Joel Klatt played below expectations for the 1st two games, but was masterful on Saturday. Granted, he had a lot of time, but his throws got better as the game went on. His TD pass to Judge was a DART. He's hit his stride and I expect him to play at a high level going forward. The one thing that might be a cause for concern is his inability to look off his first receiver. He will not have the luxury of waiting five seconds for his man to get open against the Big 12 powerhouses. Also, his throws have a tendency to float, which directly led to two of his WRs getting their clocks cleaned against North Texas. I might have given him a lower grade, but any QB who's 3-0 must be doing something right. Cox played against North Texas, but wasn't really able to show his stuff. He did look MUCH more confident running the offense as compared to the Florida State game last year. Time will tell if he'll be able to be a star for the Buffs.
Purify has been fantastic. He looks to challenge for some post-season accolades and play himself into the NFL draft. Injuries are a concern, so getting more players involved in the running game will be a priority for future games. Daniel Jolly has been a little disappointing to me so far. He has no shake and doesn't seem to break many tackles. My personal belief is Daniel is tentative right now and as he gains more confidence, he will start railroading people. The guy who NEEDS to see the ball more often is Lawrence Vickers. He was a machine on Saturday and should see more time at TB. His lone run Saturday was a thing of beauty. I'll give an incomplete grade to the other backs. Charles looked like he's got some moves, but needs to hold onto the football. Ellis and Crawford looked ready to contribute if the team gets in a pinch.
The one guy who has impressed is Evan Judge. He's a Minardi clone and really gets after people blocking. He has consistently gotten open, but it took until Saturday for Klatt to hit him. Other than that, it's been pretty abysmal. Monteilh has been completely out of synch. If anyone should have stepped up by now, it's him. I would like to see Monteilh play more in the slot, and let him attack the middle of the field. Duren looks like a Wayne Chrebet type of player with some shimmy in his step. He made a big time juke to get by two players Saturday. He's a guy who might be able to stretch the field for us. Sprague looks to be a decent player, and seems to love playing the game. The $64,000 question is where are Blake Mackey and Ty Littlehales? Our four star studs haven't contributed a lick. It was disconcerting to see Blake alligator arm that throw on Saturday, but part of that falls on Klatt for floating it across the middle. Regardless, those two need to get with it. The major concern with this unit is who's going to stretch the field? The dink and dunk offense the staff seems to have fallen in love with only works long-term if the threat of the deep ball is present. CU needs to let these guys run some deep routes and keep defenses honest.
Saturday was Klopenstein's coming out party, and I expect to see more of the same going forward. How about Quinn Sypniewski's catch on Saturday? It's nice to see after all he's been through. Jesse Wallace had been impressive in the first two games, but did not see action on Saturday, as far as I could tell. All three TE's have been good up front, and I expect they will continue to be a team strength. It appears that the offense has reverted back to the mid-nineties, as the two TE, set one back set has become a staple in this offense. Looking ahead to 2005, this unit's depth after this season becomes a major concern.
I just can't get my arms around this unit, so I will wait until after the Mizzou game to judge. Obviously, they were dominant on Saturday. The seven quarters before that were atrocious. I'm not sure that was because of OL breakdowns or the other team stacking the box and forcing CU to throw. Either way, I want to withhold any judgment until they've faced a decent team. I really like the way the interior has played, however. I think Fenton's turned out to be a very good player and Daniels seems to be pushing guys around. Barreau has played above expectations, but does seem to struggle in the passing game. Wilder has become a legitimate tackle, and could develop into an All Big 12 type of player. He still has some problems keeping speed rush DE's away from Klatt, but overall, he's been good. O'Neal is still inconsistent and needs to step up. How long have we been saying this? He does look considerably bigger than last year though. Moore and Stemrich have played sparingly, but should be able to provide decent depth.
I think the same problems exist that existed last year. The DL can not generate any pass rush with the front four, and big plays are very few and far between. This will end up hurting us down the road, and will keep us from contending for big time bowls. The one guy who has become a big time player is Vaka Manupuna. He seems to be the only DL who is able to penetrate into the backfield. I look for him to continue to improve and make a name for himself in the conference. James Garee...does he have a tackle for a loss or a sack yet? He's winning the Ty Brayton Award for most over-hyped defensive player on the team. He needs to get involved and make some plays, which I fully believe he's capable of doing. McChesney and Dabdoub have been good against the run, but not much else. Penetration seems to be a dirty word with this unit. Ligon and Wright are fast but seem to get taken out of plays. Ligon seems to get swallowed up by bigger OTs on a regular basis. One thing about Marquis Harris that these guys seem to lack was his ability to shed blockers that were much bigger than him. Ligon needs to develop that skill if he wants to make the next step into greatness. I do have a feeling both Ligon and Wright will get better as the season progresses. They need to if this team is going to challenge for a conference championship. Barrett looks like he could be a major contributor after his play this past week. Very refreshing to see a "sleeper" recruit who has developed in a short amount of time. Guyton has not played much, but he appears quick. He is not as big as I thought he would be, but big enough to make a difference in the middle.
