What You Should Know: Northern Colorado

via photos.oregonlive.com
Note: This is RockChalk's game preview.  As has been mentioned he's having some sort of posting difficulty so I'm helping him out by getting this up for all to enjoy.  Thanks RC and enjoy the OGT's today everyone.

 

Along with my hopefully humorous "A Deeper Look" series, "What You Should Know" should be a weekly feature here at RCT. Most of the time, it should appear on Friday, and will kind of be a summation of sorts of the week's multiple preview features. Basically, I'll go through their two-deep/roster, and pick out things that I think you should know, and share them with you. Bullet-point style. It comprehensively covers some of the material, if that makes any sense.

With that said, here is the first week's installment, obviously on the University of Northern Colorado, or UNoCo as we call it here around these parts. We don't really like UNC very much. So much so, in fact, that we are trying to change the entire state into an ocean. But I digress.

Anyways, let's get started. With this being the first run-through, there will almost definitely be tweaks that need to be made. It'll get better. Initially, I'm breaking it up into units (offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff, general information), so we'll see how all of that goes.

The Offense

Quarterback

Bryan Waggener is an athletic QB, someone who can beat you with both his arm and his legs. Out of high school, he went to community college, and out of community college, he had a choice between Oklahoma and Florida. Well, at least both offered him scholarships. He chose Florida, sat on the bench for one year (2007, when they didn't win a National Championship -- I blame Waggener, who is obviously a cancer), then transferred to UNoCo. He started last season for the Bears, compiling average-ish stats, given the fact he threw 35 times a game (taking out a game against Montana he left early). You don't need to see 'em, just trust me. They are average-ish.

His coach certainly doesn't think he's average, though. Scott Downing, UNoCo's head man, gave Waggener the greatest compliment of all in a puff piece for Greeley's newspaper. Downing, who previously had worked at Purdue, called Waggener a super leader, comparing him to...

UNC coach Scott Downing compared Waggener's leadership qualities to Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who Downing helped coach while he was at Purdue. Downing said Orton was a guy who was composed all the time, but not outwardly emotional.

Uh, wut? I'm going to try and dance around this one, so as not to offend Slam in any way, but...wut? Kyle Orton is known for a lot of things -- in order, it probably goes like this: neckbeard, sucking, drunk pictures on Deadspin, left-handed passes -- and leadership isn't one of them. But, hey, Deadspin, keep your eye out on this one. He's the next Kyle Orton.

Runningbacks

Despite having lost their leading rusher last season, Shawnee, Kansas (hey, that's where I was born!) native David Wood, the UNoCo rushing attack appears to be even stronger this season. Two newcomers top the two-deep, while last year's change-of-pace back, teeny-tiny 5'5" Tyrone Wilson, should still be a factor, making the backfield a legitimate strength for the Bears.

Leading the way is 4-STAR recruit Andre Harris, a JUCO transfer who drew some serious interest from some serious schools, including Missouri, Oregon and Cal, among others. However, after a months-long flirtation with Oregon, that came oh-so-close to working out but not quite*, he was late to the game. Missouri showed some late interest, but I suppose the numbers didn't mesh, or something. Anyways, he's obviously a supremely talented young back who had circumstances and timing bite him in the ass. So, it should be a nice test for our defensive line and our 2-linebacker set, who would presumably be worse against the run.

* Bet Oregon wishes they took him now, though, after LeGarrette Blount went crazy last night in Boise. If you haven't heard yet, leave. If you have, no explanation is necessary. Let's just say that, by now, I've seen the actual punch at least 14,000 times. At least. It's tough to be mad at ESPN over this, though -- it is clearly all anyone was talking about all day long, and one of the bigger headlines of the day. Just don't play it over-and-over on Saturday, please. It's run it's course. Let Saturday be about actual football.

The other newcomer to the backfield is actually a freshman (I was shocked, as well -- I thought UNoCo dealt solely with JUCO players, like they were Ron Prince or something), 5'11 175 John Burnley. Rivals hasn't heard of him, so I'd say it's safe to assume he wasn't forced to go to Greeley because of timing. But hey, dude has braces, so don't let me bring him down. He redshirted last year, so he technically isn't a "newcomer", but get over it.I know nothing of what he provides, although if he's ahead of shorty on the depth chart, it bodes well. Wilson did average 4.3 yards a carry last season.

Wide Receivers

They certainly believe in the catches-by-committee system in Greeley -- look at the catch totals of the five top pass-catchers last season: 37-37-37-36-35. Wowza. That 37th catch was a bitch, and it's been confirmed that some wideouts intentionally dropped some passes to stay under the 37 catch benchmark, as they were obviously avoided at all costs after picking it up.

