The Colorado Buffaloes wrap up the 2022 season on Saturday against the Utah Utes and thus begins the bitter-sweet process of saying goodbye to this year’s seniors.
In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, interim head coach Mike Sanford mentioned each and every senior that will be suiting up as a Buff for the last time this weekend.
The 18 seniors that will be honored on Saturday are Daniel Arias, Robert Barnes, Derek Bedell, Tommy Brown, Josh Chandler-Semedo, Frank Filip, Alex Fontenot, Justin Jackson, Jaylon Jackson, Terrance Lang, Isaiah Lewis, Anthony Lyle, Jamar Montgomery, Quinn Perry, Brady Russell, RJ Sneed, Jaylen Striker, Guy Thomas and Mac Willis.
Speaking after practice on Tuesday, Brady Russell opened up about his feelings for CU, how he’s approaching his final game and what caused the program’s dramatic fall in his time as a Buff.
“[CU] is a place that has shaped me a lot, for better or worse,” Russell said. “I’ve gone through things I’ve loved going through and had moments that I haven’t necessarily loved going through but they’ve shaped me.”
Russell has been experiencing many “lasts” as his CU football career comes to an end but he wants to remain focused on this year’s team until the clock hits triple zeroes this weekend.
“I haven’t even thought once about it, to be honest,” Russell said about his final home game on Saturday. “It will probably be after the season’s over it will hit me. I don’t want to wallow in it, I’m just gonna go out there and play and do what I do every week.”
Since Russell’s redshirt freshman season in 2017, Colorado has gone through five head coaches including interims. Although Russell was not a part of the 10-win 2016 team, he experienced the comedown from that season and spoke about the “cultural damage” Colorado suffered since 2016.
“We had high expectations for [the 2017] season, I think guys got a little too high on their horse after having such a good season [in 2016],” Russell said. “I just think there’s a lot of cultural damage. I think that’s something that is hard to restore, but it can be done and I think we’re on the right track right now. The culture is going in the right direction.”
Anthony Lyle joined the program in 2019 and became a stand-out special teams player for the Buffs starting in 2020. The Lafayette, CO native was the next man to take the podium after Russell following Tuesday’s practice.
“This has been a place that’s helped me progress into the next phases of my life,” Lyle said. “It’s given me the tangible and intangible tools to take on my next journey in life. [CU] means a lot to me, everything to me. It’s shaped me into the person I am today.”
Robert Barnes joined the program in 2021 after spending four seasons at Oklahoma. Last Tuesday before the Washington game, Buffs’ media got to speak with Barnes as his collegiate career was winding down.
“I’m going to start training after the Utah game and whatever God has in store, I’m ready for it,” Barnes said. “Hopefully I get an opportunity somewhere and make the most of it.”
Barnes experienced great team success at Oklahoma and spoke about what Colorado needs in order for the program to get back on top of the conference.
“I think it’s consistency,” Barnes said. “When you look at some of the guys that have been here for a long time, they’ve been through so many head coaches and position changes.”
Barnes was recruited by Bob Stoops but had stability at Oklahoma under head coach Lincoln Riley and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
“Having that level of consistency, you get to build on a scheme, you get to build a relationship with the coaches, you get to continue to develop where you’re at and you don’t constantly have to change within,” Barnes said. “Once that happens and everybody buys in, Colorado football will be great.”
Guard Tommy Brown has one year of eligibility remaining but said at Tuesday’s press conference that he has yet to make a decision.
“I go out for every football game knowing that it could be my last so that’s what I’m going to do again this week,” Brown said.
While Brown ponders his next move, Deion Smith has already made his decision regarding his final year of eligibility.
“I want to play again next season so I want to use my last year of eligibility,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of things that I still want to put on tape to kind of shape or mold the type of player that people see me to be. That being said, I still want to come out here and use another 12 opportunities to show that so, I’m looking forward to coming back.”
With Alex Fontenot wrapping up his Buff career this weekend, look forward to seeing Smith alongside Anthony Hankerson, Charlie Offerdahl and Victor Venn in Colorado’s backfield next season.
Despite how this season has gone and the amount of adversity the coaches and players have had to deal with, coach Sanford has done as good of a job as anyone could have hoped.
Sanford has inserted joy back into the football program and this year’s seniors have played a huge role in that.
As I’ve waited outside Franklin Field or Colorado’s indoor practice facility waiting to talk to coaches and players the last two months of the season, the joy and passion amongst the players is palpable. It’s quite the contrast from the tension and pressure that was apparent during the first month of the season.
Many of these seniors had to field tough questions about on-field performance, their coach’s job and the fallout from last year’s transfer exodus and they did so professionally and with grace all year long.
Everyone wishes that there would have been more success and less turbulence surrounding the program but this year’s seniors are a special group that will make Buff Nation proud today and long into the future.