Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Year of the Freshman: End of September Update

A third of the season has already passed us by, and I think it's high time to catch up with the progress of the massive freshman class

13 true freshman have seen the field this season, many of them making a large impact. There have been contributions from redshirt freshman (particularly Nelson Spruce), but I'm primarily focused on the true frosh; the ones who have only been in Boulder for two months at this point.  More could still play as the season progresses, and the roster continues to be shuffled due to performance and injury.  For now, however, these are the lucky 13 to have received playing time.  Below the fold, I'll go through each of the kids who have seen the field, emphasizing their statistical impact.

Click below...

Heavy Action/Key Performer

These three have been in the action hot and heavy since opening kickoff against CSU.  They spend most downs on the field, and are key parts of the gameplan every week.

Christian Powell - FB/TB: The biggest surprise for Powell hasn't been his playing time, it's been his role.  The 3-star fullback recruit has seen very little time at his high school position, having instead been installed as the starting tailback since the second game against Sacramento St.  The effect was immediate: 154 rushing yards and three scores (tying the record for most single-game touchdowns by a freshman) in his tailback debut.  He would follow it up with strong, if not explosive performances against Fresno St and Washington St (121 total yards on 33 carries). Powell has also been responsible for 12 first downs (second most on the team).  To date, he leads all offensive players in total yards gained (followed closely by redshirt freshman wide-out Nelson Spruce).
The big guy announced his presence with authority with his 64-yard TD scamper on his second play as a RB.
I previously joked that Powell was no Lawrence Vickers.  While he hasn't kicked any punters in the face (... yet), the big kid from Upland has proven to be a solid run threat (producing more, earlier than LV did), and provides a nice change of pace from the corps of lighter, faster tailbacks.  He's become the bruising back that CU hasn't had since Demetrius Summler left the program.  Wish he was an established TB option for those goal-line plays against the Rams...

Kenneth Crawley - CB: You talk about being thrown to the wolves...  Lined up opposite true sophomore Greg Henderson, Crawley has seen the second-most plays of any defensive player on the roster, having been on the field for 283 of CU's 286 defensive snaps this season.  He's also been the primary punt return option. The results have been mostly mixed, as the DC product continues to learn on the job.
Crawley has been picked on early, but continues to fight.
Opposing QB's have been licking their chops and picking on the kid with reckless abandon.  As a result, KC has been racking up eight tackles per game.  It's been ugly at times, with the WSU game in particular coming to mind, but you can see improvement from game to game.  The DB's who came to CU in the class of 2012 wanted playing time, and they're getting it early and often.

Yuri Wright - CB: I wouldn't say Yuri is fortunate to not have been chosen the starter, as every kid wants to play as much as possible, but Yuri hasn't been nearly as exposed as his fellow freshman DB Crawley.  Wright made one start, against Sac St due to an injury to Greg Henderson, but for the most part has been delegated to nickel package duty.  As such, he doesn't have nearly the tackle/defensive stats that KC does (9 total tackles in 140 plays).  I look forward to him becoming more involved as the season progresses.

Second Option/Slightly Less Action

Not utilized as heavily as the three mentioned above, these three have, none-the-less, been making names for themselves through strong performances from the second-level on the depth chart.

Josh Tupou - DT: After receiving plenty of preseason hype, the big man has settled into his role as second option on the inside of the D-line.  While not first choice, he has been getting plenty of run, seeing the field for 125 plays through four games.  With 15 tackles, two for loss on the season, he's played a solid, if not explosive, brand of DT.
I love this picture of Tupou...
Marques Mosley - DB:

Of all the freshmen to have seen the field this fall, Mosley has produced the best story of dedication and effort.
The true freshman defensive back suffered a sprained MCL early in the Fresno State game and kept playing. At halftime, the knee stiffened and his night was over.  Only it wasn't.  "He went back out there and he wasn't supposed to be out there. So I had to call a timeout and get him off the field," Embree said of Mosley. "And he was crying. He was upset. Because it's important to him." -link
Mosley has the "Heart of a Buffalo."
This kid has already proven he has the heart of a Buffalo, and it's only been a month. Besides his work in the defensive backfield (13 tackles and a pass breakup in 137 plays), he's also a primary contributor as a kick returner (7 for 159 yards).

Gerald Thomas - WR:  With the season-ending injury to Paul Richardson, Thomas has emerged as the primary speed threat from the wide receiver position.  His nine catches are enough for 3rd on the team, and, combined with a few end-around carries, has totaled 164 yards from scrimmage to start the season.

Limited Action/Special Teams Performer

I could easily see these guys becoming stronger contributors as the season goes on, but, so far, their impact has been limited to spot duty, or larger roles on special teams.

Justin Solis - DT: I saw him on the field a little more in Pullman, but has seemed to be third choice at DT.  On the plus side, has seven total tackles and a pass-broken-up in only 48 plays.

Vincent Hobbs - TE: The emergence of Nick Kasa and the continuance of Kyle Slavin as reliable pass-catching TE options has reduced his projected role.  So far, the big Texan has only hauled in one 14-yard grab over three games of action.

Donta Abron - RB/KR:  Has made the most kickoff returns on the squad, gaining 136 yards on eight attempts.  In the regular course of offensive action, the reserve tailback has six rushes for 12 yards, and two catches for four yards.  He's seen a bit of the field, but has yet to produce a really strong impression

Jeffrey Hall - DB/KR:  The young DB out of Louisiana has mostly been a force on special teams.  Through four games he has compiled eight "special teams points," tied for second-most on the team.  Additionally, he has returned four kickoff for 113 yards, equaling the best average on the team.

Very Limited Action.

These guys have ripped off their redshirts, yet haven't seen much of the field.

Jeromy Irwin - OL:  He played in 11 snaps towards the end of the Fresno St game. Graded out at 64%

Tyler Hennington - DT: He has only seen 18 plays on defense, recording two assisted tackles in the process. 

Samson Kafovalu - DL: Has been on the field for 26 plays, but has yet to record a tackle.


Even in the darkest days after the Fresno St, the line was that this group's performance/improvement was providing a bright spot.   As this is a rebuilding project, growth is key, and the more live game action these players get, the more they'll develop, and the more BuffNation will be able to get a feel for the future direction of the program.  I look forward to much more from not only these 13, but the entirety of the 2012 freshman class.

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