Colorado releases first fall depth chart

O'Neill wins punting battle, as true freshmen headline first depth chart of season.

Colorado head football coach Jon Embree released his first depth chart of the fall on Monday, and, barring injury, the Buffs will have at least three true freshmen in the starting lineup when they visit Hawaii on Sept. 3.

Darragh O'Neill will be the starting punter, while Will Oliver will be the starting place kicker. Greg Henderson will start at right corner. Another true freshman, Tyler McCulloch, is listed as a co-starter at X receiver, along with senior Toney Clemons.

"Tyler has earned it and we need Toney to keep coming," Embree said in a press release from CU. "The guys on the offensive staff believe we've got to continue to bring Tyler along; we just don't want to throw him in the fire. That's why they're co-starters right now."

Colorado has never had a true freshman start a season opener at receiver, so McCulloch could become the first.

O'Neill, who has never played an organized football game, edged incumbent Zach Grossnickle for the punting job.

"It's not like it was overly cut and dried," special teams coach J.D. Brookhart said. "No one dominated the competition, but somebody won it."

A total of 14 true freshmen were listed on the three-deep chart - five on offense, six on defense and three on special teams.

Other depth chart notes:

  • CU lists a 3-4 base defense, rather than a 4-3 which has been in place for more than 15 years. The new alignment features a "jack" linebacker, a position in which Josh Hartigan, who led the team in sacks as a defensive end in 2010, is listed as the starter. Douglas Rippy (mike), Derrick Webb (will) and Jon Major (sam) are the other starters at linebacker.

  • Senior Travis Sandersfeld, a former safety, is the starting left cornerback. Anthony Perkins and Ray Polk return to their familiar roles as the starting safeties.

  • The defensive line starters are Will Pericak (left end), Conrad Obi (nose tackle) and Chidera Uzo-Diribe (right end).

  • The competition for backup running is still fierce, as senior Brian Lockridge, last year's backup, has dropped to fourth on the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Tony Jones is No. 2 behind starter Rodney Stewart, while sophomore Josh Ford is No. 3. That could change, as Embree said Ford is close to moving into the No. 2 spot.

  • Evan Harrington is listed No. 1 at fullback, with Tyler Ahles at No. 2.

  • At center, Daniel Munyer and Gus Handler are listed as co-starters. Embree said, "Both will play a lot for us." Other starters on the line are David Bakhtiari (left tackle), Ethan Adkins (left guard), Ryan Miller (right guard) and Jack Harris (right tackle).

  • Along with Clemons/McCulloch at X receiver, Paul Richardson is the starter at Z receiver, and Ryan Deehan the starter at tight end.

  • Tyler Hansen, as expected, is the starting quarterback, followed by Nick Hirschman at No. 2 and John Schrock at No. 3.

  • Lockridge is the listed atop the depth chart at kickoff return, which Richardson No. 1 on punt return. Ryan Iverson will handled both short and long snapping duties on special teams. Justin Gorman is No. 1 at holder. Justin Castor will be the kicker on kickoffs.

  • Tackle Sione Tau, a 6-foot-3, 335-pound senior, has moved to right guard where he will back up Miller.

  • Former top recruit Nick Kasa is listed third at right defensive end.

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