CU Buffs need RB depth to show up

Jarek Broussard having great season, but backups have struggled when given opportunities

BOULDER, CO - Nov. 28, 2020: ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – November 28, 2020: Jarek Broussard, of Colorado breaks away from Tayler Hawkins, of San Diego State during the Colorado San Diego State game at Folsom Field in Boulder on November 28, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Colorado has a deep pool of talent at running back, but to this point, it’s mainly been a one-man show.

Sophomore Jarek Broussard has been exceptional, with 432 yards and three touchdowns and he ranks fourth nationally in yards per game (144.0).

Broussard can become the first player in CU history to open a season with four straight 100-yard games when the Buffs (3-0, 2-0 Pac12) visit Arizona (0-3, 0-3) on Saturday in Tucson (5 p.m., TV: FS-1).

It’s easy to see why the Buffs have relied on him.

“You want to keep the hot guy going,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “Jarek has been tremendous these first three games, so he’s definitely a big part of our success and in terms of how we’re able to run the football.”

Could the Buffs be relying too much on Broussard, however?

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Broussard is averaging 30.0 carries per game, second nationally to Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim (31.0).

This is, obviously, a truncated season, but Broussard is on pace for 360 carries in a normal, 12-game season. The CU record is 301, by Phillip Lindsay in 2017.

Given his success, it’s tough to take Broussard off the field, but it would help the Buffs to get a second or third running back going.

BOULDER, CO – November 28, 2020: Joe Davis, of Colorado, gets some air on this run during the Colorado San Diego State game at Folsom Field in Boulder on November 28, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Jaren Mangham, who had 441 yards in 2019, has 17 carries for just 24 yards.

Joe Davis had a career-high seven carries last week against San Diego State, but gained just 10 yards. He’s got 23 yards on 10 carries this season.

True freshmen Ashaad Clayton and Jayle Stacks have each played just one snap this season. Clayton, a four-star recruit in the 2020 class, was given one random carry, for three yards, against Stanford on Nov. 14.

As a group, the backups have 28 carries for 50 yards, while Mangham and Clayton didn’t even play against San Diego State on Saturday.

Still, Dorrell said the staff has confidence in all of them.

“It’s a good problem to have in a lot of ways,” Dorrell said of the depth, “but I know it’s frustrating probably from the players’ end, because we do have good depth in the backfield. I understand they want to prove and show that they have the ability to help this team. You want that attitude and you want them to be determined and driven and confident that they can do that.

“It is something that is difficult to manage and we’ve got to continue to manage that as we move forward.”

Moving forward, the Buffs might need someone to take pressure off of Broussard, who has seen his effectiveness takes a steep drop late in games.

In quarters 1-3 this season, Broussard has 61 carries for 346 yards (5.67 per carry). In the fourth quarter, he has 29 carries for 89 yards (3.07).

During the last two games, CU has had 31 offensive snaps in the fourth quarter, with 22 of those being handoffs to Broussard, for 52 yards – half of that coming on one run vs. San Diego State.

While Broussard is having a great season and the Buffs are producing 191.67 yards per game on the ground (fifth in the Pac-12), the run game hasn’t been as effective as that would suggest.

Nationally, CU ranks third with 52.33 rushing attempts per game – only option teams Army and Air Force run it more – but the Buffs’ 3.66 average per carry ranks 99th (and 11th in the Pac-12).

The Buffs like their depth in the backfield, but heading into the second half of the season, they need it to show up.

“Everybody’s really playing hard and practicing hard,” Dorrell said. “They’ve already proven us (in practice) that they’re capable and very, very good backs that can help us be successful.

“They just have to be ready when their number is called.”