We'd like to start by welcoming you all to the the 2011 University of Colorado Recruiting Class Round Table. We'll have contributions and answers below from three bloggers you met earlier in our blogger series as well as one of our very own recruiting mods, Boulder Buff. From our previous series, and from their excellent contributions to the Colorado Buffalo fan community, you will all recognize: Stuart from CU at the Game, RumblinBuff from The Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo (RDB), and David Gerhardt from The Ralphie Report.
For some back ground on each, please check out our interview series:
CU at the Game
Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo
The Ralphie Report
Now on to the substance of this installment in our off-season series with our fellow fans: the 2011 University of Colorado recruiting class. Find profiles and previews here: 2011 CU Recruiting Class. By all accounts, this was a tough class and year for CU. We were rebuilding from the ashes of the Dan Hawkins era, our new coaches were for the most part coming from outside the college ranks, good 'ole Danny had quit doing anything after the Cal game, and, once settled, we had only 13 actual days of in-home recruiting with which to work. Even with all of that said, we managed to flip 8 prospects and pull in a few bright-spots to go with an otherwise normal transition class.
Anyway, on to our round table!
1.) What is your overall take on this class? Given the challenges are you happy?
CUattheGame: Back in late December, I posted "New Year’s Resolutions for Members of the Buff Nation" www.cuatthegame.com/2010/new-years-resolutions-for-buff-fans/. Resolution No. 1 was "I resolve not to be concerned about the national ranking of the 2011 recruiting class". With the excitement surrounding Signing Day, it could be considered a disappointment that Colorado is only considered to have a mediocre class (ranked 61st by Scout). That being said, with the challenges presented to this coaching staff, I believe the Buff coaches did a remarkable job. With a limited number of scholarships with which to work, and some mandatory "gets" (quarterbacks, defensive backs) placing limitations on the types and numbers of player the coaches could pursue, Embree and his staff did well. Overall, I gave the Class of 2011 a "B". There are some quality recruits in this group. However, if Colorado has a class which is ranked in the 60's nationally next February, the Buff Nation will be - justifiably - upset.
RDB: Given the challenges inherent to the immediate aftermath of the Hawk era, it’s hard to see this class in a negative light. Coach Embree and his staff were able to not only pull together a full class in a limited time frame, but one filled with some players I think can contribute right away. That he took some of them from our new conference rivals only sweetens the pot.
To be sure there are some projects in the class, and it is deservedly ranked in the bottom quarter of the Pac-12, but, considering the little amount of time available to put this class together, I’m happy with the job the staff did. Hell, they got 17 players in essentially 19 days, that’s almost a player a day, how can you not like that? What could’ve been a disaster has left me with a positive feeling. It’s obvious when listening to the kids that the NFL pedigree of this staff played well, and that bodes well for the future when they have a full year or two invested in a class.
I’m also really happy that they were able to fill out the depth chart at QB. Because of the Cody “situation” there has been a lot of attrition in that position; I’m happy to see that area taken care of so that there are no gaps.
RR:Given the challenges and the state of the roster when Embree and Co. came in, I am very happy with how this class turned out. Most of the kids they targeted are fantastic athletes and they were competing with more big programs than we have been in the past. And the ones that weren't pursued by big-time schools were kids with whose paths were a little non-traditional like the NC cousins. It definitely wasn't the greatest class but they seemed to balance the roster out where it needed it without forcing it too much.
Boulder: Overall, I think this class is pretty similar to the last two classes, which equates to the bottom tier of BCS conference schools. However, the fate of this class was sealed with the decision to retain Hawkins in November 2009. It is nearly impossible to recruit star players when everyone is waiting for the coach to be fired. Also, the small number of commitments when the new staff took over really put them behind the eight ball. When a team is sitting at five commitments in December, it really creates a scramble just to fill the class, let alone with future starters. Additionally, the failure of the previous staff in recruiting Texas has really forced the new coaching staff to make major repairs to our reputation in that state. It is a major issue when your football program is invisible in a state loaded with talent. Given all that, I think the staff did as good a job as can be expected. But I also think they know it is not the type of class that is going to get this program back to where it needs to be.
2.) Which coach impressed you the most with his work?
