In each of the last two years, the Colorado football team has gone into a season without much previous experience at running back.
Next fall, the Buffaloes could be loaded with experience at the position.
Last week, head coach Karl Dorrell said junior Alex Fontenot has “a clean bill of health” after missing last season with a hip injury.
A 6-foot, 205-pound back from Richmond, Texas, Fontenot led the Buffs in rushing in 2019 with 874 yards and five touchdowns on 185 carries. He also caught 27 passes for 122 yards.
Without him last year, the Buffs discovered a star in sophomore Jarek Broussard, who ran for 895 yards and five touchdowns on 156 carries in only six games. He also had nine catches for 65 yards and was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the year.
Looking ahead to the 2021 season, the Buffs could have both of them as weapons on offense.
“I think we have a good backfield, a really good backfield,” Dorrell said last month. “I’m pretty confident that we have good enough depth in that position that somewhere down the line, someone’s going to emerge and going to be a really good player for us, just like Jarek did this year. We’re hopeful Jarek does it again next year, but Jarek knows that he’s gonna have to come and earn that job again this year because last year has nothing to do with this year. It’s gonna be really competitive.”
Although Broussard was exceptional last season, a healthy Fontenot would give the Buffs one of the most experienced backfields in the Pac-12.
“Alex is a very quiet guy. He’s sleek, he’s discreet,” Dorrell said. “Sometimes you don’t even know he’s in the room; he doesn’t say much. … But he’s a hard-working kid. There’s no question in my mind, he missed playing this fall. There’s a burning desire for him to get back in and showcase, really, all the great things that he did in 2019.”
In addition to that duo, the Buffs are returning 2020 four-star recruit Ashaad Clayton, who ran for 31 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries; Joe Davis, who had 29 yards on 16 carries; and Jayle Stacks, who got limited playing time as a true freshman.
CU also expects to get Deion Smith back. He rushed for 68 yards in a backup role in 2019 but missed the 2020 season with a knee injury.
“It’s going to be extremely competitive and I love every minute of that,” Dorrell said. “That’s why you’re going to have a good backfield, because it’s going to be very competitive.”
Last week, the Buffs got started with offseason conditioning, with newly hired strength and conditioning coordinator Shannon Turley leading the way.
“It’s coming along nicely,” Dorrell said. “The players, it’s a learning curve for them because his core style of training is different than it’s been in the past. The last five years Drew Wilson has been our strength coach and now it’s a different philosophy of things that are being done and the players have embraced it. They’re doing quite well. They’ve actually been very complimentary of the things that we’re doing. They understand why we’re doing it.”
Turley was the director of sports performance at Stanford from 2007-19 before being fired in April of 2019 for undisclosed reasons. He came to Boulder eager to work.
“Shannon is very driven,” Dorrell said. “He knows what he wants to get accomplished; he knows that we’re not there at that point. He knows we’re starting from scratch, so there’s a process to it. We’ve talked about it extensively and it’s a patient process at the start because you want to teach the fundamentals and the lifts and the things in a proper fashion early, so that when we are getting going and we’re getting into it hot and heavy, that these guys can do it properly and do it with the right technique.”