Top Offensive Signee: Jake Moretti
Everything about Moretti, from his physicalness between the lines to his frame to his work ethic and humbleness screams future NFL player. There is a reason Ohio State and other powerhouses like USC and Michigan wanted him. The "Mile High Mauler" just needs to get his knee healthy. It is rare for a true freshman to start on the offensive line, but Moretti has the type of ability to do that, and Colorado does have one vacancy up front.
"Jake is a young man from here in the state of Colorado that everybody knows about. He is in school [here already as an early enrollee] working hard," Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre said on signing day. "He was committed to Ohio State for a long time. ... I think it was one of those things where we did an excellent job recruiting him but he could not see in his mind we would be a national contender. And then when we had the year we had, he said, 'If I have this choice that I could stay home at the University of Colorado and play for a nationally contending team, and I can now make this ride with all of them, that's what I'd like to do.' So we were excited to get him out of Pomona High School."
Runner-up: Laviska Shenault Jr.
Previous picks – 2016: Beau Bisharat, 2015: Tim Lynott, 2014: Shay Fields, 2013: Sefo Liufau, 2012: Shane Dillon, 2011: Nelson Spruce, 2010: Nick Hirschman, 2009: Jack Harris, 2008: Darrell Scott, 2007: Ryan Miller, 2006: Wes Simon, 2005: Maurice Greer*
Top Defensive Signee: Jon Van Diest
There were a number of candidates for this pick, and it was close between five signees. While trying to settle on one selection, I kept going back to Van Diest's motor and his natural instincts. He plays like he was born to don a helmet and shoulder pads. Van Diest is on the mend after having surgery on his arm in December and surgery on his shoulder in January. As long as he fully recovers from those ailments before preseason camp, a back-up role at inside linebacker as a true freshman is not out of the question.
"Wow. Watching him on high school film, being around him, he is going to kind of fall into my Phillip Lindsay syndrome. He is going to be my next Tasmanian Devil but he is going to be on defense," MacIntyre said. "He played all over the place for Dave Logan. I would have done the same thing if I was Dave because he just found places for him to make plays. He'll be a Mike linebacker for us, and be an excellent one. He loves CU. He was our first commit and he took it and ran with it and was kind of our bell cow to help recruit this class. I am so excited about having Jonathan here."
Runner-up: Nate Landman
Previous picks – 2016: Drew Lewis, 2015: N.J. Falo, 2014: Michael Mathewes, 2013: Chidobe Awuzie , 2012: Yuri Wright, 2011: Juda Parker, 2010: Chidera Uzo-Diribe, 2009: Nick Kasa, 2008: Jon Major, 2007: Drew Hudgins, 2006: Marquez Herrod, 2005: Maurice Lucas
Most Underrated: Dante Sparaco
The fact Sparaco did not settle into a defensive line role until his senior season kept him from earning the ranking he deserved. Sparaco beat out other power conference commits to be a starter at IMG Academy last fall. All he did was shut up doubters, who thought he was making a mistake by leaving Cherry Creek for his senior season. Sparaco was a three-star prospect but he was ranked No. 128 nationally at his position. Bottom line, there are not 127 better defensive end prospects in the country from the Class of 2017.
"Dante is a young man I first saw going into his 10th grade year, I'll never forget it. He was a quarterback and he kept growing," MacIntyre said. "We are really excited about having him. Dante is here ready to go [for spring ball]."
Runner-up: Jalen Sami
Previous picks – 2016: Anthony Julmisse, 2015: Steven Montez; 2014: Dylan Keeney, 2013: Michael Adkins, 2012: Donta Abron, 2011: Brady Daigh, 2010: Cordary Clark*, 2009: DaVaughn Thornton, 2008: Rodney Stewart, 2007: Chris Perri*, 2006: Wes Simon, 2005: Kevin Moyd
Top Athlete: KD Nixon
With the perfect skill set to play in a spread offense and create mismatches, Nixon is most accurately described as a slotback because he will likely play both tailback and slot receiver for the Buffs. He averaged 12.3 yards per rush and 17.5 yards per reception while racking up 1,884 all-purpose yards and helping lead DeSoto to a 6A Texas state championship in 2016. Nixon is short at 5-foot-8 but he is muscular and clocked in at 25 miles per hour on DeSoto's GPS trackers last year.
"KD is dynamic. He is a really fast, quick, athletic guy. He can make play after play," MacIntyre said. "KD brings a lot of athletic ability, but also brings a great leadership quality. He is another guy in this class that has that charisma, has that 'it' factor."
