Daily Camera (Boulder) : 2020-10-09

Sports : 23 : 3C

Sports

3C DAILY CAMERA FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2020 | CU football preview By Brian Howell Buffzone.com The Colorado Buffaloes are set to open preseason football practices today, giving head coach Karl Dorrell about a month to get his team ready for his first game as their head coach, Nov. 7 against UCLA. Head coach Karl Dorrell will have about a month to get his team ready for his first game as their head coach, Nov. 7 against UCLA. A glance at the Buffs going into camp … Key position battles 1. Quarterbac­k: CU’S last true quarterbac­k competitio­n came in 2013, when Connor Wood won the job over true freshmen Sefo Liufau. All-time leading passer Steven Montez has graduated, leaving senior Sam Noyer, junior Tyler Lytle and freshman Brendon Lewis to battle. Noyer is a good athlete with the most experience. Lytle was the top backup last year and has the athleticis­m and leadership ability to win the job. Lewis is a pass-first dual-threat with exception upside. Lytle. Laviska Shenault and Tony Brown are gone, but CU doesn’t lack talent here. Senior KD Nixon (89 career catches) is back as a two-year starter and sophomore Dimitri Stanley (29 catches in 2019) started eight games in the slot last year. Juniors Daniel Arias might be the most physically gifted player in the group, while fellow juniors Maurice Bell and Jaylon Jackson have exceptiona­l talent, as well. Vontae Shenault and a host of true freshmen will fight for time also. Arias, Nixon and Stanley. This group was hit hard by injuries last year, but that allowed several young players, including KJ Trujillo and Tarik Luckett to get on the field. Trujillo became a starter in Game 5 and started seven games, getting better throughout. Luckett, a converted receiver, started two games. Delrick Abrams Jr. (graduated) is gone and Chris Miller has moved to safety, but the Buffs also have junior Mekhi Blackmon (two starts in 2019) back from injury, while Miami transfer Nigel Bethel Jr., redshirt freshman D.J. Oats and true freshman Christian Gonzalez will also compete. Trujillo, Luckett and Blackmon (nickel). Left tackle Arlington Hambright and center Tim Lynott have graduated after starting all 12 games last year. The Buffs return three key starters, though. Senior Kary Kutsch started all 12 games at left guard last year and junior William Sherman all 12 at right tackle. Colby Pursell likely would have started all season at right guard had he not gone through some health issues. He was a full-time starter at center in 2018. Sherman is likely to move to left tackle and Pursell back to center. The main battles could come on the right side, where Casey Roddick (two starts), Kanan Ray and Austin Johnson lead the way; and right tackle. Sophomore Frank Fillip is the odds-on favorite there, but redshirt freshman Valentin Senn could push him. Sherman (left tackle), Kutsch (left guard), Pursell (center), Ray (right guard) and Fillip (right tackle) Buffzone’s projected starter: 2. Receiver: Buffzone’s projected starters: 3. Cornerback: Buffzone’s projected starters: 4. Offensive line: Buffzone’s projected starters: 5. Outside linebacker: Junior Carson Wells is the leader of this group after starting 10 games last year and racking up 57 tackles in 514 snaps. The Buffs will often only use one outside linebacker at a time, but need more pass rush production from the position. Wells had one sack last year, while Alex Tchangham (graduated) had 3.5 and Jamar Montgomery had one. Montgomery got better as the 2019 season along and redshirt freshman Joshka Gustav hopes to be in the mix, too. This position was a heavy emphasis in recruiting this year, as the Buffs added junior college transfer Guy Thomas and true freshmen Devin Grant, Jason Harris and Alvin Williams. Harris might be the most natural pass rusher of the bunch, but he’ll need some time to acclimate. Wells starts, with Thomas and Harris as top backups. Buffzone prediction: 5 Veterans to watch RB Alex Fontenot, Jr.: He led the team in rushing last year (874 yards, 5 TD), but can he keep the job in a talented room that includes sophomore Jaren Mangham and four-star recruit Ashaad Clayton? Rarely played early in his career, but became a starter midway through the 2019 season and finished with 61 tackles. If he’s even better, he and senior Nate Landman could form one of the best inside backer duos in the Pac-12. Junior Jonathan Van Diest is eager to push Jones to get the starting job back, though. Former receiver and corner is settled in safety after starting there all of last year. He will be counted on to take his game to a new level, especially as a leader. LB Akil Jones, Sr.: S Derrion Rakestraw, Sr.: TE Brady Russell, Jr.: Becoming one of the top receiving tight ends in the conference, he caught 23 passes last year. Does he play an even bigger role this year? PK James Stefanou, Sr.: When healthy, Stefanou is as good as any kicker in the Pac-12. Injuries have cost him games in each of the last seasons, however. After offseason hip surgery, he’s feeling better and stronger than ever. 5 Breakout candidates WR Daniel Arias, Jr.: Has just four catches in his career, but two have gone for touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder has size and speed to become a star. Forced into action as a true freshman in 2018, he got a much-needed redshirt year in 2019. His potential is off the charts and he could become a rock at right tackle. RT Frank Fillip, So.: DB Chris Miller, Jr.: Injury prone throughout his career, he’s been one of CU’S top corners when healthy. Now, he’s shifting to safety. Given his talent and size (6-0, 190), CU could use him in a variety of spots in the secondary. He flashed his potential late last year, but is expected to play a key role on defense this season, whether at safety or the Star position. It’s expected that last year’s D-line starters — Mustafa Johnson, Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami — will start again. Rodman was a top backup as a true freshman last year and will be a key part of the rotation up front. S Mark Perry, So.: DL Na’im Rodman, So.: 5 Newcomers to watch DL Antonio Alfano, Fr.: A transfer from Alabama, he needs to get medical clearance, but the former five-star recruit has exceptiona­l talent. Highest-rated running back recruit for CU in years will battle for carries. Dual threat could push for RB Ashaad Clayton, Fr.: Lakers 3, Heat 1 QB Brendon Lewis, Fr.: starting job. TE Matt Lynch, Sr.: He’s a walk-on, but the former UCLA Bruin and Legacy High quarterbac­k brings experience to the table. He could be on the field in a lot of two-tight sets and possibly handle duties as holder on place kicks. (Best-of-7) Game 1: Game 2: Game 3: Game 4: Today: L.A. 116-98 L.A. 124-114 Miami 115-104 L.A. 102-96 Game 5, 7 p.m. OLB Guy Thomas, Jr.: Former Nebraska Cornhusker and junior college transfer hoping to make impact as pass rusher. PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTE­D BY PRESSREADE­R Pressreade­r.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW