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Offensive Preview: Colorado

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Northern Colorado v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Colorado is best known for its defense, but its offense should not be overlooked. Co-Offensive coordinators Brian Lindgren and Darrin Chiaverini begin their second year together, and should be able to add even more wrinkles to an offense that averaged 29.2 points per game in 2016. As it stands through week 3, Colorado is 3-0 and places seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring offense and total offense.

Quarterback:

Washington fans will remember facing sophomore quarterback Steven Montez (a freshman at the time) in last year’s Pac-12 championship game, when he came in for injured starter Sefo Liufau. Montez went 5 for 12 through the air for 60 yards, and added three rushes for 11 yards before Liufau returned to the game. With Liafau now graduated (and featured in this season’s Hard Knocks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Montez has taken over the reins of the Colorado offense as the starting QB.

At 6’5” 225 lbs., Montez has textbook NFL size for the position. He is seen as more or a run-and-gun QB than a pocket passer, but is certainly capable of standing in the pocket and delivering a good ball. His issues seem to stem from his inexperience at the position, which can sometimes lead to poor decisionmaking. After an initial rough outing in week 1 against Colorado State in which he threw for 1 TD and 2 picks, Montez has improved steadily over the last two weeks. In the Texas State game, Montez threw for 299 yards with 1 TD through the air and added a rushing TD as well. Last week he delivered his best game of the young season, going 29 for 41 with 357 passing yards, 4 passing TDs and one pick. He also rushed for 68 yards on 10 attempts. I will note that it came against FCS Northern Colorado, but regardless it was a quality performance. So far on the season, Montez has a 68.3% completion rating at the head of an offense that has scored 78 points in their last two games.

Running backs:

See Phillip Lindsay run. See Phillip Lindsay run a lot. Last season, the 5’8” 190 lb. running back ran for 1,252 yards and 16 TDs, while adding nearly 500 receiving yards and a TD catch. If you’re curious, those 16 rushing TDs led the league in 2016. He also saw significant action his freshman and sophomore seasons in Boulder. So far in 2017, Lindsay has 378 rushing yards on 71 touches, for an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Just last week, he had 26 rushes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Oh yeah, he’s also a great pass blocker too. This is Colorado’s 1st and 2nd down back.... and 3rd down back... so he’s their feature back... or workhorse back. Whatever you want to call him, he’s pretty much the only RB they have consistently used this season because the kid can do it all.

After Lindsay, Montez is the next leading rusher on the team with 56 yards on 27 attempts. The remaining 13 touches on the season have been split between two other running backs and a wide receiver. In the event Lindsay were to go down or become unavailable, senior Michael Adkins II would likely take over the starting RB role.

Wide receivers:

Colorado returns nearly all of their receivers from last season. This is a position group featuring excellent talent and depth, headlined by three senior receivers in Shay Fields, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo. Fields led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns last season, while Ross led the team in receptions. What does Bobo bring to the table? He’s a highlight waiting to happen. Really, all three of these guys are.

Fields is a true primary receiver with excellent hands, speed, elusiveness in space and is great getting off the line of scrimmage. He also leads the team in catches and receiving yards this season with 19 and 257, respectively, and is tied for the lead in receiving TDs with two. Ross is the speedster in this lineup and can consistently take the top off of a defense. He keeps safeties honest and helps open up the short and medium passing game for his fellow wideouts. This season, Ross has hauled in 13 receptions with 231 receiving yards, along with one TD. Bobo is the most physical of this group and is dangerous after the catch. Speaking of catches, he’s made SportsCenter Top 10 twice (see “highlight” link above).

There is a bevy of new and returning receiver talent below these three, but I’ll focus on junior Jay MacIntyre. He had 32 receptions for over 400 yards last season, and after a quiet first two games he made his presence known last week with four catches for 53 yards and a TD.

Tight ends:

Colorado seems to rarely use their tight ends in the passing game, instead opting for big bodies who can effectively serve as a sixth offensive lineman, fullback or H-back. With the graduation of last year’s starter, Sean Irwin, senior George Frazier and sophomore Chris Bounds are the two most likely candidates to fill his role. Three weeks into the season, Bounds is the only tight end on the roster with a reception.

Offensive line:

Heading into the season, Colorado fans seemed to be pretty Rocky Mountain high (my bad- just wanted to get that in there at least once) on their offensive line. Now three games in, it’s looking like the potential for greatness is still there, but it appears to be more of a work in progress. The Buffs have surrendered eight sacks in their first three games, but seven of those came in the first two weeks.

What was thought to be a set starting-five heading into week 1 has become a mix and match due to suspensions, injuries and poor play. Based off of last week’s starters, the Huskies will likely face a front including some combination of senior left tackle Jeromy Irwin, senior Gerrad Kough at left guard, senior Jonathan Huckins (presumed) or sophomore Tim Lynott at center, either Lynott (presumed) or sophomore Aaron Haigler at right guard, and Haigler (presumed) or junior Josh Kaiser at right tackle... so as you can see there has been some juggling going on here over the last few weeks. Irwin, who was suspended for the first two games, begins his sixth season at Colorado with 25 starts in his career. Lynott was named a Freshman All-American in 2016 and played the most snaps on the team last season. Kough started 11 games in 2016 and was voted Honorable Mention All-Pac-12. Huckins and Haigler both have some limited starting experience.

Cohesion on the offensive line is paramount to the success of the unit as a whole. With a serious lack of cohesion this season, the Buffs O-line could be a point of weakness for their offense heading into this weekend’s matchup with the Huskies.

Go Dawgs.