Runner-up: Maurice Bell
Previous picks – 2016: Ronnie Blackmon, 2015: Patrick Carr, 2014: Lee Walker, 2013: Devin Ross, 2012: Gerald Thomas, 2011: Rashad Hall*, 2010: Donnie Duncan*, 2009: Andre Simmons, 2008: Rodney Stewart, 2007: Markques Simas, 2006: Sherman Lang*, 2005: Gardner McKay
Most Ready to Make an Instant Impact: Javier Edwards
Edwards was initially committed to Florida and then it looked like he was headed to Fayetteville to play for the Razorbacks, but a late in-home visit with Mike MacIntyre, just prior to the start of the mid-year Junior College signing period sold the massive defensive lineman on being a Buff. He fills the biggest need on Colorado's defense with former nose tackle Josh Tupou set to graduate this May. Edwards needs to trim some weight, but it would take a surprisingly development for him not to start on the Buffaloes' defensive line in 2017.
"Phenomenal player, really helps us inside," MacIntyre said. "We wanted to have a two gap nose like Josh was. ... He had a lot of people after him and he ended up loving Boulder. He loved what we do defensively and it was a lot of fun recruiting Javier from Blinn Junior College. He is in school here now, working out. I had all those [mid-year transfers and early enrollees] over to the house Monday night to eat and they liked my wife's banana pudding, I know that."
Runner-up: Dante Wigley
Previous picks – 2016: Juwann Winfree, 2015: Alex Kinney, 2014: Ahkello Witherspoon, 2013: Bryce Bobo, 2012: Kisima Jagne*, 2011: Will Oliver, 2010: Tony Jones, 2009: Edward Nuckols*, 2008: Shaun Mohler, 2007: P.T. Gates*, 2006: Jimmy Smith, 2005: George Hypolite
Most Versatile: Chris Miller
Denton, one of the top high school programs in Texas, rarely allows players to start both ways but Miller did because he is special. Texas offered him as a slot receiver, while other schools like Colorado, Baylor and Notre Dame were recruiting him for cornerback. He is a fluid athlete, and while he will need to add some size to his frame, he does not mind getting his hands dirty on defense.
"With our secondary losing some guys, Chris is a guy that has some tools to be able to come in and play as a freshman," MacIntyre said. "Chris has a 41-inch vertical, which is exceptional. When I went and watched him play basketball when I had the home visit, he was jumping up and swatting away guys that are 6-foot-6 going in for dunks. The crowd was going crazy. It looks like he jumps off a trampoline. He has long arms, great ball skills, which you need today to cover the bigger receivers. And he is extremely fast."
Runner-up: KD Nixon
Previous picks – 2016: Trey Udoffia, 2015: Nick Fisher, 2014: Donovan Lee, 2013: Kenneth Olugbode, 2012: Marques Mosley, 2011: Kyle Washington, 2010: Harold Mobley, 2009: Josh Moten, 2008: Ray Polk, 2007: Anthony Wright, 2006: Nate Solder, 2005: Riar Geer
Best Interview: Sebastian Olver
Usually when I am done asking questions to a recruit during a phone interview, the phone call naturally ends then. But Olver is a curious person that would want to ask questions. And when on the record talking about his recruitment and his development as a player, Olver was sincere and endearing. And most importantly, he is a great quote. Olver will be a popular interview request during his time in Boulder.
"Really unique young man," MacIntyre said of Olver. "I love his accent and his family. His mom and dad flew all the way over here for the official visit from Australia; special people. He did not play American rules football until two years ago. He can Australian rules punt, he can play defensive end, he can play tight end, he can play outside linebacker; just an excellent athlete. When he gets here, we'll see where he plays. We'll start him off playing at tight end and outside linebacker and see which one he is best at."
Runner-up: Dante Sparaco
Previous picks – 2016: Chance Lytle, 2015: Jordan Carrell, 2014: Christian Shaver, 2013: Phillip Lindsay, 2012: John Walker, 2011: Sherrard Harrington, 2010: Evan Harrington, 2009: David Bakhtiari, 2008: Tyler Hansen, 2007: Mike Iltis, 2006: Quintin Borders, 2005: Reggie Foster*
Biggest Surprise: Terrance Lang
Lang committed to USC in December and he stayed on the Trojans' commitment list until four days after signing day. The Buffaloes put together an academic plan that impressed Lang, who needs to do well in the classroom this spring to get qualified. Running backs coach Darian Hagan also did a good job of recruiting Lang, who was torn between the two Pac-12 South programs. A two-way standout at the high school level, Lang played more basketball than football growing up and has yet to scratch the surface of his potential on the gridiron.
"We are really excited about Terrance," MacIntyre said. "He is a big, explosive athlete who will be a force on the defensive line."
Runner-up: Jared Poplawski
Previous picks – 2016: Beau Bisharat, 2015: Patrick Carr, 2014: Jay MacIntyre, 2013: Tedric Thompson, 2012: Christian Powell, 2011: Stephane Nembot, 2010: Kirk Poston, 2009: Andre Simmons, 2008: Darrell Scott, 2007: Sione Tau, 2006: Cody Hawkins, 2005: James Lewis*
* - Indicates signee did not end up playing at Colorado