Following an extremely disappointing 2-10 season, the Buffaloes' recruiting efforts lacked the jolt that an extra couple of conference wins would have provided. However, all things considered, Mike MacIntyre and his staff (newly complete with crazy Jim Leavitt and Joe Tumpkin! Huge fan of both hires) managed to sign some promising talent, both on the radar and underneath it. CU closed out Signing Day with 19 freshly minted Buffaloes, three of whom are junior college transfers and one who comes to Boulder by way of Boise State. Here's the full class:
Most services have this group ranked in the upper 60s and low 70s nationally, slotting them in at the bottom of the Pac-12. This isn't surprising, considering the size of the class and CU's recent performance, but some key needs were addressed and there are certainly a few guys with program-altering potential. Here's who stands out to me (and likely to every other Buff fan who's spent time on Hudl and Twitter the past few months.)
Steven Montez may be the most underrated member of this class, and that speaks more to his potential than anything. The Buffaloes offered early and established a relationship with Steven following his junior season, when he began torching west Texas through the air. He finished his high school career with 8,149 yards of total offense and 86 touchdowns. During his just-completed senior year he passed for 2,967 yards and 46 touchdowns, tossing just three interceptions. Montez clearly has the arm, and this past season notably showcased his impressive running ability. At 6'5" he still has plenty of room to fill out that frame while remaining a serious running threat. I'm already envisioning some devastating reads coming in the next couple of years, once he takes the reins from Sefo Liufau. It's likely he'll redshirt this coming season and be ready to step into a backup role come 2016, but after that we could be looking at one of the best quarterbacks CU's had since....well, in a long time. Of the 19 signees this February, Montez may be the one who transforms this program the most.
The best player in the state of Colorado this past year, Tim was a massive get for the Buffs. The highlights posted above are from 2013 but all he did this past fall was build on his junior year performance. Lynott blows guys back off the line effortlessly, and while these are Colorado high school players, the technique and strength will translate to stiffer competition. There's not much left to say about this kid that hasn't been said already, he has the potential to be a program cornerstone, someone this offense can count on and build around going forward.
I have to work in a shout to my fellow Rocky Mountain Lobo. Seriously though, Alex is going to be a major contributor, possibly right away. He's got big shoes to fill, specifically Darragh O'Neill's golden boots, but from what I've seen he's ready. It remains to be seen whether he'll be given the opportunity to bank some field goal attempts in 2015 but if he comes into fall camp kicking like he did for RMHS this past season he'll have a good chance to win the job. O'Neill's performance last season was critical to helping a struggling defense get stops and Kinney's punting could be a critical factor in whether this team gets over that infamous hump this year. Go Bos, Go Buffs.
Patrick Carr was the biggest "surprise" for the Buffs on signing day. Originally slated to play for Arkansas, Carr rescinded his commitment after the Razorbacks filled up their scholarship limit with the return of Jonathan Williams. Carr may be on the shorter side but he more than makes up for that with his strength, breakaway 4.4 (!) speed, and straight-forward bruising style. He almost reminds me of Hugh Charles, possessing a similar combination of strength, low center of gravity, and speed. It's also nice to see a tough back out of Texas commit to the Black and Gold, something that's gotten rarer since the Buffaloes' move to the Pac-12. I'm very interested to see which running back in this class separates himself from the crowded pack that Colorado now possesses. I still think Donald Gordon will be a special one in time, but Carr and Baltazar bring some significant talent to the table and should see reps right away this fall.
The strength of this class clearly lies on the offensive side of the ball, which is the one aspect that really concerns me. It's been pretty obvious for a while now that Colorado's defense has the most room for improvement. If the defense has had a relative strength, it's been the play of secondary who have had to cover the country's most talented air attacks without the benefit of a consistent pass rush. Isaiah Oliver enters the fold to to continue the solid play of the defensive backs. He's a smart instinctive player and has the ability to make a game-changing play. He saw a lot of time at wide receiver this past season, and looked great, but he'll play on the outside in the secondary during his time in Boulder. The one question with Oliver is his top end speed but after spending some time in CU's conditioning program he should be able to acquire the gear that matches his football intellect. The Buffs will need him, and his counterpart Nick Fisher who stands to deliver a similar impact, to step up sooner rather than later.
NJ Falo was the earliest commit in the 2015 class, pledging to play for Mike Mac back in January of 2014. He'll provide some much needed depth at the linebacker position. He's already weighing in at 230 and can move, with room to add more muscle and explosiveness. The linebackers struggled last season, mostly due to injuries but they were almost always over-matched and over-worked as Colorado's line continued to have serious trouble stuffing the run. The run defense must improve, and with the hiring of Jim Leavitt who excels at coaching up linebackers I'm very optimistic that it will, and I believe Falo will be a contributing factor.
Of the JuCo guys that CU signed (which is very unusual, three is a pretty high number for Colorado but, that's where the program is at right now) I'm most excited about Jordan Carrell. He is so quick off the snap and uses his hands in such a way as to render the offensive lineman's positioning useless. Once he's past his foe he's quick to the QB and he does this consistently. As with all players jumping up a notch in competition it remains to be seen whether he can translate his play to the next level but all indications are that he should be able to, technique and quickness travel. Carrell, along with Frank Umu, Blake Robbins, Brett Tonz, and Lyle Tuiloma provides MacIntyre and his defensive staff with some much needed depth and strength along the defensive line, which in my opinion is the most important position in the Pac-12, aside from quarterback. That's one of the major fault lines that CU's season will break upon. Can the Buffs begin to put consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback while also limiting those huge, gashing runs? Hopefully this recruiting class, along with the hiring of Jim Leavitt, has begun to provide a positive answer to that question.
Ultimately, the strength of this class lies on the offensive side of the ball. The Buffs are essentially stacked at running back and look to have added their QB of the future. Justin Jan provides a bright new receiving prospect for Troy Walters to work with and Lynott will help anchor an improving line. Though this year's class is on the smaller side, the quality is there. These 19 young men will play a pivotal role in the re-emergence of Colorado football.