With three different head coaches in the past 20 months, the Colorado football program has gone through a lot of staff turnover.
Most veteran players on the team have had three, if not four, position coaches during their college career.
Junior running back Alex Fontenot has had a different experience, though. Through all the changes to CU’s staff, Darian Hagan has remained in his position of coaching the running backs, providing stability and continuity to the group.
“It’s really nice, not having to switch out a new coach every year like some of our other positions have to deal with,” Fontenot said.
Hagan is entering his 10th overall season as the Buffs’ running backs coach. He served in that role from 2006-10, worked in player development from 2011-15 and moved back to the sidelines in 2016.
Hagan has coached Phillip Lindsay (second on CU’s all-time rushing list), Rodney Stewart (third) and Hugh Charles (eighth). He also helped graduate transfer Travon McMillian post a 1,000-yard season in 2018.
Fontenot didn’t quite get to the 1,000-yard mark last year, but he did enjoy a successful first season as a starter. He rushed for 874 yards and five touchdowns, finishing sixth in the Pac-12 with 79.5 yards per game.
Now a junior, Fontenot feels he’s in position to do even better, because he understands the team nature of college football and how he can best utilize his skills for the Buffs.
“One of the main things I learned (in 2019) is just growing up,” he said. “I can’t do everything that I want to do, football-wise. I can’t just take stuff into my own hands. I have to follow the script. That’s what’s really helped me develop into a better runner.”
Also making Fontenot better is the talent around him. A year ago, the Buffs had virtually no experience at running back. Now, everybody is back from last year and they’ve added two freshmen to the mix.
Sophomore Jaren Mangham was a good complement to Fontenot last year, adding 441 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman.
“He’s done a lot of growing this season,” Fontenot said. “He had to realize things might not always go his way, but he’s slowly learning. He still has some things to learn but I know his mind is in a good place. With that being said, I know he’s gonna do all he can to try and be the next man up.”
Another sophomore, Deion Smith, flashed his talent, as well, with 68 yards on 23 carries.
Sophomores Jarek Broussard and Joe Davis will battle for playing time, as will true freshmen Ashaad Clayton and Jayle Stacks. A four-star recruit, Clayton was the highest-rated player in CU’s 2020 class.
“I just see their drive and how hungry they are to get on the field and show the world what they can do, because I know how good they are and what they can do,” Fontenot said of the talent around him. “They just want to show other people. That’s the main goal I’m trying to do is just trying to build them up.”
Although all the running backs will compete for carries, Fontenot believes it’ll help him and everyone else if they are all game-ready and succeeding.
“You really need somebody (else) when it comes to the running back position,” Fontenot said. “Getting them ready and them being able to step up to the plate is something that I’m really hoping for.”
Fontenot stepped up last year but goes into the future with confidence after a successful sophomore campaign and comfort in knowing he’s still got Hagan as a mentor.
“Having Hagan here, by my side since I got here my freshman year, has really just helped me develop into a better football player,” he said.