UCLA Football Preview: Colorado's Offense May Be UCLA's Greatest Strength
With so many unknowns and a new quarterback, UCLA has the opportunity to take advantage of the Buffaloes' lack of experience in their 2020 opener.
The UCLA football 2020 opener is finally upon us and the matchup with the Colorado Buffaloes is going to be really interesting with former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell at the helm. Let’s take a look at the Buffs’ offense and how they plan on opening the season.
Colorado will be starting senior Sam Noyer, replacing Steven Montez, who was signed by the Washington Football team as an undrafted free agent. Noyer is a converted safety, and while he has roughly the same amount of playing time at CU as compared to redshirt junior Tyler Lytle, Dorrell stated that Noyer won a tight competition with Lytle in training camp, citing his smooth integration into the offense as a major reason he got the nod. In the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Noyer appeared in a total of eight games, going 21-41 for a total of 179 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions across the two years
The Buffaloes will be replacing offensive tackle Arlington Hambright, who is now playing for the Chicago Bears, and Tim Lynott, who played both right guard and center. They bring back three starters, which will really help a green quarterback and give him time to throw.
At center, redshirt junior Colby Pursell should get the start, moving from his former position at guard. Kary Kutsch, the only senior lineman, will be at left guard alongside one of Colorado’s top offensive lineman from last year junior Will Sherman.
The right will see some rotation. Redshirt sophomores Kanan Ray and Casey Roddick will likely trade snaps at guard, but of the two Roddick’s size at 320 pounds makes him the more imposing option. Redshirt sophomore Frank Fillip is likely going to start at tackle and, while he doesn’t have a ton of experience, back in 2018, he was only the third freshman to start at the tackle position in program history.
An additional unknown on the line is redshirt junior Chance Lytle, who didn’t get much experience until last year, and that was limited in three games which also included time on special teams.
The Buffs return junior Alex Fontenot, but, unfortunately for CU, he is out with an injury. He was on the Doak Walker preseason watch list, so this is a huge loss for Colorado. Sophomores Jarek Broussard and Jaren Mangham return with in game experience from their freshman years that will make them solid options for the hand off.
With a new head coach, and undoubtedly a new offensive scheme, it is hard to say how heavily we will see the Buffaloes rely on the run game. Their quarterback is also an unknown. So, UCLA’s defensive line is going to have to apply pressure up front to rattle Noyer but also be ready to stuff the run game.
This unit is feeling the loss of Laviska Shenault, who is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tony Brown, who was an undrafted free agent and ended up signing with the Cleveland Browns. The Buffaloes, however, had a few players waiting in the wings who now have their chance.
Senior K.D. Nixon saw the field quite a bit last year, amassing 465 yards on 35 carries which resulted in three touchdowns, only one less than Shenault. Junior Daniel Arias suited up for all 12 games last year, and while he didn’t quite rack up the stats starting at receiver, he was extremely successful on special teams, coming in second on the team with 23 special teams points, and also seeing action on the punt return and kick return units.
Redshirt sophomore Dimitri Stanley is solid as well, who had 312 yards and two touchdowns of his own last year. Both of these guys are ready to step up and fill in the loss of Shenault and Brown; the unknown is whether Noyer can get them the ball and how heavily Dorrell is ready to rely on his rather inexperienced quarterback.
Additional options for Noyer will be redshirt juniors Jaylen Jackson and Maurice Bell as well as redshirt junior tight end Brady Russell. Russell was keeping pace with the rest of the group last year, notching two touchdowns and 221 yards on 22 catches. He has a solid frame at 6’3” and 255 pounds, and he is also touted as an excellent blocker. Also earning a spot on the depth chart is UCLA transfer senior Matt Lynch, who will likely see more playing time than he would have with the Bruins.
2020 is definitely going to be a weird season. The late start, the lack of a spring season and spring game, and crazy circumstances, in general, are going to throw some things out of whack. At this point, Colorado is a good option to start the season and shake off the cobwebs as this is a winnable game all around if UCLA can come out solid.