Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The year of the freshman

It's the year of the freshman in the CU athletic department.  I'm not talking redshirt freshmen, either. I'm talking farm-fresh true freshmen, the kind who still have to ask for directions to find "the Hill."

Over in the basketball program, Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, and the rest of the Super Six have already started making waves through their play on the court.  Scott, especially, has been impressive, finishing the recent 5-game European exhibition trip as the team's leading scorer.  Yet, even as great as Scott and crew may be for Tad Boyle's defending conference champions, it's the freshmen on the football side that may have the largest athletic impact this school year. 


On defense, there's plenty of new faces to use at positions of need as the coaching staff threw a whopping 13 scholarships at both the defensive backfield and line.  The backfield, especially, was in sore need of instant impact from the newcomers, and at least two will see immediate playing time.  4-star corner prospect Kenneth Crawley appears to be the real deal, and will probably be the opening day starter opposite returning vet Gerald Henderson.  Fellow 4-star Yuri Wright seems to be in-line for some nickel/dime work in addition to spelling the two starters.  The pair have turned around what was a gaping hole last year, leading Coach Embree to comment "It's funny, we go out there now and we're getting two or three interceptions a day.  Last year, that would be a month. (Coach Brown's) got those guys playing."   I'd call that impact.
Look for Mr Crawley to make a statement at corner.  From: the BDC
On the line, the big, and I mean big, story appears to be DT Josh Tupou.  Listed at 6-3 325, the mountain-as-freshman has been the talk of practice recently, and figures to get more than a few snaps at the start of the season.  Also on the D-Line, expect to see contributions from players like DT Justin Solis, and DE Samson Kafovalu. 
Tupou is a big, bad dude who could make a difference right away.  From: the BDC
Offensively, the team is looking to replace some major pieces from last year's unit. Offensive line is locked down with returning veterans, and the QB race has been won by veteran transfer Jordan Webb, but skill positions will see plenty of fresh faces.  With P-Rich still sidelined as he recovers from his ACL tear, a player like Gerald Thomas should see some early action at WR.  Coach Embree was quoted at media day saying "he has it," and his speed would be a welcome addition on the edge.  In the backfield, while returning sophomore Tony Jones is the starter, newcomers Donta Abron and Terrance Crowder have both put themselves in a position for outside shots at being his backup.
Gerald Thomas brings needed speed to the edge.  From: The BDC
A primary focus of the offensive coaching staff has been a return to a power-style run game.  To facilitate that, a lot of recruiting focus was paid to improving both the fullback and tight end spots.  Regardless of how the tailback shuffle shakes out, the man clearing the way for them will most likely be a true true freshman.  Christian Powell has been turning heads, even garnering a comparison to the great Lawrence Vickers (which, despite my tongue-in-cheek dismissal, says a lot), and is quickly becoming a fan favorite before having even seen the field.  Competing with Powell for playing time is another newcomer, Colorado native Clay Norgard.  Covering the tackles, the starting TE spot will probably go to senior Nick Kasa, but the freshman trio of Vincent Hobbs, Sean Irwin, and Austin Ray could also be in the mix.  Hobbs, especially, should see plenty of the field early.
Christian Powell is making the fullback position one to watch once again.  From: the BDC
With the special teams, a unit where you usually see immediate contributions from first-year players, there will be plenty of freshmen running around on opening day.  The return game has seen a steady decline in recent years, with slow, under-sized walk-ons getting preferred roles under the old coaching regime.  Hoping to change that are speedy newcomers like Kenneth Crawley, Jeffrey Hall and Marques Mosley, and Gerald Thomas.  Mosley seems a shoe-in for plenty of action, as he returned a kickoff for a 100-yard score in a recent scrimmage.  In addition to their roles at regular positions, their presence in the kicking game could give the Buffs an edge in the field position battle for the first time in years.


It's not every year that a program can have this many freshman come in and make serious bids for "impact" status before they've even taken their first class.  Hell, to even have one per class is a sign that you're grabbing quality.  It's both a testament to recruiting improvement, and of how desperate the personnel situation in Boulder had become that we're seeing this many kids make honest bids to not only play right away, but be relied upon in their first collegiate minutes.

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