CUattheGame: The easier answer would be Eric Bieniemy, as Bieniemy is high-profile and high-energy, and did a great job in just a few weeks on the road. The coach I was most impressed with, though, was Brian Cabral. Circumstances put Cabral in the position of recruiting under a lame duck coach, then serving as interim coach, then being a candidate for the head coaching position, then serving for a new head coach after being passed over for the job. So, how did Cabral do? He brought in a great group of new linebackers: Brady Daigh; Woodson Greer; and K.T. Tu’umalo. Cabral was also instrumental in bringing in three of the top players out of the state of Hawai’i - Tu’umalo; offensive linemen Paulay Asiata; and defensive end Juda Parker. While it may seem that there is a well-established pipeline from Hawai’i to Boulder, in fact the Class of 2011 represented the first time - ever - that Colorado signed three players from Hawai’i in one class. Cabral had a great recruiting season, and did so under very difficult circumstances.
RDB: For me it has to be Coach Cabral. By now we’ve all heard Embree’s story of how Coach Cabral convinced him that not only was K.T. Tuumalo still available, but that he could get him to switch from Boise St to CU. Not satisfied with snagging Tuumalo, Coach Cabral helped secure two more players from the Aloha state: Paulay Asiata and #1 ranked Hawaiian player Juda Parker. That Hawaiian trio should all play high-profile roles for CU, possibly even in the near future, and without Coach Cabral and his Hawaiian connections they end up playing against CU.
RR: Though I don't know too terribly much about who did the leg-work on each kid, I have to say Eric Bieniemy. With the limited amount of time he had, he seemed to be mentioned in the recruitment of a bunch of the kids, and it's his Offense they're recruiting kids for. But then again, he's proven himself as an excellent recruiter throughout his coaching career, so should we be holding him to a higher standard? Probably, but this year I give them all a bit of a pass.
Boulder: Brian Cabral impressed me the most. The Hawaiian trio was an impressive coup, especially considering the Buffs were not really leading for any of them at the time Embree was hired. Plus he was able to retain Brady Daigh and Alex Kelley while adding Woodson Greer. He was invaluable in helping Embree while most of the staff was still being finalized.
3.) Do you consider this to be worse than/on par with/ better than a standard transitional class?
CUattheGame: I did an article comparing the transition classes of the past four Colorado coaches www.cuatthegame.com/2011/cu-transition-classes-1983-2006/, and there were some interesting findings. Dan Hawkins had a mediocre class at best in 2006, with son Cody Hawkins one of his highest rated recruits. Meanwhile, potential first-round NFL draft picks Jimmy Smith and Nate Solder were three- and two-star prospects, respectively. Gary Barnett’s first class was a disappointment, with few players panning out (wide receiver Derek McCoy one of the few names which would be remembered by most CU fans). Meanwhile, Rick Neuheisel’s first class, the Class of 1995, was one of the highest rated recruiting classes in Colorado history. Twenty of the 22 recruits were prep All-Americans, with 17 "multiple" All-Americans (four-star players). As it turned out, though, the Class did not produce much in the way of All-Big 12 players, with one of the two players who did not receive All-American prep status, kicker Jeremy Aldrich, becoming the player with most ink in the CU record books. Bill McCartney’s first recruiting class, the Class of 1983 (McCartney was hired in June of 1982, and so did not participate in bringing the Class of 1982), was not recognized as a great class nationally. What the Class of 1983 had was 13 Colorado high school players out of 25 signed. In-state stars who stayed home instead of going out-of-state - Jon Embree; Eric McCarty; Barry Helton; David Tate; and Dave DeLine among them - helped form the backbone of the teams which brought Colorado out of series of losing seasons. I would like to think that Jon Embree’s first class is like that of McCartney’s. Not in the sense of in-state players signed (only two signed in the Class of 2011), but in the sense that Embree brought in some core players - core leaders - which will help lead to championship teams in the future.
RDB: The only CU class I can really compare this one to is Hawk’s first. I wasn’t here and paying attention prior to the ’02 season, so the transitional classes of Mac, Neu, and Gary are beyond my ability to break-down. At the time, Hawk’s first class was viewed as rather lack-luster. It was built around landing his son to play quarterback and a lot of project players.
