Playing behind talented running backs such as Jarek Broussard and Alex Fontenot the past two years, Jayle Stacks knew his opportunities would be limited.
Now in his third year with the Colorado football team, the 5-foot-11, 235-pound running back from Cherry Creek High School is hoping to change that.
“It’s something you just have to push through and then just keep grinding,” Stacks said of his first two seasons at CU. “This year, my focus is to get on the field as much as I can, more than I was getting last year. I love the game of football, so I’m just going to grind every time I’m out here.”
After rushing for 2,997 yards during his career at Cherry Creek, Stacks has played in 10 games at CU, but mostly on special teams. He had one rushing attempt for four yards last season.
Broussard (Michigan State) and two other running backs transferred this offseason, while Stacks is hoping CU’s new offense, led by first-year coordinator Mike Sanford, can be a better fit for his bruising style.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s more power back,” Stacks said. “There is elusive back stuff, but I feel like I can get more power back stuff (in this offense). I’m still playing fullback, so you’ll see me there still.”
During open scrimmages in the past, Stacks has flashed his running and catching ability and running backs coach Darian Hagan remains optimistic about Stacks’ potential.
“Oh, you’re gonna see him,” Hagan said. “He has a role. … Those guys leaving opened up a door for him and he’s bought into being (a fullback) and being a tailback. He has a role and I told him, ‘If you buy into your role, you’ll be rewarded’ and he’s doing that right now.”
With Fontenot and Deion Smith leading the group, Stacks knows he may not get a lot of carries, but said his game has evolved since high school and he’s more prepared to play on game days.
“I’ve learned from some great running backs — Fontenot, J-Bru, Deion,” he said. “When I got here, the game was fast. Everything was coming at me boom, boom, boom. I think (the game) is slowing down. I’m reading the holes faster. My cuts are a little stronger. That’s kind of what makes you a better back.”
Stacks said in high school he could simply get the handoff and run downfield. In college, there’s much more to the position, including reading defenses and knowing the assignments of his teammates.
Stacks admits he wasn’t ready to play as a true freshman but felt ready last year and even more so now.
“This year I feel like I can show a little something that I have,” he said. “I think you’ve just got to stay humble (coming from high school). … Just keep grinding, have fun with it and one day you’re gonna shine.”
Sophomore offensive lineman Carson Lee put his name into the NCAA transfer portal on Friday after playing in eight games over the past two seasons with the Buffaloes.
“Thank you to my teammates, coaching staff and to Buff nation for many great memories at the University of Colorado,” Lee wrote on Twitter.
Lee, who has three years of eligibility remaining, was practicing at guard this spring. He missed the final seven games of the 2021 season after he was charged with second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury and third-degree assault from an off-campus incident on Oct. 3. His case is still pending.
A high school teammate of Stacks’ at Cherry Creek, Lee got most of his playing time with the Buffs’ special teams units. He played seven snaps on offense last season.
With Lee’s departure, CU has 83 projected scholarship players for the fall.
On Saturday, the Buffs will have a scrimmage at 11:15 a.m. inside Folsom Field that is open to the public.
Head coach Karl Dorrell said there are several things he hopes to see out of his team during the scrimmage.
“Defensively I want to see some good pass rush,” he said. “I want to see the quarterbacks under pressure. Even though the quarterbacks are not live, I want to see those guys in the backfield and creating some havoc and I’d like to see some plays on the football in the back end with creating some turnovers and making some plays. For my mind, I would like to see those two things really start to show up for us because those are glaring things that didn’t show up a year ago.”
Offensively, Dorrell said he would like to see some balance.
“They’re doing a really good job of creating that balance right now,” he said. “We’re running the ball effectively. They’re throwing the ball and (using play-action) pretty well. I want to see if we can get in a groove of consistency and sustain some drives and see how that body of work goes through the course of the scrimmage regardless of who the quarterback is.”
Overall, Dorrell said he’s looking forward to getting the coaches off the field and seeing the players simply “play the game of football.”
First-year receivers coach Phil McGeoghan has been working with a short-handed group this spring because of injuries, but still believes he’s got a good idea of what each player in his room provides to the offense.
“I think we have a pretty good assessment,” he said. “I’ve watched every string of tape. I watched every one of their reps that they’ve participated in here at CU and in some cases in high school. So we have an idea of what they do, physically. We’re gonna try to play to their strengths. There’s also some deficiencies or else we wouldn’t have only won four games (in 2021), so we have to get better in a lot of different areas.
“I think it’s being honest and forthright about what we need to improve on and then accentuating their positives. Do the things that they’ve done well their whole lives and then really refining the areas that need to improve.”