Colorado Class of 2011: Recap and Analysis

Stuart WhitehairAnalyst IFebruary 5, 2011

If you look at the national rankings of the recruiting classes of 2011, the Colorado Class of 2011 was mediocre. Colorado’s recruits were rated 60th in the nation by Scout, on the south side of the Pac-12 by almost every reporting agency.

With only one four-star player (Asiata), the Buffs filled some needs, and had some players with “potential”, but there was not much excitement generated by the twenty players who have agreed to wear the black-and-gold.

Don’t buy it.

This class will not have the star power of the Class of 2012, but it will help bridge the gap for Colorado between mediocre and great.

“I’m bringing in someone next year to beat you out; that’s the object of the game of recruiting,” said Embree, head coach for the Buffaloes. “If they can’t beat them out, then great, that means all the kids in this class are raising their level. All the guys on this team know I’m bringing in someone to beat them out; if they can’t, they’re handling their business. That’s how it has to be.”

A look at the Class of 2011 and how they will fit into the Colorado roster, position-by-position.


Quarterback – 2011 Recruiting need: High

Embree was hired, the first thing he did with regard to recruits he wished to target was to identify holes in the existing roster.

A gaping hole on the eligibility charge existed at the quarterback position.

Tyler Hansen returns for his senior year in 2011, but after that, there was only red-shirt freshman Nick Hirschman on scholarship. The Buffs only had a handful of scholarships to offer this year, but it was imperative that Colorado sign not one, but two new quarterbacks.

Of the five verbal commitments given to the Dan Hawkins’ regime, two were from quarterbacks: Brock Berglund and Nick Sherry.

Within two weeks of Embree’s hire, the number of verbal commitments from quarterbacks was back down to zero.

Brock Berglund left for a “better situation” at Kansas, while Nick Sherry was told that he should look elsewhere (Sherry ultimately signed with UNLV). In their place, the Colorado recruiting staff signed junior college transfer Brent Burnette, along with Stevie Joe Dorman from Somerset, Texas.

Burnette was 60-0 as a high school starter, but hasn’t done much since.

He played for Middle Tennessee State before transferring to Western Arizona Junior College. While with the Matadors of Western Arizona, Burnette played in seven games before being injured. When he returned from injury, he couldn’t force his way back into the starting lineup.

Dorman also had a successful high school career, setting numerous records at Somerset high in Texas.

Dorman ranks in the top ten in career yardage, touchdowns, and completions in Texas prep history, no small feat. In addition, Dorman comes to Boulder with a great pedigree, as he is the nephew of Ty and Koy Detmer, and the grandson of his coach, the legendary Sonny Detmer.

Still, even with the numbers and the name, Dorman was ranked no higher than the 77th-best quarterback in the nation by Scout, and only the 15th-best quarterback from the state of Texas.

Grade: C+

Burnette and Dorman had successful high school careers, but were not impressive enough to generate BCS offers. Burnette provides insurance to the Buffs in case Tyler Hansen falters or fails to grasp the new offense as he does have starting experience.

Dorman does have mounds of potential.

Still, it is hard not to see this pair as place holders while the Buff coaching staff scours the nation in search of a top quarterback recruit from the Class of 2012.


Running back – 2011 Recruiting need: Medium/High

The running back depth chart presented a similar problem to Embree’s staff to that of the quarterbacks: seniors and red-shirt freshmen.

Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge return, but after that, there are only red-shirt freshmen on scholarship — Tony Jones; Trea Jones; and Cordary Allen.

As the threesome from the Class of 2010 all sat out last season, they remain an unknown quantity. Both Stewart and Lockridge have been injured during their careers, so additional bodies were needed from the Class of 2011.


Rashad Hallc omes to Boulder from Oak Ridge Military Prep as a two-star prospect with four-star potential.

Rated as the No. 67 running back prospect in the nation by ESPN, Hall rushed for 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior.

“(Hall) is a big back, a physical back,” Embree said. “He is a bit of a long-strider; kind of reminds me of Bobby Purify … Does he have the breakaway speed to go 60 (yards)? It depends on what the play is. Is he going to do it every time? Maybe not, but he’ll do it enough.”

Another two-star prospect signed on Letter-of-Intent day, as Malcolm Creer came to the Buffs from Pacific Palisades, California.

Creer rushed for 1,270 yards and 19 touchdowns on only 120 carries (almost ten yards per carry). Still, Creer was rated as no better than the 121st-best running back in the nation (by Scout).