In retrospect, Hawk was able to land 3 players who will be drafted, two of them rather high, in April: Nate Solder, Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown. If there are two players of the caliber of Nate and Jimmy in this class I’ll be pretty happy. There were also some good contributors in Cody (who did break a lot of records while he was here), Cha’pelle Brown, B.J. Beatty and Michael Sipilli. You would like to see more out of any individual class, but it was highlighted by some pretty good talent.
Comparatively, I think that the ’11 class is a little deeper than the ’06 class, especially in terms of offensive line (other than Solder, who was recruited as a TE, there is a paucity of O-line talent in the ‘06 class); Asiata, Kelley, and Mustoe should all produce, and Kelley might be pressed into action early. The ’06 class also had a lot of misses in there, and I feel that most of the players that Embree and company landed this year will contribute at some point. The staff did a good job plugging depth chart gaps, and focusing on athleticism and speed.
Overall, I think this class is better than a transitional class can be expected to be for a program with as many losses as we’ve had in the past few years.
RR: Like I began to mention earlier, I think this was better than a standard transition class considering the big picture. The staff only had five commitments when they took over and a number of them weren't actively in the recruiting game before they started. They went after good athletes, they went after kids from important high schools that constantly produce top talent, and they went after some under-the-radar types. I think they found some guys that can come in right away and make an impact (more in the next answer) and some guys that have a ton of upside. What more could you want from a transition class?
Boulder: I consider this to be slightly worse than a typical transition class, but I also place most of the blame for this on the higher ups for not making a change when it needed to be made. With so few commits in December, the new staff was forced to make several reaches.
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4.) Who do you have penciled in to be immediate contributors?
CUattheGame: I like defensive end Juda Parker. The highest rated player coming out of Hawai’i, Parker tore up the competition at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He seems to be on the rise as a talent, and is coming to Boulder to compete at a position which is in need of impact players.
Amongst the defensive backs, where immediate help is also required, I like Will Harlos. While Harlos played linebacker in high school, he is still growing into his 6'4", 200-pound frame. He could see playing time at safety as a true freshman.
Another player who could see time early is kicker Will Oliver. Not because I believe that Oliver is necessarily better than Zach Grossnickle or Justin Castor, but because the Buffs are past due for some measure of success at recruiting this position.
RDB: Alex Kelley, because of our lack of depth at center, could contribute soon. Additionally the JuCo QB Burnette could contribute. He’s played at the D-1 level in a pro-style offense (although not BCS), and I could see him grabbing the back-up QB spot over Hirschman, maybe even pushing Hansen for starter. Since Kicker has been an issue, if the stories of kicker Will Oliver’s accuracy are true I could see him overcoming Justin Castor for the PK duties. Sherrard Harrington may make an immediate impact on special teams.
RR: Well looking at our current roster and the guys coming in, this is who I think will be getting on the field as a Freshman:
- Woodson Greer: He was one of the steals in the class IMO. He can move and I fully expect him to see time on Special Teams, and I have a feeling he'll get time on Defense as well. I will write more about this, but he is one of the guys that will benefit from having Kanavis McGhee on staff. Greer is a guy that should get some time at OLB and probably as a pass-rushing specialist. From seeing his HS tape, he looked way too good to keep off the field. The other guys we have there (especially after Tyler Ahles was moved to Fullback) will definitely have to fight Greer off for playing time.
- Gregory Henderson: I think we see him returning some kicks or punts this season. He is shifty and has some great feet. I'm looking forward to seeing him get on the field.
- Kyle Washington: This is another guy who looks great on film and is physically completely ready to go. He is a tank and should be able to get some time on the field in our secondary. I think he may be a ST guy right away because we have a bunch of other guys who have gotten playing time already in the secondary, but Washington has some incredible speed that I'm sure will be put to use.
- Nelson Spruce: We've got Richardson, Clemons and Jefferson out wide, but the other guys haven't made waves. I think Spruce gets some time on the field by the end of the season.
- Brady Daigh: He is a true "thumper" and he looks very good filling against the run. I know we've got plenty of good looking guys on the roster inside at LB, but I think Daigh will find a way to make it onto the field.
