Rashaan Salaam, Eric Bieniemy, Chris Brown and Phillip Lindsay headline a long list of Colorado running back greats.
The Buffs may have their next in Alton McCaskill.
The former Houston Cougar was one of the best true freshmen in the country during the 2021 season as he produced 1074 all-purpose yards on 210 touches for 18 touchdowns. While he was only ranked the 27th best running back according to 247Sports 2021 Composite rankings, it took him two games before he took over as Houston's starting running back.
McCaskill sat out the 2022 season after suffering a torn ACL during spring practice before entering the transfer portal and committing to Colorado. How he's fully healthy and adding him to Coach Prime's roster gives Colorado one of the best running back rooms in the Pac-12 coming into the 2023 season.
From the moment McCaskill committed to Colorado, he became the Buffs' lead back ready to contribute in every facet of the offense.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds on Houston's 2022 roster, McCaskill was also a track star at Oak Ridge High School running a 10.91s 100-meter dash. He has a special combination of size, speed and strength that not only make him a force when running or catching the ball but also when asked to block in the pass or run game.
This is Alton McCaskill. Patience to hit the hole, a burst to daylight while breaking arm tackles along the way and forcing the defense to tackle him with multiple players.
While he is a disciplined, patient runner who allows plays to develop, McCaskill also has great vision and instincts to bounce runs outside the intended hole instantly.
Houston had a great team in 2021. Their offensive line does the majority of the work on this play but McCaskill has the ability to rip off large chunks of yardage on any given play. In 2021, he had 29 explosive runs (runs of 10+ yards).
This was McCaskill's first career touchdown. I've got to mention the great play design by Shannon Dawson who is now Miami's offensive coordinator. Colorado's newest running back shows a great play fake and then natural hands down the field to stroll into the end zone untouched.
Want him to be your lead blocker on a jet sweep or end around for Dylan Edwards or Jimmy Horn? McCaskill can do that for offensive coordinator Sean Lewis with no problem.
How about staying in the backfield to protect Sheduer Sanders against the blitz so the offense can go downfield? He checks that box as well.
Colorado fans would like to see McCaskill keep his head up if he's going to block faceup, but when you're a 215-pound back you're used to absorbing contact with ease.
Whatever the situation or play call may ask for, Alton McCaskill can be relied on to be on the field for Colorado at any point in 2023. He is a true, complete three-down back.
"McCaskill breaks free!"
Watching McCaskill run the football makes you hold your breath, waiting to see what else he is capable of and if the next play is when he is let loose.
2021 was Houston's best season since 2015 and McCaskill's playmaking ability was a huge reason why. That year McCaskill set a Houston freshman record for touchdowns in a season with 16.
The stop-start ability and patience McCaskill displays behind the line of scrimmage is not only a prime showcase of #22's discipline and natural ability, but it's also how he can turn a short gain into a touchdown. The left side of Houston's offensive line flat-out loses at the line of scrimmage but it gives McCaskill a crease to slam on the gas and score.
Houston is just trying to keep the clock running so they can get out of Louisiana and on their way back to Texas but McCaskill's strength and contact balance keep him upright to allow his speed to take another run to paydirt.
This play probably results in a negative gain for most freshman running backs. McCaskill finds the hole regardless and sprints through multiple arm tackles for a house call against Tulsa.
East Carolina already knows another McCaskill run is coming on first down as they commit hard to the top of the screen off of Houston's inside zone action. But McCaskill immediately diagnoses the flow of the defense and cuts back before bulldozing his way into the end zone in what would be the game-winning touchdown.
He may not be as fast as Dylan Edwards or Jimmy Horn, but if you give the former Cougar an alley to run through, McCaskill can turn on the burners and erase angles.
Long story short for these two teams in 2021; UConn was awful and Houston was pretty good. That McCaskill kid is pretty good too.
The latest starting offensive player added to Colorado's roster is a game-changer. The pieces are there for Sean Lewis to create and lead one of the Pac-12's most lethal offenses this fall. Now that Colorado has a dynamic, all-conference running back in McCaskill along with the threat of the passing game with Sheduer Sanders, Travis Hunter, Jimmy Horn, Xavier Weaver and company; the improvement in the Buffs' offensive talent this upcoming season compared to last year's is astronomical.
Short yardage monster
At this point, it goes without saying, McCaskill will lead the way for Colorado's power run game moving forward.
It's not just his size, strength and burst but his patience, vision and football intelligence that makes him so reliable. Sure, he could be a very good short-yardage back by utilizing his size and bowling ahead for as many yards as he can physically get. But watch how deliberate he is when he breaks for the line of scrimmage in the cut-up below.
It's evident in all the runs above, but the final run of the cut-up proves how smart and natural of a football player McCaskill is.
Colorado has a trio of hardnosed running backs who will scratch and claw for every yard in McCaskill, Kavosiey Smoke and Anthony Hankerson. It's worth noting that despite his stature, Charlie Offerdahl also fits this bill. Those three backs all could provide short yardage and goal-line duties for Colorado's running game but the Houston native is clearly different.