A year ago, a common thought about the Colorado Buffaloes’ offense was that it couldn’t get much worse.
After all, the Buffs had one of the least productive offenses in the country during the 2021 season.
Yet, remarkably, CU’s offense got worse this year.
CU (1-11, 1-8 Pac-12) started four different quarterbacks and never really found much rhythm with any of them.
The Buffs did actually gain more yards than last year, 281.3 per game compared to 257.6 in 2021 – but still ranked 128th in the country out of 131 teams (129th last year).
On the scoreboard, however, CU managed just 15.4 points per game, which not only ranked 127th nationally, but is the worst by any team in the 12-year-history of the Pac-12 Conference.
But, hey, at least the Buffs weren’t as bad as rival Colorado State (13.2 points per game) or the woeful Denver Broncos (14.3).
The season began with head coach Karl Dorrell leading the team and first-year coordinator Mike Sanford guiding the offense. After five games, Dorrell was fired, Sanford was put into the interim head coaching role and tight ends coach Clay Patterson was promoted to coordinator.
Shuffling the coaching staff didn’t do much to change the offense, though. The Buffs averaged 277.0 yards and 13.4 points before the change and posted 284.3 yards and 16.9 points after the change.
Like 2021, this was a rough season for the Buffaloes’ offense, but there were some bright spots along the way.
A season review of the Buffs’ offense:
Quarterback: After a neck-and-neck offseason battle, Brendon Lewis, who started all 12 games in 2021, opened the year behind center. That wound up being his only start, however, and midway through the season he left the team for the transfer portal. Undersized true freshman Owen McCown was CU’s most efficient quarterback, but after starting three games in the middle of the year, he was injured and sat out the rest of the year to redshirt. In the end, it was junior JT Shrout who wound up with the most starts (seven) and playing time and therefore, he led the Buffs in passing yards (1,220) and touchdowns (seven), but also interceptions (eight). Plus, his completion percentage (44.3) was the worst for a CU quarterback since Sal Aunese in 1988 (41.5). CU threw for 500 more yards than a year ago, but the overall production didn’t improve and we’ll give this spot the same grade as a year ago. Grade: D.
Running back: Despite losing two-year starter Jarek Broussard to the transfer portal (Michigan State) last winter, and despite having each of the top three running backs deal with injures during the season, the Buffs didn’t see any drop off in production. In fact, the Buffs’ running backs averaged slightly more yards per carry (4.326) than they did in 2021 (4.297). Alex Fontenot missed six games, Deion Smith missed two full games and parts of others, and Anthony Hankerson missed four games. Still, that trio did a solid job all year. Smith led the way with 393 yards (4.73 per carry), Fontenot finished strong to tally 315 yards (4.85) and Hankerson added 274 yards (4.03). Grade: B.
Receivers: According to Pro Football Focus, CU had 31 drops this season, with 20 of those coming from the receivers. No wide receiver group in the Pac-12 had more drops (only Washington had more as a team, with 33, but the Huskies threw 160 more passes). Overall, it wasn’t a great year for the Buffs’ receivers. However, they did find a star in true freshman Jordyn Tyson, who hit his stride in the middle of the year before a season-ending injury on Nov. 5. Tyson led the team with 470 yards and four TDs and was second in catches (23). Third-year sophomore Montana Lemonious-Craig also had a good season overall (23 catches, 359 yards, 3 TD). Grade: C.
Tight ends: Once again, Brady Russell led the tight ends. The sixth-year senior picked up his game as a blocker and finished with 20 catches for 153 yards. Overall, though, the tight ends weren’t as big of a factor in the passing game as expected. The rest of the group, all freshmen, caught a combined nine passes for 48 yards. Grade: C.
Offensive line: After a disastrous 2021 season, the line came together and had a solid season overall for the Buffs. This was the most consistent position group on offense. Alabama transfer Tommy Brown and junior Casey Roddick solidified the group at the guard spots. After some early-season shuffling at tackle, the Buffs settled on Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan (left) and Jake Wiley (right). Wiley was much better than a year ago. Austin Johnson and true freshman Van Wells handled the center duties and weathered some growing pains. Grade: B-minus.
Kicking: Sophomore Cole Becker didn’t get a lot of work this season, but he was exceptional and improved upon his solid freshman year. He finished 11-for-13 on field goals (84.6%) and 20-of-21 on extra points. He also put 34 of 43 kickoffs (79.1%) into the end zone for touchbacks. Grade: A.
Overall: Obviously, it was a disappointing season for CU’s offense, which scored just 20 touchdowns, lacked explosiveness and struggled to stay on the field. CU converted only 31.7% of the time on third downs (119th nationally) and 39% of the Buffs’ possessions ended with three-and-outs (compared to 13% for the opposition). Grade: D-minus.
Offensive MVP: WR Jordyn Tyson. CU didn’t find him a lot in the first five games. And then he wound up missing the final three games with an injury. Yet, for four games in the middle of the year, the true freshman proved to be CU’s most explosive player. He finished with 22 catches for 470 yards and four touchdowns and also had an 88-yard punt return for touchdown. Four of CU’s six longest plays on offense were passes to Tyson. Honorable mention: RB Alex Fontenot.
Top newcomer: RG Tommy Brown. Certainly this one could have gone to Tyson, but to spread the wealth, we’ll go with Brown. In his first year at CU after transferring from Alabama, he overcame an offseason injury to start all 12 games at right guard – the only player on offense to start every game at the same spot. Honorable mention: RB Anthony Hankerson.
Most improved: RT Jake Wiley. Playing at left tackle in 2021, he had a rough season. This year, he settled in at right tackle and was significantly better overall. Honorable mention: RB Deion Smith.
Best comeback: QB JT Shrout. No, his numbers weren’t great, but Shrout missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury and fought his way back. He started seven games and led the team with 1,220 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Honorable mention: WR Maurice Bell.