The quarterback situation at Colorado has been a mess all season. Brendon Lewis was set to start again this year, but was replaced by J.T. Shrout approximately 45 minutes into the season, who himself was replaced by true freshman Owen McCown after just two starts. Lewis has since entered the transfer portal and McCown got hurt against UCLA. Enter Shrout.
J.T. Shrout has a strong enough arm and good size at 6-3, 220 pounds. He transferred in from Tennessee and if you’re looking for positives, quarterbacks without arm talent usually won’t land at an SEC school. That said, there is no sugar coating it, he and the entire offense are having a miserable season. He’s completing 45% (!) of his passes for 5.9 yards per attempt, with 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He can put some velocity behind his passes, and shows trust in his receivers. But, he also will make some alarmingly poor throws, which have lead him to get benched.
The best unit on the offense has to be the running backs, where Colorado has a few solid options. Deion Smith is the top choice and has been out the past two weeks injured, but he is expected to play this weekend. The 6-0, 190 pound junior shows good balance and the ability to make quick cuts, and is probably the fastest running back on the team. He has 75 rushes for 381 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also leads all running backs in catches, with 10.
RB Alex Fontenot took his 20 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown last week at USC. Even with Smith back, he will feature prominently in the rotation. He’s a good between the tackles runner with vision and patience. True freshman Anthony Hankerson is second on the team with 54 carries, and averages a perfectly average 4.0 yards per carry. He’s 5-9, 190 pounds, but runs hard up the middle like a power back.
Colorado got some bad news when they lost WR Jordyn Tyson for the year against Oregon. Even after missing the USC game, he still is the statistical leader in every receiving category. WR Daniel Arias is the next leading receiver with 19 catches for 309 yards and a touchdown. The 6-4 Arias has some speed and excels running go routes and using his size to make contested sideline catches. WR Montana Lemonius-Craig also has good size at 6-2 and has 264 yards from his 20 receptions. Lastly, TE Brady Russell is a reliable short range option, averaging 7.5 yards per catch. He’s a local product who has been with the program forever, amassing 32 starts among the 42 games in which he’s appeared.
OC Mike Sanford replaced fired HC Karl Dorrell and is now interim coach. Even with Karl Dorrell out of the picture, the offense has played the same. From a play calling standpoint, they are pretty much 50/50 between the run and pass. Despite the only not-awful part of this offense being the running backs, they put a lot on Shrout’s shoulders. It’s a very multiple approach that requires the signal caller to adjust at the line of scrimmage to what the defense is showing. According to QB Brendon Lewis during spring practice: “Everybody sort of runs the same stuff but with different terminology, but it’s a bit of a change. There’s more emphasis on the quarterback being able to check plays off certain looks.”
Like last year’s Washington team, everything just looks hard for Colorado. The running backs are solid but the blocking just isn’t consistently there. The receivers have to make spectacular catches to keep drives alive as Shrout’s accuracy is lacking at the moment. There’s some talent, but the scheme is not one that typically works in college without a very gifted and cerebral quarterback.
The Buffaloes average 15.7 points and 299 total yards per game, which no matter which you slice it, is awful. Their EPA pass rank is 124th, meaning they are almost entirely ineffective throwing the ball. By far the best part about this team is the run game, which ranks 81st in EPA, which should tell you all you need to know. They somehow managed to score 34 points against Arizona State (caveat: special teams touchdown), but have not eclipsed 20 points in any other game this season. They are worse than the 2021 Washington offense by nearly an entire touchdown, which should be considered a war crime.
This Husky defense has had its ups and downs, but this a level of offensive ineptitude Washington should be more than able to handle. They are coming off an emotional win against Oregon - and could be looking ahead to the Apple Cup - but on senior night in Husky Stadium against a team that just wants it all to be over? Expect Colorado to have a performance against this defense no different to any that they’ve showed all year.