Buffs Position Preview: CU Wideouts Show Early Promise
BOULDER — An argument could be made that over the last several years, expectations have exceeded production at the Colorado Buffaloes' wide receiver.
But this year, despite losing two of their top three wideouts from last year, there's a quiet feeling of optimism in the Buffs' wide receivers room.
This could be the year that CU's wideouts flip the script — a year in which expectations might not be big, but the production could be steady and consistent.
For starters, the Buffs didn't lose all of their production at wide receiver from last year. Senior Daniel Arias, who has shown flashes of big-play ability over the last couple of seasons, appears ready to add consistency to his repertoire. Arias has 29 career catches for 441 yards and three scores, including 19-for-237 last year, third-best on the team.
"I can tell you right now he's not the same player you guys have seen in the last few years," head coach Karl Dorrell said recently. "He's a hell of a football player."
Arias' improvement is not coincidental. It has come with the arrival of new wide receivers/assistant head coach Phil McGeoghan, who has quickly had an impact on the entire group. His arrival coincided with that of new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, and McGeoghan has quickly instituted an environment of sound fundamentals and execution.
Those traits will be a key part of CU's new offense, especially when it comes to staying one step ahead of opposing defenses and giving Colorado's wideouts the best opportunity possible to make plays.
"There's all these different variations of formations and motions and shifts that are going to allow us to give great multiplicity to the defense but keep it simple for us," McGeoghan said. "We just have to do a great job of making it easy for us and difficult for the defense to adjust."
Refining those skills, McGeoghan said, will be critical for Colorado's wide receivers as they progress through the second week of training camp.
Arias is by no means the only threat among CU's wide receivers. Last spring, Colorado added graduate transfer R.J. Sneed, who averaged more than 500 yards and 40 catches in his last three seasons at Baylor. The Buffs also have a talented group of young returnees, including Montana Lemonious-Craig, Chase Penry and Ty Robinson; and several incoming freshmen have made a rapid impression, most notably Jordyn Tyson, a long, lean speedster from Allen, Texas.
Sneed has been hampered by injuries this fall, and likely won't be back to full speed until late August/early September.
But, McGeoghan said, Sneed is still making an impression with his leadership and communication skills. "He's a great student of the game," McGeoghan said. "His overall coverage awareness allows him to play fast and with anticipation."
Tyson has been one of the early pleasant surprises in camp, quickly gaining notice and earning some practice reps with the top two offensive units in team drills.
McGeoghan said his job will be to become even more demanding of Tyson and help him develop his abilities to the fullest extent.
"If you have a great amount of talent, then I'm going to be even a more demanding position coach because my job is to maximize your God-given ability," McGeoghan said. "I think the reality of it is he's got a long way to go but also the talent is there. So that gives me an opportunity to just be honest with him."
Because a number of CU's wideouts were limited or did not practice last spring, training camp has been a matter of playing catch-up in some areas.
"We're just trying to make sure we get them caught up mentally through the walkthroughs and through all the installation," McGeoghan said.
POSITION COACH — CU has a new wide receivers coach in Phil McGeoghan, a 15-year veteran in the coaching business who has tutored NFL standouts such as Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jarvis Landry and Brian Hartline. McGeoghan had the title of assistant head coach added this summer.
KEY RETURNEES — Daniel Arias, Montana Lemonious-Craig, Chase Penry and Ty Robinson all return. All had at least one catch of at least 20 yards last year and all could be solid contributors this year.
KEY NEWCOMERS — Baylor transfer R.J. Sneed should add production to the group, as could some of the incoming freshmen, including Jordyn Tyson, Grant Page and Chase Sowell.
IF ALL GOES WELL … Arias will take the next step and become a consistent playmaker. Sneed will return to health and add production, and at least one or two of the youngsters will step up and become an added weapon for Colorado's quarterback.