When the Colorado football team opens preseason camp in August, a lot of eyes will be on the quarterback position, and rightfully so.
Incumbent Sam Noyer will look to fend off two talented challengers – freshman Brendon Lewis and sophomore JT Shrout – in what is expected to be an intriguing three-man battle for the starting job.
One of the fiercest competitions might take place behind the quarterback, however. Head coach Karl Dorrell said every one of CU’s running backs ought to show up in August ready to compete.
“I would highly suggest every one of those backs should really have that chip on their shoulder about being the underdog,” Dorrell said as the Buffaloes concluded spring practices on Friday. “We’re going to use them all. … The hot man is the one that stays. It’s going to be that type of situation and I think all of them are very confident in their own abilities. I think it’s a really good situation for us because we’ve got some quality depth there, but it’s going to be a challenge.”
At first glance, it would appear that sophomore Jarek Broussard would be the lead back. After all, he was named Pac-12 offensive player of the year last season after finishing third nationally in rushing yards per game (149.2).
Broussard rushed for 895 yards during CU’s six-game schedule. That averages to 1,790 for a regular 12-game season – a mark that only one player in CU history has topped: Rashaan Salaam with 2,055 during his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 1994.
Dorrell is a big believer, however, that what happened in 2020 has nothing to do with 2021.
“It’s gonna be a challenge for Broussard,” Dorrell said. “He had a great year last year in stepping up and everybody has the expectations that it’s going to be even better this next year. Well, he’s got to fend off a lot of people for that to happen, and there’s a really good stable that’s competing for it. It’s not going to be easy is my point, and it’s a new year.”
Junior Alex Fontenot, the Buffs’ leading rusher in 2019, had a strong spring after missing 2020 with a hip injury.
“He has a fire in his belly and he’s doing a lot of really, really good things,” running backs coach Darian Hagan said. “His speed is back. He looks really, really fast. He’s always been good in protections and he’s excelled at that this spring
Ashaad Clayton, the top-rated recruit in CU’s 2020 class, also had a big spring and will be tough to keep off the field.
Joe Davis, a sophomore from Valor Christian High School, and Jayle Stacks, a big, bruising freshman from Cherry Creek, also had their moments during spring.
“Josiah and Jayle, those guys are both really, really improved from last season,” running backs coach Darian Hagan said.
During a CU-produced virtual event previewing the spring showcase last week, offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said, “Jayle Stacks has been running over people, around people. And, Josiah Davis is a workhorse. He just works his butt off, so it’s a really good problem to have and we’re excited about that running back room.”
Sophomore Deion Smith, who missed most of spring, is expected to be at full strength by fall camp, as well, adding even more talent to the room.
Any one of those players could be in the starting lineup for the Sept. 3 opener against Northern Colorado, and it’s possible all of them will get their opportunity at some point.
“We’re going to field the best players we can coming out of training camp,” Dorrell said. “Whoever we think are the best are going to be the ones to start with in the first game against Northern Colorado. They know the competition is fierce and I’m glad that we have the situation that we have in the backfield.”
According to Rivals.com, walk-on kicker Tyler Francis has put his name into the NCAA transfer portal. Francis, from Carlsbad, Calif., has spent the past three years with CU. He played in two games in 2018, making both field goal attempts and all five extra points. Francis is a sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining.