Laviska Sheanult and Tony Brown moved on from Colorado to the NFL this year. Senior KD Nixon hasn’t played yet because of a hamstring injury.
Despite missing their top three receivers from 2019, the Buffaloes are finding success in spreading the ball around in the passing game.
Sophomore Dimitri Stanley has been a favorite target for senior quarterback Sam Noyer, but six different wide receivers have caught passes through the first two games for the Buffs (2-0), along with two tight ends and two running backs.
“I think this offense really kind of sets that up,” said Noyer, who has completed 35-of-55 passes for 512 yards. “You go from one read to another and if one guy’s not open then you’ve got the next guy. That’s what’s so great about our offense and so great about the talent that we have is it doesn’t matter if the first read’s not open; the second read is going to be just as good as the first read.”
Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini has recruited plenty of receiver talent during his five years on staff and the depth is showing up early in the season. Stanley has 12 catches, while Maurice Bell (five catches), La’Vontae Shenault (three), Brenden Rice (three), Daniel Arias (two) and Jaylon Jackson (one) have also been involved.
“I think we’ve done a good job recruiting, so I think we have more talent, more depth at that position,” Chiaverini said. “They played well in camp and they’ve played well when they’ve gotten an opportunity, so I feel good putting those guys in the game.”
The Buffs are hoping Nixon, who has 89 career catches, will return soon. Even with him back, Noyer said every receiver in the game has to be ready for the ball.
“I think it’s really important for our guys to know that they have to run every single route 100%, every single time and they can’t take routes off,” Noyer said. “In years past, the system that we’ve had, there’s really been a key read, so I think it gave guys the opportunity to take plays off . In our system, we can’t have that and I think it shows.
“Having the depth that we have really is important and our guys do a great job of understanding situation, understanding what they have to do each and every play in order for it to be successful.”
Praise for Wilson
For two seasons, 2014-15, USC head coach Clay Helton and CU defensive line coach Chris Wilson worked together on the USC staff. Helton was offensive coordinator before taking over as interim head coach midway through the 2015 season.
Helton was named full-time head coach after the 2015 season and fired four assistants, including Wilson (and current Cal head coach Justin Wilcox), but maintains respect for Wilson.
“I had the opportunity to work with Chris and he does a wonderful job,” Helton said. “He’s a fundamental technician, and a pro’s pro. He’s been at the highest level, and had the opportunity to coach some elite guys. Colorado’s very fortunate to have coach (Wilson) and you can tell that his kids play hard. They’re doing a really nice job.”
On the mend
Last week at Utah, USC played without leading rusher Markese Stepp, while Stephen Carr had just one carry. Helton said both practiced Monday.
“They looked good and we’ll continue to see their progression as the week goes on,” Helton said. “I was pleased with really both kids, which was nice. It was nice to take a little bit off of (Vavae Malepeai) and give him a little bit less reps in practice.”
Carr, Malepeai and Stepp are all averaging at least 40.7 yards per game and combined for 1,206 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.
The Trojans have been hit by the injury bug at linebacker. Starters Ralen Goforth (foot sprain) and Palaie Gaoteote IV (concussion protocol) did not practice Monday. Gaoteote missed the Utah game.
Nixon ranks 25th in CU history in catches and 24th in receiving yards (1,128). He needs eight catches to tie Chiaverini, who had 97 from 1995-98. Nixon also needs 71 yards to match Chiaverini’s career total of 1,199. Chiaverini ranks 20th in CU history in both categories. … CU is looking for its first 3-0 start to conference play since 2002, when it started 4-0 in Big 12 games.