Recruiting the class of 2009

It's game day. Well, sort of. The Colorado football team will conduct a "mock game" in Folsom Field this afternoon while much of the rest of the college football world is in action in stadiums across the nation. The Buffs will use the day to prepare for the annual meeting with hated rival Nebraska next Friday in Lincoln, Neb.

CU has to beat the Cornhuskers to finish the regular season 6-6 and earn bowl eligibility. They are in the same position as last year prior to the Nebraska game. If they come home empty handed next weekend, it will make for a long offseason for players and fans while coaches dive right into recruiting.

Let's take a good hard look at what they're working with in putting together the 2009 class.

The program began the season with 80 players on scholarship. That number grew to 81 when place-kicker Aric Goodman was awarded a scholarship in September.

The program bids adieu to 13 scholarship seniors at the end of the season bringing the number of scholarship players to 68. Wide receiver Kendrick Celestine decided to transfer and Nate Vaiomounga was dismissed, lowering the number to 66.

The NCAA allows 85 scholarship players on the roster at any time, meaning the program will have 19 scholarships available. However, one of them goes to Paul Vigo, a defensive back from New Brunswick, N.J. who grayshirted this season and is supposed to enroll in January.

So with 18 scholarships available to award on National Signing Day (the first Wednesday in February), Hawkins has only about half the recruiting class filled at this point. It's questionable if he will use all of his scholarships because he generally likes to have a few available to either award a deserving walk-on or to land a player who might decide to transfer in the summer.

The Buffs have eight oral commitments from prospects in Colorado, California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio. Here is what the future looks like at each position and the possible number of signees there.

Offensive line

The Buffs lose only one offensive lineman this year in Daniel Sanders and will have 15 linemen back in 2009, including walk-ons. Coaches have a commitment from Jack Harris, from Chaparral High School in Parker and will probably add at least one more scholarship lineman, maybe two, to get the number back up around 17 or 18 where Hawkins likes it.

Scholarships for 2009 --- 2-3

Quarterbacks

CU will lose senior quarterback Nick Nelson but will replace Nelson on the roster with Clark Evans from Los Alamitos, Calif. The team will carry four scholarship quarterbacks into next season with walk-ons Cameron Wright and Kyle Black, if he is able to overcome painful foot problems likely to require surgery.

Scholarships for 2009 --- 1

Tight ends/fullbacks

Maurice Cantrell is the only player who graduates from this group this year, but the program will lose fullback Jake Behrens and three senior tight ends next year. Coaches would like to add at least one tight end, possibly two, as well as finding a candidate to become the bruising fullback of the future. That player might be a walk-on.

Scholarships for 2009 --- 1-2

Tailbacks

Nobody leaves this year, which sets up nicely for next year and beyond. There is not an immediate need for a tailback signee in this class with Kevin Moyd slated to be the only senior in 2009, Demetrius Sumler and Corey Nabors will be juniors, Darrell Scott, Rodney Stewart, Brian Lockridge and Arthur Jaffee will be sophomores and Ray Polk will be a redshirt freshman. It's possible coaches could sign one player here, but it's more likely a walk-on enters the program.

Scholarships for 2009 --- Maybe 1

Wide receivers

The biggest need on the offensive side of the ball. Four players leave the program this season, they are Patrick Williams, Cody Crawford, Steve Melton and Celestine. It doesn't leave a lot of depth. Scotty McKnight and Josh Smith will be the only receivers on the roster with any significant experience next season. Sophomore-to-be Markques Simas should finally play along with redshirt freshman Chance Blackmon and sophomore Jason Espinoza. But impact players are needed here badly.

Scholarships for 2009 --- 4-5

Specialists

The Buffs lose senior punter Tom Suazo, a walk-on, but place-kickers Aric Goodman and Jameson Davis return as does punter Matt DiLallo, who will be a senior in 2009. All three returnees are on scholarship. Look for the program to add a punter, or, an ideal situation would be a player capable of doing both such as Denver East's Zach Grossnickle.

Scholarships for 2009 --- Maybe 1

Defensive line

This is the biggest need area on the defensive side of the ball. The program loses stalwarts such as George Hypolite, Brandon Nicolas and Maurice Lucas this year along with Drew Hudgins and possibly Jason Brace if he is unable to come back from concussion problems. We're counting Brace in at the moment. With him in the fold, there will be eight scholarship defensive linemen on the roster in the spring with junior-to-be Marquez Herrod and Brace being the most experienced among them. Sophomores-to-be Eugene Goree and Curtis Cunningham and senior Taj Gray are next on the experience chart. Junior Eric Lawson hasn't been able to earn much playing time during his time in Boulder. Conrad Obi and Lagrone Shields must seize the opportunity. CU could be in for a switch to a 3-4 scheme much of the time, but needs to add someone at least capable of eating some snaps as Cunningham did this year as a true freshman.

Scholarships for 2009 --- 3-4

Linebackers

Another area of strength for the future as long as everyone stays healthy and eligible. The only losses here this year are veteran Brad Jones and Vaiomounga. Jones' versatility was always a plus, but there are a lot of good young players waiting to step in, including B.J. Beatty a junior-to-be. Shaun Mohler, Marcus Burton,Jeff Smart and Bryan Stengel will be seniors next year, but there is not a pressing need to add a lot here. Coaches can't go wrong with one or two solid players though.

Scholarships for 2009 --- 1-2

Secondary

There are four seniors wrapping up their careers and two more will leave the program following next season, making this another priority area. There is already a solid base of young talent in place to put on the field in the next two seasons, but competition will help and coaches could find some improvements. Jalil Brown, Jimmy Smith, Patrick Mahnke, Anthony Perkins, Anthony Wright and Travis Sandersfeld make up a nice core group for 2009 and 2010 with Jonathan Hawkins, Vince Ewing and Steven Hicks trying to work their way into the lineup. Look for coaches to add a few more pieces to the puzzle.

Scholarships for 2009 --- 2-3


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