Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham are both back after combining for more than 1,300 yards a year ago.
Then, there’s Ashaad Clayton, a four-star recruit who will look to steal playing time in the backfield.
During the first scrimmage of the preseason, however, the Colorado running back that stole the spotlight was Jarek Broussard.
CU’s scrimmage at Folsom Field on Saturday was closed to media and fans, but head coach Karl Dorrell said Broussard, a redshirt sophomore who spent the 2019 season rehabilitating a knee injury, was impressive and got into the end zone a couple of times.
“I felt he ran and stuck his feet in the ground, making cuts that you wouldn’t do if you are questioning whether you’re back healthy or not,” Dorrell said. “I felt Jarek did a nice job today. He made a couple of really nice runs. It was good to see that. His confidence is going to be huge from what he did today.”
A 5-foot-9, 185-pounder from Dallas, Broussard was listed fourth on the preseason pencil depth chart, which didn’t include Clayton, the highest-rated member of CU’s 2020 recruiting class.
Fontenot (874 yards, five touchdowns in 2019) and Mangham (441 yards, three TDs) lead the way, while Clayton figures to get into the mix at some point. Sophomore Joe Davis is fighting for playing time, too.
Even with sophomore Deion Smith likely out for the season with a knee injury, Broussard’s touches could be limited. Broussard, who redshirted in 2018 before missing all of 2019, made a good first impression Saturday, however.
“He did some real positive things that I think is going to boost his confidence that he’s ready to play,” Dorrell said. “(The competition) is pretty tight.”
Dorrell noted that Clayton did not participate in Saturday’s scrimmage because he “is a little bit nicked up with an injury.”
Aiming for more
A year ago, defensive lineman Terrance Lang led the Buffs with six sacks. Now a junior, he’s striving to be better.
“Definitely there’s always room to improve,” he said. “Last year was pretty good but this year I just want to be more of an explosive player.”
All eight defensive linemen who played last year are back and with some talented newcomers, the entire group is aiming for more, Lang said.
“Honestly, I think everybody’s got like another level of confidence now after having a year of playing under their belt,” he said. “With this new defense it’s putting us in a way of playing that’s more fit for us, I feel like. Especially in the front seven, we’ve got a lot of depth that’s going to help us out in the long run.”
Under the direction of second-year defensive coordinator Tyson Summers, Lang said the entire defense is improving and “starting to play a lot faster.”
In addition to the players, Saturday gave the coaches a chance to work on their game-day chemistry, including using headsets and some coaches positioned in the press box.
“That whole operation was going like we would do it in a game,” Dorrell said. “I didn’t sense there was any lack of information or lack of communication there, so I thought that was good. I felt like the information being signaled in on both sides of the ball was going in and it was going in pretty efficiently. There was just a couple times I felt our defense … there were 12 on the field, but it was caught in between substitutions when the offense was going faster. Sometimes that happens. We’ve just got to be better at that.”
Statistics from the scrimmage were not made available, but in addition to two touchdowns from Broussard, Dorrell said receivers Vontae Shenault and Montana Lemonious-Craig both had touchdowns. … Dorrell said the first team offense was penalty free throughout the scrimmage. There was one illegal procedure penalty against one of the backup units. … Lang said “it feels so good” to be back on the field and hitting people after not doing so since November. “We’ve been waiting to do that so long,” he said.