Between graduation, transfers or the NFL, the Colorado Buffaloes have lost a lot of talent at receiver in recent years.
Despite that, the Buffs continue to re-stock the position. Once again, the receivers are considered one of the most talented groups on the team, but this is a group with plenty to prove.
“I’m really excited about the potential,” offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said. “They are young. I mean, I’m not gonna lie about that. It’s a young room.”
Leading up to fall camp, which starts Aug. 5, Buffzone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffs. In this installment, we look at the receivers.
Of the 11 receivers on scholarship, seven are still technically freshmen, thanks in part to the NCAA not counting the 2020 season towards eligibility. All three walk-ons are freshmen, as well. There’s not a single senior in the group.
“The veteran guy is probably Dimitri Stanley, who’s played a significant amount of college football,” Chiaverini said. “Besides that, everybody else is really, really young, as far as their snaps in college football.”
Led by Stanley, a sophomore, and third-year freshman La’Vontae Shenault, it is a group that could be exciting to watch.
Stanley, a Cherry Creek High School graduate, is entering his fourth year with the program. Counting the Alamo Bowl, he led the Buffs in receptions (20) and receiving yards (335) last season. He’s had 55 catches in his career and has also handled the Buffs’ punt return duties.
Shenault is the younger brother of Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Laviska Shenault, who starred at CU from 2017-19. Shenault battled some off-the-field trouble last year (he was suspended for the season opener and the Alamo Bowl) to catch 17 passes in only four games.
Shenault is entering his third season at CU but has yet to exhaust any eligibility because of the pandemic.
Returning freshman Brenden Rice is another receiver with exceptional genes and star potential. The son of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, Brenden caught six passes for 120 yards last year and was the only receiver with two touchdowns. Including a punt return, he touched the ball just seven times but scored three touchdowns.
“La’Vontae has flashed some really good things but he hasn’t played a lot of college football,” Chiaverini said. “Same thing with Brenden Rice. He flashed some good things but didn’t play a ton of snaps last year.”
Shenault and Rice are among many CU receivers with great potential, but not a lot of experience.
That group includes a trio of juniors: Daniel Arias, Maurice Bell and Jaylon Jackson.
Arias battled an ankle injury through most of 2020 and comes into this year with 11 career catches. Bell got his first significant playing time last year and has 12 career catches. Jackson has fought through injuries to play in all 18 games over the last two years, mainly on special teams. One of the Buffs’ top special teams players, Jackson has 14 career catches.
Returning freshman Montana Lemonious-Craig had an exceptional spring and classmate Keith Miller III is a big target (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) with great potential. Another returning freshman, Chris Carpenter, could help at receiver or returner, while true freshmen Chase Penry and Ty Robinson will battle for playing time.
“I’m really excited about the potential of that group,” Chiaverini said. “They do work hard, they do want to be a good room. I can see them making a lot of plays for us this year.”
Returners (2020 statistics)
- Daniel Arias, Jr., 6-foot-4, 205 pounds (6 catches, 105 yards)
- Maurice Bell, Jr., 6-0, 180 (10 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD)
- Jaylon Jackson, Jr., 5-10, 180 (2 catches, 17 yards, 1 TD)
- Dimitri Stanley, So., 5-11, 195 (20 catches, 335 yards, 1 TD)
- La’Vontae Shenault, R-Fr., 6-2, 190 (17 catches, 193 yards)
- Chris Carpenter, Fr., 6-1, 160
- Montana Lemonious-Craig, Fr., 6-2, 185 (1 catch, 15 yards)
- Keith Miller III, Fr., 6-5, 210
- Brenden Rice, Fr., 6-3, 205 (6 catches, 120 yards, 2 TD)
- Michael Harrison, Fr., 6-3, 190 (walk-on)
- Chase Penry, Fr., 6-2, 190
- Ty Robinson, Fr., 6-4, 185
- Ben Finneseth, Fr., 6-2, 195 (walk-on)
- Jack Hestera, Fr., 6-1, 185 (walk-on)
- KD Nixon, 5-8, 190 (Transferred to Southern California; 15 catches, 132 yards)
- Michael Byrd Jr., 5-7, 160 (walk-on)
- Jake Groth, So., 6-4, 205 (walk-on)
- Alex Smith, 5-9, 185 (walk-on)
2021 outlook: Despite not having a lot of game experience, CU has one of the most talented groups of receivers in the Pac-12 Conference. Playing mostly as a slot receiver, Stanley had flashed All-Pac-12 potential and should be a main target for whoever plays quarterback. Shenault is a comfortable target for quarterbacks, as well, as he runs good routes and has shown to have reliable hands. Rice could be in line for a starting spot if he continues to build upon a great freshman year. He’s a big target who has already shown some big-play potential. Arias, Bell and Jackson are all veterans who provide significant depth. With good size and speed, Arias might be the most physically gifted receiver on the team but needs to find some consistency and stay healthy. The younger group is very talented, and Lemonious-Craig might be the leader this year. He was relied upon quite a bit this spring by the Buffs’ quarterbacks.