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Colorado messes with Texas, re-opens essential pipeline

Sam Weaver Avatar
February 6, 2017

 

BOULDER – The Colorado Buffaloes finished the 2016 season 10-4, securing a Pac-12 South title and earning their first bowl game appearance since 2007. In head coach Mike MacIntyre’s fourth year, the Buffs’ put together a historic run, shocking their conference and taking the college football rankings by storm. Colorado’s rise to a top 10 program helped to usher in a new era of recruiting for the Buffaloes, paving the way for success in the years to come.

Colorado’s jump from the Pac-12 basement to national prominence has opened new doors as they look to build their program for the future. Players that had once seemed out of reach for the Buffs were suddenly in play, particularly recruits from the football-centric state that is Texas.

“We wanted to get in Texas but we weren’t having a lot of success,” MacIntyre said, “and then Darrin [Chiaverini] came from Texas Tech and made up in-roads there, so he had some connections.”

In addition to new lanes of influence opened by Colorado’s co-offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator Chiaverini, the Buffs also increased their physical presence in Texas.

“We decided to put five guys in Texas instead of three,” said MacIntyre. “And narrowed down some other areas because we thought that would be a hot bed for us and sure enough it worked out well. A lot of that was Darrin suggesting that change, so that was a big part of it.”

The state of Texas boasts plenty of top-tier programs that hope to hold on to their homegrown prospects, including the University of Texas to Baylor, Texas Tech, the rising University of Houston and plenty more. Drawing the highest-ranked recruits out of state is tough for any program, but a bolstered reputation for Colorado seemed to do the trick, as the Buffs nabbed eight Texas players for their 2017 class.

Among those signees was help for the Buffs’ disruptive defense. Javier Edwards, a junior college transfer from Blinn College who MacIntyre called “a little guy, about 6’3, 350 (pounds)” will shore up a dominant defensive line from 2016 that lost several pieces. MacIntyre called the defensive tackle a “phenomenal player, [who] will really help us inside.”

Colorado’s secondary, losing seniors Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon, will get a boost with cornerback Chris Miller from Denton, TX. “[Miller] is a guy who, with our secondary losing some guys, he has the tools to come in and play as a freshman,” MacIntyre said. “He has a 41 inch vertical, which is exceptional. He has long arms, great ball skills and is extremely fast.”

The Buffs’ offensive line could receive immediate help from Denton, TX, with Grant Polley. “He’s big and powerful, he’s built ready to play,” said MacIntyre. “We’ll hopefully see what he can do right when he gets here. I believe he’ll be ready to compete to play.” The O-line will also benefit from the experience of Allen, TX, guard Will Sherman. “He plays tackle, guard, can play center, and he’s very athletic,” said MacIntyre. The Buffs’ head coach also spoke highly of the program that Sherman comes from, saying “it’s Friday Night Lights. They average 22,000 people per game [at Allen High School].”

Colorado’s depth of offensive weapons has also drastically improved thanks to Texas prospects, as the Buffs pulled in three new receivers and a running back from the state. Three-star wideout Jaylon Jackson was dubbed an “athletic, very fast young man” by MacIntyre. He joins the Buffaloes from an impressive program in Cedar Hill, TX. Running back Alex Fontenot, from Richmond, TX, fits the bill for the next generation of running back at Colorado. “We were looking for a running back that had a little bit of size and some speed,” said MacIntyre. “Alex is one of those guys.”

Two of the Buffs’ new wideouts, K.D. Nixon and Laviska Shenault, come from the same school in DeSoto, TX. MacIntyre spoke highly of their program, saying “they were loaded and they played great football in an unbelievable atmosphere.” MacIntyre also noted that the two players “are not the same type of receiver, so it’s not like they’re going to be competing against each other.” Both will bolster the Buffs’ explosive receiving corps in the years to come.

The ability to pull top-tier recruits from states like Texas could shift the future of Colorado Football, propelling the program into the upper echelon of NCAA play. Competing with Pac-12 rivals like USC and Washington becomes much easier when the Buffs’ roster mirrors the talent of their rivals. In college football, winning seasons beget winning rosters. Without their success in 2016, the Buffs may have risked losing some of their recruited talent. “What the season did,” MacIntyre said, “is it solidified those guys.”

For the first time in MacIntyre’s tenure at Colorado, the Buffs had some difficult decisions to make.

“We had to turn away some really good football players,” MacIntyre said, “which we really haven’t had to do in the past. And I mean really good football players.”

If their success continues through next season, the Buffs will have more tough calls to make.

“We’ve already got commitments for next year, so we’ve got to make sure we’re making the right decisions,” MacIntyre said. “You’re making the best decisions for your program and what your needs are.”

Texas continues to represent the best of the best in college football recruiting, with programs that groom athletes from a young age. Colorado will continue to push for talent from Texas schools, already highlighting it as a priority for 2018. The program’s resurgence and the intangible draw of Boulder will help the Buffs build the best team possible.

“The fun thing about recruiting the kids from Texas is they get here and can’t stop talking about the mountains because you can see for forever in Texas,” said MacIntyre, laughing. “I think when they see that it blows them away and the beauty of it. The key is to get them here. Every school says that but you get them here, it is just different from a lot of places, it’s spectacular.”

Colorado finished National Signing Day ranked first in most improved recruiting for any NCAA football program. The impact of these Texas recruits is a tribute to Colorado’s dominant season, and a preview of recruiting classes to come. After years of trying to break into the market, Colorado is certainly ready for Texas-sized contributions from these star signees.

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