Grade: B

Rodney Stewart was a two-star running back recruit, and was an after-thought Letter-of-Intent day signing on a day when Colorado fans were glued to their televisions, hoping that Darrell Scott would put on a CU hat for the ESPN audience.

Now Stewart is poised to pass his position coach, Eric Bieniemy, for the all-time rushing lead in Colorado history.

Both Creer (5′11″, 200) and Hall (6′0″, 200) are bigger than Speedy. The Buffs added running back depth on signing day, 2011. The jury is still out as to whether Creer and Hall will provide quality depth.


Wide Receiver – 2011 Recruiting Need – High

In terms of graduation, the Buffs' only significant loss at wide receiver was the loss of record-setter Scotty McKnight.

On the roster, there were plenty of names, with the emphasis on “were“. No fewer than four wide receivers from the 2010 depth chart will not return for 2011, including scholarship seniors Kendrick Celestine and Andre Simmons.

Also leaving the team are wide receiver walk-ons Heath Davis and Gabe Castillo.

Colorado was in search of at least two wide receivers from the Class of 2011, but lost out on Signing day on Devin Lucien, who signed with UCLA.

The only wide receiver signed was Nelson Spruce from Westlake Village, California.

Spruce started both ways in high school, and had 1,292 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns despite not playing in the second half of nine of his team’s 14 games.

“Nelson reminds me of John Minardi,” said Jon Embree. “I won’t say Scotty McKnight because I didn’t really get a chance to watch Scotty. Nelson is one of those kids; he is bigger (6′2″) than you think, he is faster than you think, and is a great route runner.”

Grade: B

This grade is not a reflection on Spruce. I believe that Spruce will be a very good player for Colorado.

Still, wide receiver was identified as an area of need, and the Buffs were able to sign only one player. Missing out on Devin Lucien might be a greater Signing Day loss than linebacker Leilon Willingham, at least in terms of need.

With two scholarship seniors already lost (Celestine; Simmons), and two more seniors exhausting their eligibility this fall (Toney Clemons; Jason Espinoza), a wide receiver will again be a top priority for recruiting for the Class of 2012.


Tight End – 2011 Recruiting Need – Low

Colorado did not lose any tight ends out of the 2010 class other than walk-on Luke Walters.

Senior Ryan Deehan returns, along with sophomore DaVaughn Thornton.

The Buffs also will have three red-shirt freshmen this fall: Kyle Slavin, Harold Mobley, and Henley Griffon.

The Buffs will be in need of a tight end from the 2012 recruiting class, but it was not a priority this cycle.


Offensive Line – 2011 Recruiting Need – Medium

Colorado loses All-American Nate Solder to the first round of the NFL draft, as well as long-time contributor: Keenan Stevens.

Still, Colorado returns a deep roster along the line, with three senior starters returning for 2011: Ryan Miller, Ethan Adkins, and Mike Iltis. T

hree other senior contributors also return: Blake Behrens, Shawn Daniels, and Sione Tau, along with other potential starters like David Bakhtiari, Bryce Givens, and Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner.

That being said, you can never have enough of the "big uglies," and Colorado signed four offensive linemen which may provide the foundation for the Buffs for years to come.

Alex Lewis did not receive much ink this February, as he was a grey-shirt recruit from the Class of 2010. Lewis was 6′4, 255-pounds, and needed an extra year to grow into his frame. Lewis was a three-star prospect this past season, when he was only 17 years old.

Now, Lewis is 6′6 1/2″, 288-pounds, and still has five years to play four.

The star of the class is Paulay Asiata.

The four-star prospect was a signing day steal from the Washington Huskies, and brings a 6′5″, 295-pound frame to go with an aggressive attitude. 

Marc Mustoe is 6′7″, 280-pounds, and was one of the top-rated players coming out of the state of Colorado this year. Mustoe was the first recruit to agree to play for Jon Embree, so his choice to “flip” from UCLA to Colorado carried a great deal of weight.

Rounding out the offensive line group is center prospect Alex Kelley. Rated as the 22nd-best center prospect in the nation, Kelley, at 6′3″, 295-pounds, could become a four-year starter come 2012.

Grade: A

This is a great quartet of players. Even when third-party evaluations are considered, this is a good group.

Asiata was sought by any number of BCS programs; Mustoe was a de-commit from UCLA and a top Colorado state prospect; Kelley is a top center recruit; and Lewis has taken the past year to grow up 2 1/2 inches and gain 33 pounds.

When the large senior class plays its last game this fall, this group of four will be in a position to supplement an already deep roster.