What can you say? Dizon, Iwuh and Dawn have been fantastic, except for a few plays Saturday. I believe Akarika Dawn is the defensive MVP at this point. He's active and has rarely missed a tackle. Iwuh had a great first couple of games, but did not see much action on Saturday. My question is, what was he doing playing in the first place? A high ankle sprain can be one of those lingering injuries, so let's hope he didn't aggravate it and is healthy for the Big 12 season. While Dizon came back to earth Saturday, his instinctual play and monster hits are making the Hawaiian freshman a folk hero with Buff fans. He did overrun a few plays, which led to some big gains by Jamario Thomas, but that can be corrected. He is a future Butkus hopeful, and will anchor this defense for the next four years. We've got depth there with Bad Thad, Ackerman and Hollis. Sanders can be considered an unknown. I haven't heard his name called after his big INT against WSU. He definitely has wheels and size. I hope Boye-Doe can get back into action soon. He was an explosive player as a true frosh. We're in great shape for 2005 as well, as our back seven will be unbelievable.
It's hard to give a good grade to the 115th best passing defense. However, the numbers can be misleading, as we're doing a decent job keeping the other team out of the end zone (39th nationally scoring defense). Gerrett Burl (a.k.a. Phil Jackson Jr.) has become the whipping boy for opposing offensive coordinators so far. Despite getting toasted for a number of big plays, he did not receive the deep support he should have gotten in a zone defense. He will need to keep guys in front of him, or our future opponents will pick on him all year. Sims lays the wood and appears to be our best CB right now. Wheatley, where are you? He must be banged up, because he is not seeing the field much. The safety position has been a trouble spot so far. J.J. Billingsley's knee has kept him from making the impact Buff fans expected he would make. One wonders if it would be in his and the team's best interest to shut it down, apply for a medical redshirt, and come back at full strength in 2005. That is a decision for the trainers, obviously, but it would be a shame to let him limp through the season and not make the impact he should. Henderson and Brooks are two players that have confounded this Buff fan so far. Dominique looked so promising last season, but has looked lost at times this season. He is a very good tackler, and is very physical. He also took an extremely bad angle last week, which allowed Jamario Thomas go for one of his long TDs. It appears from replays that he plays very stiff in pass coverage. A move to LB might be in order for him down the road, as he looks like he could easily throw on 15 pounds and play the Buff LB spot. Henderson gets the award for Most Extreme Player award so far. He was made some brilliant plays, and has looked silly on others. One might expect that from a guy making his first three starts of his career. This unit is SO young, that improvement is almost guaranteed. They will be tested against Mizzou, so let's hope Coach Bray has them ready.
Special teams: A-
Kickers have been superb. The "Crosby for Heisman" sign on Saturday was classic. I still worry about his ability to elevate the ball on the shorter kicks, but it's hard to complain considering the way he's destroying the football so far. Torp looks like the next Ray Guy award winner. He gets it off quick and has not allowed any returns of note. Return game has been ok. Stephone Robinson needs to get some swagger. He looks very nervous back there. I would like to see Reggie Joseph step up and get some chances back there. And finally, three blocked punts in three games, and they've been close a bunch of other times. That's Virginia Tech type numbers, and I hope it keeps up. All and all, special teams are a major strength.
Hey, 3-0 ain't bad, no matter how you look at it. That said, there has been some very questionable play selection from the offense before the North Texas game. CU went way too conservative in the 2nd half of the CSU game, and looked completely inept against a very young defense in Washington State. To reiterate, it would be great to see the Buffs attack vertically and take some shots down field. This will open up the running game and keep the opposition on their heels. Defensively, I think Hank and Co have done as well as can be expected, considering the youth on that side of the ball. I'm sure the staff will be on these guys like white on rice the next eleven days to make sure they handle their assignments and wrap up when the play comes to them.
We're 3-0 for the first time since 1998. But for all your Buff fans who remember the Dark Days of the Weasel, we stumbled home to finish a mediocre 8-4. I think this team has shown perseverance and the results have been great. But let's not kid ourselves: This is a team with some serious flaws. That said, there is plenty of talent at every position and there's no reason CU can't win half their game in the Big 12. It is very hard to imagine this team beating the upper echelon of the Big 12 South, but a Big 12 North title would do wonders for recruiting and set up what could be a great 2005 season. Oh, and, WE NEED DL!!!!!! That one's for you AZ!