Ashaad Clayton is a Buff.
The four-star running back out of New Orleans signed his letter of intent Wednesday morning, locking in his future as a Colorado Buffalo. Clayton initially committed to Colorado in November but took official visits to Kansas and Florida in the months since, which sparked doubt that Clayton’s heart was set on CU.
“He was committed to us and he stuck with his commitment,” Mel Tucker told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “He really bought into our coaching staff and the culture that we’re building here and the type of team that we want to have. He is real big on trust, and he trusts that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Nabbing Clayton is a massive win for Colorado’s coaching and recruiting staffs. Clayton is a Top-20 running back in the country and the second-highest rated recruit to sign with the Buffs in the last eight classes.
It’s even more impressive that they pulled him in from across the country in Louisiana, rather than from Colorado’s traditional recruiting grounds.
“It doesn’t really matter to me where he is or who else is recruiting him,” Tucker said. “We have confidence in our program that we can sign players like Ashaad, from places like Louisiana. Kordell Stewart is a New Orleans guy and was a great player here. It has been done before. Louisiana is a place that has a lot of good football players with tremendous upside, and he is one of them. Recruiting against those SEC schools is the world I have been in for the last four or five years, so that is nothing new to me.”
To put it more simply:
“We are not going to get those caliber of players if we don’t go after them. They are not just going to drop in your lap. You have to go out there and recruit them.”
This fall, Clayton will compete for a spot in the Buffs’ running back rotation and is a favorite to handle a significant workload. Tucker hasn’t been shy about playing young players and said that he won’t be afraid to put 18-year-olds on the field this fall, during a radio appearance on the Pac-12 Network Wednesday morning.
Tucker told local reporters that he thinks that’s one of the reasons Clayton picked CU.
“He knows that he has an opportunity to play right away,” Tucker said. “We’re going to play the best players, and obviously play multiple backs. That is something that appealed to him.”
At 6-feet-tall and 200 pounds, Clayton has the build to see the field immediately, though he’ll likely add another 20 pounds over the course of his time in Boulder. He’s a physical back who can brush off tacklers when they can’t wrap him up with both arms. Plus, he has some wiggle and plus straight-line speed.
That’s what it takes to be regarded as one of the top backs in the nation and, likely, the top back signed by any Pac-12 school in this recruiting cycle.
Clayton put up 231 yards and 3.8 touchdowns per game during his five-game playoff run this fall. He also averaged over 10 yards per carry.
Here’s what that looks like:
Junior Alex Fontenot and sophomore Jaren Mangham were the lead backs in 2019 and will likely retain their roles this season. Sophomores Deion Smith, Joe Davis and Jarek Broussard could also put up a fight for playing time. Freshman bruiser Jayle Stacks could even be used situationally.
As it stands now though, Fontenot, Mangham and Clayton figure to be the top three in some order. It could be an even three-way split of the reps, or it could be weighted with up to two-thirds of the reps going to one of the three.
Clayton’s strengths lie in his ability to hit a hole hard. He fits best in a power running scheme where acceleration to the point of attack and physicality once you get there are the more important trates than patience and vision.
He runs violently and if his tackle-breaking ability translates from to the Pac-12 level immediately, there’s a clear path for Clayton to take over the starting job at some point during the 2020 season. His floor is as a five-touch-per-game weapon for the Buffs’ offense.
His role may grow over the course of his freshman season.
Whatever happens in 2020, expect Clayton to be a big part of Colorado’s for the next, as he put it in his signing day speech, “three or four years.”
Tucker is bought in.
“We feel like he is a difference-maker type of back,” he said. “We identify guys early, guys that we know can help this program, help build it the right way toward a championship football team. He is one of those guys.”