On a weekly basis during the 2020 football season, Jarek Broussard ran through Colorado opponents and put up numbers that haven’t been seen in the program for years.
While he was dominating the opposition, Broussard was also fueling Alex Fontenot’s fire.
CU’s leading rusher in 2019, Fontenot missed last season with a hip injury. In his place, Broussard earned Pac-12 offensive player of the year honors.
“It really just lit a fire under me, to work harder, get in the playbook harder, work on stuff that I might not have been good at before,” Fontenot said this week. “Really just harp on the details and that’s been my main focus in this camp.”
Healthy again as the Buffaloes go through preseason camp, Fontenot is pushing for the role of lead back in a deep and talented backfield.
“I’ve been pretty much doing what I always do – making plays and just getting good stuff on film,” he said.
A 6-foot, 205-pound junior from Richmond, Texas, Fontenot spent his first two years at CU waiting for his turn. He redshirted in 2017 while Phillip Lindsay played the starring role. In 2018, the Buffs added graduate transfer Travon McMillian, who rushed for 1,009 yards, while Fontenot got only 11 carries for 43 yards.
By 2019, Fontenot had won the starting job, played in 11 games and finished with 874 yards and five touchdowns on 185 carries (4.7-yard average), while adding 27 catches for 122 yards.
Now, he’s looking to re-prove himself among a group that is loaded with talent. It starts with Broussard, but Fontenot, Ashaad Clayton, Deion Smith, Joe Davis and Jayle Stacks are all talented, as well.
“This is probably the best group we’ve had in a long time,” Fontenot said. “I’m just interested to see how (the coaches) go about it and how we perform.”
Last year, CU’s approach was to roll with Broussard, who finished second nationally with 26.0 carries per game. He handled 76.5 percent of the rushing attempts by CU running backs.
“There should be more distribution for our running backs, for a number of reasons,” head coach Karl Dorrell said.
The main reason for more distribution is that Fontenot and Smith are both healthy after missing the 2020 season. Clayton, who was a four-star recruit in CU’s 2020 class, Davis and Stacks are also more mature and developed.
“We have more depth now,” Dorrell said. “So the depth of that position is going to allow us to not really use one workhorse, so to speak, in the backfield. They all understand that.”
Fontenot knows CU’s depth could lead to a committee approach to running the ball, but added, “As long as I get my opportunity to touch the field, it doesn’t matter what we do.”
Making sure he gets an opportunity has been Fontenot’s motivation. He ran with purpose in the spring and has continued that this month as he pushes Broussard for the role he had in 2019.
“It’s really just skill against skill,” Fontenot said. “I know what (Broussard) can do; he knows what I can do. We know eventually, we’re both gonna be touching the field, but we of course just want to be the starter. We both know that we have to compete to get to that point and that’s what we’re doing.”