Buffs Notes: Deion Smith Update, QB Situation, Young LB Standout
BOULDER — Colorado coach Mike Sanford said Sunday night that he doesn't expect running back Deion Smith to have any "significant long-term" effects from his injury Saturday afternoon.
Smith took a big hit early in the fourth quarter of Colorado's 20-13 overtime win against Cal at Folsom Field. Teammates gathered at midfield and took a knee as Smith was placed on a stretcher and immobilized, then taken from the field on a cart. Smith's mother also joined him on the field.
But by game's end, Smith was walking and alert. Sanford said the junior walked out of the facility under his own power and added that it doesn't appear his injury is as drastic as originally feared.
Sanford checked in with Smith on Sunday morning and said, "He's in a good place. I don't think it's anything that's going to be a significant long term injury at this point."
But Sanford didn't sound like he expected Smith to return to the lineup anytime soon, at least not this week. Senior back Alex Fontenot, who hasn't played since the Air Force game in Week 2, is also still a question mark.
That will leave the Buffs with true freshman Anthony Hankerson, sophomore Jayle Stacks and redshirt freshman Charlie Offerdahl.
Hankerson had a solid game against the Bears, rushing for 47 yards and a touchdown. Stacks and Offerdahl were both nursing minor injuries, with Stacks playing just two snaps (two carries, 5 yards) and Offerdahl not making an appearance.
But Sanford said both should be fully healthy this week.
"We're actually pretty healthy there with Hankerson and Jayle and Charlie being fully capable to go," he said.
QB SITUATION: Even though it was J.T. Shrout who came off the bench and replaced starting quarterback Owen McCown late in the third quarter and led the Buffs to the win, Sanford said the depth chart won't change.
"Owen is our starting quarterback," Sanford said. "J.T. came in and because he had prepared so well the last four weeks, he was ready to go in there and win a football game for us. His play was exactly what we were hoping we would see and was indicative of the kind of preparation he's put in every week."
Sanford made the change because McCown had taken a big hit earlier in the game and was not at 100 percent capacity. Because he was on the sidelines — and not in the press box, where he perched as offensive coordinator — he was able to keep a close eye on McCown as the game progressed.
"When I'm calling plays up in the box you don't have that visual of a quarterback," Sanford said. "Me having played the position, it was really beneficial to be there, see him, look him in the eyes and ask what gives us the best chance to win."
Sanford then decided to make the change.
"I wanted our football team to be able to finish the game and J.T. did an incredibly good job," he said. "Both will continue to grow and those guys give us a really good combination."
BUDDING STAR: True freshman linebacker Aubrey Smith had an impact for the Buffs on Saturday. Smith played just nine snaps but was credited with two tackles and a forced fumble.
"Aubrey's going to be a tremendous football player," Sanford said. "He really capitalized on his opportunity. We created a position for him for that game plan and he executed at a very high level. He can run, he can hit, he's got instincts. He's going to be a name here at the University of Colorado for years to come. He's going to be a fantastic football player."