Two of those five return (SR Alex Thompson 5'10") and (JR Brandon Smith 5'7"), which isn't very good. Better in the running game, worse in the passing game, at least on paper. I'm presuming Smith and his backup (So. Patrick Walker 5'8") are slot receivers, or incredibly fast. Or, both. Because, they practically make Daymond Patterson look like Cole Aldrich, or something. The giant of the group is 6'3" Darin McDonald, a redshirt freshman who is from Englewood, Colorado (meaning he's up to no good) and chose the Bears over a D-1 program in Wyoming. Obviously, he likes home-cookin'.

None of the receivers are special. Brandon Smith is the best, but basically, they all seem to be about the same, just in different shapes and sizes (mostly short, though). Just keep Daymond off of that 6'3" guy, and there shouldn't be too much height differential. Anywhere.

Offensive Line

No.

Well, I guess there is something worth mentioning -- this guy is the starting right guard. So, at least they have star quality. More honestly, all six members of their interior line two-deep are from Colorado. I'm guessing that is because all of the talented people they actually recruit to come from different states to Greeley they stick at the tackle positions because it is more valuable, leaving the interior positions to the guys who either (a) grew up near/around/within the same state as UNoCo and have some affiliation or (b) realize that they can only play football at Northern Colorado. Or both, probably. Maybe.

Also worth noting is that, besides left guard mamma-jamma James Zapp, who stands a monstrous 6'4" 325, the entire line is small. Like, all 285 and under, and that includes the rounding-to-the-next-highest-number-divisible-by-five rule of offensive linemen, plus some gratuitous padding, I'm sure. So, they are super tiny. That was the point.

The Defense

Before we (briefly) break it down by unit, let me just drop this fact on you. 22 of the 24 players on UNoCo's two-deep are from Colorado. Now, that probably isn't that weird, because it's a small school, and save a random prospect here-or-there (which are almost all from California, at least for UNoCo, including both of the exceptions on defense), you have to build the majority of your roster close-to-home. Smaller recruiting budgets, blah blah blah.

Defensive Line

If you're looking for sacks, start looking somewhere else. The Bears only had 22 sacks last season, which isn't terrible, but isn't really all that great, either. Of course, what makes this worse is that a single player, Christian Sarmento, had 10 of them. Off of the two-deep, which only contains three players that played last year due to freshman Marcus Lucas, they are returning 3 sacks. All of this makes Nick Hernon the supposed one to watch, despite him being a reserve on the depth-chart. He is presumably more of a pass-rusher, so Tanner Hawkinson will likely have to block both V.J. Holmes (half a sack last year!) and Hernon.

Not really that big of a test for Hawkinson, so hopefully he doesn't screw it up. Because if he does, I really don't want to have him at LT.

Linebackers

The starter in the middle is a freshman named Cameron Friend. That is fantastic. His last name is Friend. Anyways, Rivals ignores his existence, so I do as well. Matt King is a returning starter on the weakside, bring back 44 tackles with him. So, whatever that tells you, learn. James Schrenk is also a non-living person according to Rivals, although they do acknowledge the existence of what I'm sure is his long-lost brother, Daniel Schrenk. I would have said twin, but James is a JUCO transfer, so unless Daniel, who is coming out of prep school got held back a year or something (which isn't doubtful given his picture), that would seem hard.

Anyways, two unknown quantities coming in for the Bears. Who knows how they'll react. And based off of the numbers, it isn't like returning player Matt King is a tackle machine or nothing. I hope we run the ball, and then run it some more. That should be keys 1,2 and 3. Run. The. Ball. See, three keys. Three sentences.

Secondary

Northern Colorado likes to pretend they are cool and have a rover position, even though they use a 4-3 scheme, leaving zero room for a traditional rover. So, they cheat and use 12 players don't list a starting strong safety. Yay! That solves nothing, as I'm sure the strong safety does basically the same thing a normal strong safety does, whether he's called a strong safety or a rover or a freakign reindeer. Or even Klawz. It doesn't matter. Unless, of course, Stephen Michon really does play a rover position, and they do some funky 4-3-1-3 type defense. I don't know.

I doubt it, though. Starting at corner are veritable munchkins in Kory Askew Jr. (you spelled your name wrong, there, boss) and Colby Riggins, 5'9" and 5'10" respectively, making them prime candidates for jump balls and such. Neither accounted for any statistics last season, for whatever reason. Worth noting, however, is that Quincy Wofford picked off 3 passes last season and is now a backup behind Riggins, so either Quincy Wofford (who obviously is an 18th century British philosopher who is using a time machine to play college football in Greeley) got substantially worse, or Riggins is a player.

