The Colorado Buffaloes will be without Travis Hunter for the foreseeable future after he took a vicious late hit in Saturday’s 43-35 win over Colorado State. While the Buffs will be without their superstar two-way player for at least the next week or more, Alton McCaskill has shed his gold non-contact jersey and could be the boost Colorado needs to establish their running game.
“He’s able to be hit, he’s ready,” said Coach Prime at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
McCaskill was one of the best freshman running backs in the entire country for the Houston Cougars in 2021. He tore his ACL during spring practices in 2022 and has been eased back into action since his arrival at CU in May.
Through three games, Colorado has one of the worst rushing attacks in the country and is only averaging 61 yards rushing per game despite averaging 41.3 points per game. Shedeur Sanders has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the country and has been the driving force that has made Colorado one of the most dangerous offenses in college football.
McCaskill is a true three-down back and should not only help provide a spark to Colorado’s ground game but could be an asset in blitz pick-up and pass protection for Shedeur.
Wide receiver Javon Antonio has also shed his gold non-contact jersey and appears ready to play after injuring his shoulder in the leadup to Colorado’s season opener against TCU. Center Van Wells also returned to practice this week and was running with the first-team offense in Thursday’s Well Off Media video.
Offensively, Colorado should see little to no drop-off in terms of production. On the defensive side of the ball, replacing Travis Hunter is much easier said than done.
“The plan at corner is corner by committee,” said Coach Prime.
Travis Jay and Jahquez Robinson have returned to practice and should be receiving in-game action sooner rather than later. However, the status of Carter Stourmire and Myles Slusher remains unclear.
Cormani McClain has yet to receive any defensive snaps for CU’s defense. Coach Prime was asked what is holding the 2023 five-star recruit back from game action on Tuesday.
“He is,” said Coach Prime.
Expect Omarion Cooper and Kyndrich Breedlove to be the starting corners with Cam’Rom Silmon in the nickel.
Defensive coordinator Charles Kelly spoke after practice on Wednesday about his familiarity with Bo Nix after playing against Nix when the quarterback was at Auburn and Kelly was at Alabama.
“I’ve known Bo since he was born, I’ve watched him grow up,” said Kelly. “His dad is one of my best friends in the world and we’ve coached at three different schools together. [Bo Nix} is a good all-around athlete. When we played him at Auburn he was one of the better athletes on their team. Dan and [Oregon] have done a really good job of developing him.”
Nix has yet to turn the ball over this season but he will be facing a Colorado defense that is tied with three other teams for the most turnovers forced through Week 3. Safeties Shilo Sanders, Trevor Woods and Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig each have two turnovers thus far and have solidified the pre-season belief that Colorado’s safeties are one of the deepest and most talented on the team. Shilo spoke after practice on Tuesday about the talent of CU’s secondary.
“You guys think we did so good, but we’re like ‘man, we left so much,’ I want to say we could have probably had two each,” said Sanders. “Every game there’s always room for improvement and our defense, we just get to that ball. That’s what we specialize in just hustling, playing fast and it shows up.”
Sanders has spoke about his admiration for Coach Kelly throughout the off-season and on Wednesday, Coach Kelly shared what makes Sanders such a special player.
“He’s a very intelligent young man and very competitive,” said Coach Kelly. “His personality competitiveness is very similar to Bo. The thing that separates him is how much he studies and how much he prepares. Some of the plays he made [on Saturday], he anticipated those plays.”
Sanders spoke after Saturday’s win over Colorado State about how he and Coach Kelly watched tape of former Alabama Crimson Tide safety, Jordan Battle having a pick-six similar to Sanders’ against CSU.
The Buffs enter Saturday’s game as a 21-point underdog to the #10 Oregon Ducks. After back-to-back rivalry weeks, Colorado will face their toughest test yet. The build-up to Saturday’s game feels somewhat similar to the build-up of TCU. No one is giving the Buffs a chance on the road against a top-25 team. While it is nearly impossible to make up for the loss of Travis Hunter, the reinforcements are beginning to arrive.
It’s Colorado vs. Everyone once again this weekend, the Buffs are on the quest for respect. Coach Prime has CU refocused and reloaded to shock the nation and put the Pac-12 on notice in Eugene this Saturday.