As we make our way through these summer months and inch closer to the start of the college football season, it only seems right to finally address the elephant in the room at Colorado: How in the world is this team going to play offense without Phillip Lindsay?
In his four years with the Buffs, Lindsay was an absolute workhorse at tailback, averaging 191 rushing attempts a season and surpassing the 1,000 yard mark twice. He was the heart and soul of the CU offense — and really the heart and soul of the entire team. Off the field, his fiery dedication to his team was unmatched, making him a local hero in Boulder. After graduating in May, Lindsay signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent.
The loss of Lindsay is sure to make things more challenging for co-offensive coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Klayton Adams as they prepare for the 2018 season. Worse yet, they’ll also have to replace the highly-talented receiving trio of Shay Fields Jr., Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo, all three of which are now on NFL rosters. Worse still, the Buffs lost three of their starting offensive linemen from 2017, Gerrad Kough, Jonathan Huckins and Jeromy Irwin.
Replacing all these Forever Buffs will be an immensely difficult task for CU, but they do have some promising talent available to fill those roles.
First, the Buffs will look to Virginia Tech grad transfer Travon McMillian to be the new starting running back. McMillian shined at times for the Hokies, most notably during his redshirt freshman season in 2015, when he eclipsed 1,000 yards and racked up eight touchdowns. His numbers have dipped since then, but that may be due to VT hiring head coach Justin Fuente, who has preferred a run-by-committee approach. In contrast to Lindsay’s style of bouncing off tacklers, McMillian is more of a one cut and go type back, which CU will have to adjust for.
As for the receiving corps, redshirt junior JuWann Winfree looks to be the leading candidate to help replace the BlackOutBoyz. In his first full season with the team in 2017, Winfree made some big plays with his size and speed, including an utter humiliation of USC cornerback Jack Jones.
At 6’ 3, 210-lbs., Winfree is the perfect type of receiver for any offense and he should prove a reliable target for the still-developing Steven Montez.
Another valuable weapon for Montez could be Laviska Shenault Jr., the sophomore speedster with a penchant for catching it deep. If he can build on the flashes of playmaking ability we saw last year, he could be the Buff’s best deep threat receiver.
On the offensive line, there’s a lot of hope riding on redshirt freshman tackle Jake Moretti, a recent four star recruit from nearby Pomona High School. Moretti was the #1 recruit in the state of Colorado’s 2017 class, with a .96 composite ranking on 247Sports, although he hasn’t played a football game in two years due to a torn ACL that he suffered in his senior year at Pomona. Still, coaches are pleased so far with his progress and brute strength. If healthy, Moretti could be the anchor the Buffs are looking for following the departure of Irwin. If not, the Buffs could suffer heavily from a lack of experience up front.
Much like the defense last year, it will be interesting to see how Colorado deals with all of these changes. Another year with Montez should bring some stability at quarterback, but the rest of the offense might be in flux for the first few weeks of the season. As Coach MacIntyre tries to figure out the best man for each job, Buffs fan will just have to be patient in figuring out the team’s new offensive identity.
Until then, we can enjoy watching Phillip Lindsay in preseason Broncos games, trying not to get too nostalgic for 2016.