The star of the secondary, and the entire defense now that superhuman Christian Sarmento is gone, is definitely FS Max Hewitt. He had 6.5 tackles for a loss last season, second after Sacramento (yes, I did that on purpose) as a free safety, picked off 3 passes, broke up 3 more. 79 tackles, total, second on the team after that one guy. You know. So, yeah, he's somebody to watch out for. Todd, just don't lob it up way high up in the air. Please and thank you. Just keep it on the edges, or short and over the middle. Deep and over the middle is basically, from the looks of it, the only place that is even semi-off limits.

The Specialists

Their kicker is Michael York, who was 13-17 last season, including 9-10 inside 30 yards and 13-16 inside 40. He doesn't have much leg, obviously, but is fairly accurate. His season long was a 38-yarder against Weber State.

Punting duties fall on Cameron Kaman from Overland Park, Kansas (hey, that's where I'm from!), more specifically Blue Valley High School. Yay. He is actually really solid, averaging over 46 yards a boot and even having a season-long of 80(!) yards. 80 is a long way, in case you were interested and unaware, which is unlikely.

They even have a third specialist to kickoff, named Zak Bigelow Jr. And please, no Rob Schneider jokes -- he's heard them all of his life, I'm sure, or at least since the movies came out. I would just say it's pronounced Bige-low, personally. He didn't have any touchbacks last season, so Dezmon Briscoe should get at least one crack at a TD.

You can figure out who returns punts/kicks when you watch the game. It'll be like a surprise. Or something.

Coaching

Head Coach

LIke mentioned with the Kyle Orton reference, the head coach is Scott Downey. He is a graduate of Sterling College, if that's even a real place, Class of '79, which leads me to approximate his age as 52. Assuming the man had his stuff together and didn't labba it through college (sorry, man, it is all meant in love). He provides his email and phone numberr if you want to contact him and actually learn about him. Be my guest.

Scott started coaching immediately out of college, becoming an assistant at Sterling in 1980. He then left for Nebraska for 3 years, joined the Cowboys of Wyoming for way too long, then moved on to Purdue to be Joe Tiller's right hand man. He then went back to Nebraska, serving as a recruiting coordinator, which is probably why he is pulling in so many people Rivals doesn't care enough to make a page for. Seriously, though, I'm sure that helped him land Andre Harris, who I'm sure had every 1-AA school knocking on his door. So, even though it's already his 4th year in Greeley, he might have the chops to pull this thing off after all. It's tough to blame the guy too much for the combined 2-21 record the past two seasons, as they are going through the transition into 1-AA. They are fully transitionalized now, though, so no more excuses. Produce, now, or go somewhere else and be recruiting coordinator or something. It's probably a make-or-break year for Mr. Downing.

Rest of Staff

Other coaches of interest include: Dennis Darnell (Offensive Coordinator) and Cody Deti (Defensive Coordinator). They are the only two coaches besides Downing to have coached at the 1-A level, but Deti was just a Grad Assistant at Purdue and Nebraska with Downing. So, he doesn't count. Darnell, though, was the offensive coordinator at New Mexico for 6 years in the mid 90's, so he actually has legitimate experience. Plus, his son is the QBs coach.

Of course, everyone's favorite coach here at RCT is Jordan Fenner. With such fabulous interview answers, I'm sure he's the world's favorite UNoCo coach, too. Just for fun, and to belabor the point beyond its humour level, here is a quote on his coach's page:

Maybe the deepest position on the team, Fenner returns three that started at least one game a year ago, including all-conference honorable mention selection Brandon Smith, as well as several other redshirts and incoming freshmen who all have speed as well as good hands.

What's the biggest/greatest strength of the unit, coach?

Summary for People Who Aren't In Love With Reading Me Babble

Just like the title says. Here are the key points that every Kansas fan needs to know going into the game tomorrow against UNoCo. The above is mostly useful (at least some of it is), but these are the things that are practically mandatory:

  • Bryan Waggener can run and throw. He's not particularly great at either, but he's average-ish.
  • Andre Harris is a 4-STAR recruit who is really good. He was a JUCO, making the 4-STAR semi-convoluted, but he still has major talent.
  • The wide receivers are fairly deep, highlighted by Brandon Smith.
  • The O-Line is very small, save for the HUGE LG, James Zapp.
  • The defensive line lost their best player, and returns minimal production.
  • Linebackers are bringing in two fresh, new starters, with the returning one average-ish.
  • Secondary has a rover position for reasons unexplained and is headlined by Max Hewitt, who can ball.
  • Specialists are probably a strength, particularly Overland Park, Kansas native Cameron Kaman, the punter.
  • Coach is probably in a make-or-break year after two consecutive brutal, one-win seasons. He's in the 50ish range, age-wise.
  • The wide receivers greatest/biggest strength is when they have a good practice.

That's it. This should come out Friday morning most weeks, so you have the day to digest. We'll play around with it and see what works, what doesn't and hopefully bring out an improved product next week.

We're almost there, folks. Just a couple more hours.

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