field.
Buffaloes offensive coordinator Jay Johnson isn’t going to force the ball to his best weapon, however, because the others aren’t too bad either.
“I really feel good about our surrounding cast,” Johnson said after practice Wednesday as the Buffs (1-0) prepare to host No. 25 Nebraska (1-0) on Saturday. “We have a lot of good surrounding players and so we try to make sure everybody is involved.
“Certainly (Shenault) is a talented guy. You try to monitor (his touches) a little bit, but at the end of the day, I feel good that whatever play we have called we have to go through our progressions – run, pass or whatever – and do what’s presented to us.”
Shenault accounted for 83 yards in total offense and scored a touchdown in the Buffs’ 52-31 win against Colorado State on Friday, but had just six touches on offense.
Running backs Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham, receivers Tony Brown and KD Nixon and tight ends Brady Russell and Jalen Harris all contributed, as well, as the Buffs had 475 yards in total offense and averaged 7.9 yards per play.
“We all are great players,” Nixon said. “When you do get the ball you want to make the best opportunity of it. Every time we do touch it, even if we don’t have a lot, try to make the best of it.”
It wasn’t just multiple weapons that hurt CSU last week. The Buffs also used multiple looks on offense, mixing up 11 (one running back, one tight end) and 12 (one back, two tight ends) personnel, while also putting quarterback Steven Montez under center, in the shotgun or in the pistol formation.
“I think it’s more difficult for other teams to prepare for just because we have so many different looks that we get into and that we show the defense,” Montez said. “It’s not so much just all spread, all shotgun all the time like we were last year a little bit. It’s definitely nice to get under center in the open field and try to run that ball down somebody’s throat. I don’t think there’s any better feeling than that.”
Last week was CU’s first game with the new offense, but Johnson felt it was mostly smooth.
“You always worry a little bit in that first game just management and things of that nature,” he said. “Our guys handled it well. They handled the substitutions, the different sets we did and all of that. That was positive.”
Now Johnson and the Buffs will go against a Nebraska defense which, under coordinator Erik Chinander, will present plenty of challenges.
“Coach Chinander is very, very multiple,” Johnson said. “(He) presents you a lot of multiple looks and creates a lot of that. One of the things I think is they play hard and run to the football. You see that over and over. Even when you watch last year and how they progressed, I think he’s got them playing really well.”
Receivers get physical
During spring and preseason practices, the Buffs emphasized the importance of their receivers blocking. That showed up against the Rams, as several receivers, including Dimitri Stanley, Brown and even Maurice Bell delivered key blocks.
“It was phenomenal,” Johnson said. “Really, really proud of those guys. There were several of them, but Dimitri, for one, very physical and was blocking and we need that. It’s a team effort whenever we are running or throwing and those guys really bought in.”
Home, sweet home
With Nebraska in town, the atmosphere at Folsom Field on Saturday should be electric. But, it’s also the home opener for the Buffs, who are eager to play on their turf for the first time since Nov. 17 against Utah.
“This is our home,” Nixon said. “We have to protect our home regardless. It’s a blessing to be back, and now we get to really run behind Ralphie. It’s not in Denver, where you don’t feel like Ralphie’s home. This is Ralphie’s home.
“We’re just happy to see our fans, see the good outcome and be able to be thankful for everybody.”
CU announced Wednesday that the captains for Saturday’s game will be Shenault, Montez and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson. … The Buffs will go with a classic uniform look this week: gold helmets and pants and black jerseys. … CU has lost eight consecutive games to Associated Press Top 25 opponents.