A look at Coach Prime’s roster – Longmont Times-Call

BOULDER, CO November 4: Colorado cornerback/receiver Travis Hunter before the Oregon State game at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo.  on November 4, 2023. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO November 4: Colorado cornerback/receiver Travis Hunter before the Oregon State game at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo. on November 4, 2023. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Summer workouts are in full swing for the Colorado football team and preseason camp is just around the corner.

Head coach Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes are just 12 weeks removed from the August 29 season opener against North Dakota State and the roster appears to be largely set. Unofficially, CU has occupied 80 of the 85 scholarship places. A year ago, Coach Prime didn’t use all 85 spots, so there may not be much change.

As the Buffs look ahead to the upcoming season, here’s a look at each position group.

Quarterbacks (4 on scholarship): Senior Shedeur Sanders had a great spring, proving he is healthy after the injuries that forced him to miss the final six quarters of 2023. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and will lead the charge on offense. Redshirt freshman Ryan Staub emerged from the spring as the top backup, while transfers Walter Taylor and Destin Wade provide solid depth, along with walk-on Colton Allen.

Return (5): This group has had a major overhaul not only since last season, but since the spring. Transfers Isaiah Augustave (Arkansas) and Dallan Hayden (Ohio State) joined the team this summer and will compete for a starting role. CU also signed speedy prep star Brandon Hood to compete with fellow freshman Micah Welch and former walk-on Charlie Offerdahl.

Recipients (10): We’ll include Travis Hunter in the cornerback numbers, but he’s also clearly one of the best — if not the best — receiver on the team. Jimmy Horn Jr. is back after a great year and LaJohntay Wester turned heads in the spring. Vanderbilt transfer Will Sheppard joined the team this summer and should be one of the top weapons. The group also includes a lot of young talent with Terrell Timmons Jr., Omarion Miller, Jordon Onovughe, Cordalle Russell, Asaad Waseem, Kamron Mikell and Drelon Miller. Walk-on Kaleb Mathis is also a favorite target for Shedeur Sanders.

Tight ends (4): This group will be very different from last year and even from this spring. Ohio State transfer Sam Hart joined the team this summer and could lead the way. Louis Passarello will be in the mix if healthy, while converted defensemen Sav’ell Smalls and Morgan Pearson will be factors. Walk-ons Brady Kopetz and Charlie Williams could also compete for playing time.

Offensive linemen (15): There has been constant overhauling during the off season. Five transfers and top recruit Jordan Seaton were brought in last winter. Tackles Seaton and Kahlil Benson, guards Tyler Brown and Justin Mayers and center Hank Zilinskas came out of the spring atop the depth chart, but they will be tested. CU added six more linemen this summer, including five transfers: Wyatt Hummel (Villanova), Ethan Boyd (Michigan State), Chris Morris (East Mississippi Community College), Payton Kirkland (Texas) and Zach Owens (Clemson).

Defensive linemen (7): Senior Shane Cokes and junior Amari McNeill are the only returning players from last year and could be the frontrunners here, but the transfers will make their mark. Taurean Carter, Chidoze Nwankwo and Anquin Barnes all played well at times this spring. The Buffs added two more transfers who joined the team this summer: Rayyan Buell (Ohio) and Tawfiq Thomas (Louisville).

Edge (9): Arden Walker and Taje McCoy are two returning players looking for bigger roles, but this group was overhauled this offseason. Nikhil Webb Walker, Samuel Okunlola, Keaton Wade and Quency Wiggins were all key transfer additions last winter. The Buffs also brought in Arizona State transfer BJ Green and Pittsburgh transfer Dayon Hayes, who could be top players here.

Inside linebackers (8): LaVonta Bentley appears to be the steady force here after a stellar 2023 season, but the Buffs are constantly looking for the second spot. Converted safety Trevor Woods could be the second starter, but the coaching staff added a dose of experience this spring through the transfer portal. Transfers Johnny Chaney Jr. (Florida A&M) and Nikhai Hill-Green (Charlotte) will both compete for a starting role. Jeremiah Brown, Brendan Gant and Jaylen Wester could also be in the mix.

Cornerbacks (8): Travis Hunter is the leader of this group, but where he plays and how much remains to be seen. He naturally shares time with the recipient. He spent much of the spring playing as a nickel on defense because Preston Hodge and DJ McKinney played so well at corner. Transfers Ivan Yates (Furman) and Colton Hood (Auburn) will also compete for time.

Protections (7): This is an interesting spot for CU after it was reported this summer that senior Shilo Sanders has a shoulder injury that could sideline him for several months. CU hasn’t confirmed that, but if Sanders is out for a while, the Buffs will have to adjust. Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig is the leader here and the Buffs could also move Trevor Woods back to safety – his natural position. Converted corner Carter Stoutmire is also an option. Transfers Herman Smith III (Jackson State), Savion Riley (Miami) and RJ Johnson (Arkansas) will all also compete for spots.

Specialists (3): The Buffs are in good shape with the kicking game. Punter Mark Vassett was one of the best in the Pac-12 and place kicker Alejandro Mata is reliable inside 45 yards. Jace Feely hopes to push Mata again.

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