Jimmy Brumbaugh has yet to have the opportunity to work with Antonio Alfano, but Colorado’s first-year defensive line coach can’t wait to get the former five-star recruit on the field in Boulder.
“It’s a blessing,” Brumbaugh said Tuesday of adding Alfano, who signed a financial aid agreement with CU this week and plans to enroll in January. “Any time you recruit size and speed, he has those qualities. I always tell guys, talent is just a word. And now we need to put the fundamentals to it, but he has all intangible things to make him a good player.”
Alfano was rated the country’s No. 1 overall recruit in the 2019 class by 247Sports.com and he signed with Alabama. After enrolling in January, he went through spring practices and fall camp with the Crimson Tide.
Alfano hit some adversity at Alabama, however, and did not appear in a game.
“He’s going through some discipline things with me,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after Alfano did not dress for the Crimson Tide’s Sept. 7 game against New Mexico State. “If he does what he’s supposed to do … I’m not going to tell you what, whether it’s academic — which that has something to do with it — and being responsible and accountable to do what he’s supposed to do, like every other player on the team. We want to get him right. We want to help him. We want to help him do the right things. But he’s got to make those choices and decisions, too.”
Less than two weeks later, Saban told local media that Alfano “basically quit.” On Sept. 13, Alfano’s parents posted on Twitter that “Antonio’s grandmother recently fell very ill and is still fighting on life support. He is very close with her. Since this illness took effect, Antonio has taken it very hard. He has not attended classes and practices.”
Last month, Alfano put his name in the NCAA transfer portal and could have returned to the Tide, but elected to get a fresh start at Colorado.
Brumbaugh is no stranger to helping a player through a fresh start.
Last year, Brumbaugh was the defensive line coach at Maryland. The Terrapins added a transfer from Auburn, Byron Cowart. The No. 1 overall recruit, according to ESPN, in the 2015 class, Cowart had a tough three years at Auburn and played in only three games in 2017.
At Maryland last year, Brumbaugh helped Cowart turn his career around. Cowart had 38 tackles and three sacks, played in the Senior Bowl and was selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. A rookie, Cowart is currently on the Patriots active roster.
“I think that really helped with Alfano being able to see what that guy is doing with the Patriots, and where (Alfano’s) career can go,” Brumbaugh said.
CU came into this year with only two experienced defensive linemen: junior Mustafa Johnson and sophomore Terrance Lang.
Looking ahead to 2020, the Buffs are projected to get all 10 scholarship defensive linemen back. If Alfano is granted an NCAA waiver, he’ll join the mix, as well.
The Buffs also have verbal commitments from Justin Jackson, a three-star end from Northwest Mississippi Community College; and Julius Coates, a three-star end from East Mississippi Community College.
A position group that was a major question mark coming into this year suddenly looks like a potential strength in 2020.
“There’s a lot of guys and we’re working on more,” Brumbaugh said. “You can never have too many D-lineman, I’ll tell you that much.”