- Rashad Hall: I think this guy is going to be very, very good. He is big and fast and looks very good carrying the ball. He doesn't let guys hit him straight on, which is a good thing, and he can cut upfield in a hurry. I think he will be fighting for some of those carries behind Speedy.
Boulder: I think there are several players in this class that should make an immediate impact, especially due to depth issues at various positions. Brent Burnette should benefit from a full spring under his belt and should push Tyler Hansen and Nick Hirschman for the starting job, he should see time in mop-up duty at the very least. Nelson Spruce is one of my favorite players in the class and will be counted on early at WR. The other obvious choice for me is Will Oliver. With the recent struggles in the kicking game, he has as a great shot to win a starting job as a freshman. The other two players I expect to see early on are Brady Daigh and Kyle Washington. Both should benefit from shaky depth charts at LB and CB.
5.) Who is your biggest sleeper in the class?
CUattheGame: It will take a few years, but the least discussed member of this class, offensive lineman Alex Lewis, may become a very good player. Lewis is the grey-shirt holdover from the Class of 2010, who enrolled in January, and still has five years to play four. Lewis was only 17 years old last February, and took this past year off to grow. He has gone from 6'4", 255-pounds to 6'6 ½", 288-pounds. He was a three-star prospect last February. He may be a four-star prospect now.
RDB: I’m pretty high on Stevie Joe Dorman. I wrote about this a little on my blog, but everything I see and hear about him is positive. Scout even talked about him like he was a potential NFL prospect. The lack of another D-1 offer baffles me, but he’s got the size, pedigree and style to succeed in the pro-style offense we’re looking to run here. Give him two years, and I think he could be something special. I also like the RB Malcom Creer. My roommate thinks he’s a down-hill version of Speedy Stewart, while I like his mustache and tackle-shedding highlight reels.
RR: I've got two guys, and I think they're the same one everybody else is mentioning:
- Stephan Nembot: Physically he is off the charts, but the reason I think he will be more 'Boom' than 'bust' is his background. He isn't a guy who has had things handed to him. I don't think he's going to sit back and just play, he is going to work his butt off to get better and soak up his coaching. He will be as good as he is coached to be, unlike some of those 5* guys who are only as good as the want to be.
- Sherrard Harrington: His story is impressive and he's overcome a lot. I think he will be an excellent CB under Greg Brown. Physically he is nearly there, and he has already graduated from High School and is working his butt off to get ready. He is going to be a special kid, both in life and for the Buffaloes.
Boulder: I think Kyle Washington is going to turn out to be a very solid player in the secondary because of his pure athleticism. I think he can be a similar player to Jalil Brown, another 2* recruit from Arizona.
6.) Which move or signing is the biggest head scratcher for you?
CUattheGame: Colorado is in dire need of help at defensive back, and there was a need to sign a quantity of defensive backs. It was a surprise to me, though, that the Buffs were not able to attract more defensive back talent to come to Boulder. The Buffs have two cornerbacks, Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, who will be going high in the NFL draft, and Colorado is heading into a pass-happy conference. There should have been some top flight cornerbacks out there aching for the opportunity to start as a true freshman for a Pac-12 team. This is not a knock on the cornerbacks Colorado did sign - Sherrard Harrington, Gregory Henderson, and Kyle Washington - but it is hard to see these players as anything more than place holders bringing depth to the secondary as the Colorado coaches go out in search of top flight defensive back talent help from the Class of 2012.
RDB: Will Oliver may play right away, and even turn out to be something special, but I’m a little uncomfortable with spending yet another scholarship on a kicker. The lack of multiple wideouts is also disconcerting, but if we can land Michael Thomas over the next few weeks all will be golden.
RR: Tyler McCulloch. I hope he proves me wrong, but I'm not sure he's the answer at WR or TE down the road. He seems like a good kid and he will be coming in with a chip on his shoulder, but being a 'tweener' isn't always a good thing, and he strikes me as being the kind of player who really doesn't have a position. Sometimes this is a good thing, and hopefully he finds his niche, but sometimes it can also be a bad thing. I do hope that he proves me wrong, though.
Boulder: The biggest head scratcher is Tyler McCulloch. I'm not sure he has the speed to be a difference maker in the Pac 12 and I think it is a major red flag that the two major in-state schools had only offered him a walk-on opportunity.