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Opponent Q&A: Talking Colorado Buffaloes Football

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How is Mel Tucker’s young team progressing this season?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Nebraska at Colorado Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Earlier this week I talked with Jack Barsch (@JackBarsch), writer for the SBN blog The Ralphie Report regarding the Colorado football team. Here’s what we learned in our Q&A:

UWDP: Quarterback Steven Montez has completed 63% of his passes this season for just under seven yards per attempt. How would you assess his play this season? He has been sacked just 14 times, four of which came against UCLA. How has the pass protection been?

Jack Barsch: Steven Montez, like the rest of his career, has been up and down this season. He has absolutely won some games for CU this year, but he has also been lackluster compared to expectations coming in. He completes 63% of his passes, but he also panics around the red zone and loves to throw it downfield as much as possible. He has been an average to above-average QB, but he has been the same player for a while now.

Stanford v Colorado
Senior QB Steven Montez has thrown for over 300 yards 13 times in his CU career.

As for the pass protection, it has been much improved this year. Part of that is the addition of Arlington Hambright at LT and the development of a young offensive line. But the addition of Chris Kapilovic at OL coach has been a huge boon for the offense.

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UWDP: Laviska Shenault has 45 receptions so far this season after reeling in 86 balls a year ago. Has he been healthy this season? Who else can we expect to step up in the passing game for Montez?

Jack: Laviska has been injured for pretty much the entirety of the 2019 season, partly because of how much he was used last year. Shenault has still been used heavily on offense, but not as heavy as some fans would like, presumably to keep him fresh. You will see Laviska on Saturday, just not as often as you might expect. In his stead, Tony Brown has really stepped up and delivered. He is solid, reliable, and consistently gets behind the defense.

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UWDP: Tell us about the two-pronged rushing attack with Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham. How is each used, and describe their running style. Is Montez still a dangerous running threat? How has the offensive line performed in the running game?

Jack: Fontenot is the feature back in this offense, a position he has earned by being really solid all year. Alex is a hard runner that always falls forward, and he always seems to slither through cracks in the middle of the line. He can catch well out of the backfield, also. Jaren Mangham, despite being younger, is the bigger sledgehammer. Mangham has quick feet for his big size, and he has great outside speed. Jaren will be used to spell Alex and closer to the goal line, where his big frame can be used to run over defenders. Montez has been running a lot more recently and is absolutely still a running threat. He has an innate sense on when to take off, and even on designed runs, he can get to the corner easily.

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UWDP: How is the fanbase feeling about Mel Tucker and the job he has done in his first year as the Buffs’ head coach.

Jack: The fanbase is almost entirely on board, as you can tell by the attendance numbers. He has injected a lot of excitement in the fanbase because the difference in the team attitude is obvious. The team is tougher now than it was previously. A rash of injuries and a frankly disappointing offense has led to a disappointing record at this point, but I don’t think anyone is skeptical of Tucker just yet.

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UWDP: Colorado ranks 100th in the nation in scoring defense and 119th in total defense. Have they looked as bad as the numbers indicate? Has there been improvement? Who are some key defenders to watch?

Jack: Short answer to your first two questions is yes. This defense, who is currently starting two true freshmen as starting corners, is young, learning a new system, and not equipped to handle a lot of things they are seeing. This defense, led by Tyson Summers, gives up almost any pass that the opposing team tries. They’ve improved, but it’s still a massive work in progress.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Colorado at UCLA
Senior linebacker Davion Taylor has 51 solo tackles on the season.

at the hybrid LB/S position has really come on strong in recent weeks. He is an NFL-caliber athlete who is starting to figure it out mentally. Also look for S Mikial Onu on the back end, he takes a lot of chances and makes a lot of plays.

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UWDP: What is your prediction for Saturday?

Jack: I think Washington cruises on Saturday. They are the team that Mel Tucker is trying to emulate, but Chris Petersen has obviously already rebuilt the Huskies. Jacob Eason will likely dice this team up in the cold November air and I can’t see this offense succeeding too much against Washington’s front.

Thanks, Jack. Be sure to check out The Ralphie Report for more on the game from the CU point of view.