Heading into his third season with the Colorado football team, Montana Lemonious-Craig carries himself like a veteran.
He has stepped up as a leader at times and provides security to the CU quarterbacks on the field.
In terms of production, however, Lemonious-Craig is like just about everyone else in the receiver group: lots of talent, but lots to prove.
This summer, BuffZone.com will preview each position group for CU and in this installment, we look at the receivers.
No position group was hit harder by the transfer portal than the receivers. The Buffs’ most explosive receiver (Brenden Rice) and starting slot (Dimitri Stanley) both bolted in the offseason for what they hope is greener pastures. Three other young receivers left, as well, and offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini, who coached receivers for six years, was let go.
This season, the Buffs will rely on players such as Lemonious-Craig, senior Daniel Arias and Baylor transfer RJ Sneed. First-year coach Phil McGeoghan, who has already received a promotion to assistant head coach, will lead the group.
“It was great,” Lemonious-Craig said of working with McGeoghan and new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford in the spring. “They know what they’re doing. They take care of us. They give us everything they’ve got day in and day out.”
The coaches are asking the same of the players.
Last year, CU’s passing game struggled all season and that meant a lack of production across the board.
Arias is the top returner but caught only 19 passes for 237 yards a year ago. He put together his best spring as a Buff, however, and is looking for a big season. Arias made big plays all spring and said visiting a sports psychologist played a role.
“This is a game where you’re supposed to have fun,” he said. “You’re not supposed to be thinking too much. Ever since I got my mind wrapped around that — just play — it’s been fun. I’ve been making plays and it’s just been fun.”
Lemonious-Craig caught 10 passes a year ago before missing the finale with a foot injury. He, too, is looking to make a bigger impact.
“Coach Phil has done a great job helping me develop just in terms of working on my natural game,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to this season and showcasing it.”
After losing so much talent to the transfer portal, the Buffs are hoping Sneed can provide leadership and production. He caught 133 passes for 1,564 yards and eight touchdowns during his career at Baylor.
The group also includes true sophomores Chase Penry and Ty Robinson, who both flashed their ability in 2021. A talented freshman trio is being added to the mix, as well, and those who watched spring practices said walk-on Jack Hestera could play his way into the rotation.
“I think the area that I’m really, really pleased with has been the receiver growth,” Sanford said in spring. “That was a big question mark with everything that happened in the offseason. … I looked over (one practice) after a big play and I was like, ‘We’ve got a wideout group here and they’re being coached by two of the best in coach McGeoghan and what he brings to the table and also with (head coach Karl) Dorrell.”
Returners (2021 statistics)
- Daniel Arias, Sr., 6-foot-4, 210 pounds (19 catches, 237 yards, 1 TD)
- Maurice Bell, Sr., 6-0, 185 (injured)
- Jaylon Jackson, Sr., 5-10, 170 (injured)
- Montana Lemonious-Craig, So., 6-2, 185 (10 catches, 123 yards, 2 TD)
- Chase Penry, So., 6-1, 190 (8 catches, 86 yards, 1 TD)
- Ty Robinson, So., 6-3, 195 (6 catches, 64 yards, 1 TD)
- Michael Harrison, So., 6-3, 205 (walk-on)
- Jack Hestera, R-Fr., 6-0, 180 (walk-on)
- RJ Sneed, Sr., 6-1, 195 (Transfer from Baylor)
- Grant Page, Fr., 6-3, 190
- Chase Sowell, Fr., 6-3,185
- Jordyn Tyson, Fr., 6-2, 180
- Chernet Estes, Fr., 6-0, 170 (walk-on)
- Chris Carpenter (transferred to UTSA; 7 catches, 45 yards)
- Keith Miller III (transferred to Texas A&M Commerce)
- Brenden Rice (transferred to Southern California; 21 catches, 299 yards, 3 TD)
- Vontae Shenault (transferred to Alabama State; 6 catches, 60 yards)
- Dimitri Stanley (transferred to Iowa State; 15 catches, 130 yards, 1 TD)