Opportunity awaits a handful of Colorado wide receivers.
While K.D. Nixon and Dimitri Stanley look like favorites to become primary targets in the pass game when the Buffaloes start their season at home against UCLA on Nov. 7, there appears to be room for a few others to get into the mix. Colorado sent Laviska Shenault and Tony Brown, the leading receivers from the 2019 squad, to the NFL.
“We have a lot of depth at receiver, so it’s kind of just been whatever rotation we kind of need, what guys need to get in, what guys need some work, what guys need a little rest time,” Stanley answered when asked about the receiver rotations.
“We just got a bunch of talent in the wide receiver room, and whoever plays can play.”
Stanley added he’s spent some more time in the slot with Nixon nursing a hamstring issue. Nixon, the team’s top returning receiver after turning 35 catches into 465 yards and three touchdowns last season, is close to 100 percent, according to Stanley. First-year coach Karl Dorrell said the team made it out of Saturday’s second preseason scrimmage without major injury concerns. The offense still has some things to work out, however.
“There (were) really good plays, but then you sensed the level of consistency and efficiency of the offense needs to improve,” Dorrell said.
Part of the issue could be an ongoing battle for the person in charge of getting Nixon, Stanley and others involved. Dorrell said he’s getting closer to naming a starting quarterback. Either junior Tyler Lytle or senior Sam Noyer is the likely answer.
“We wanted to get a couple good weeks to get some evaluations on everyone that’s involved here,” Dorrell said. “We’re definitely thinking sometime this week we’ll probably come out with some announcement. It is close. It’s coming soon.”
Through the first couple of weeks, the receivers have been trying to get on the same page with each option to replace Steven Montez, who is listed on the Washington Football Team’s practice squad.
“It just comes down to getting that work in with them,” Stanley said. “They’ve done an excellent job just being prepared and knowing what they’re doing and getting guys right and building that chemistry up when they do get the opportunity.”
Stanley, a Cherry Creek High School graduate, finished last year fourth in receiving with 312 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. He’s looking for more in his second season, and there should be more balls coming his way with Shenault and Brown on to the next level. Both Shenault, now a Jacksonville Jaguar, and Brown, recently promoted to Washington’s active roster, caught 56 passes last year. Shenault led the team with 764 yards, while Brown had a team-high five touchdown catches to go with 707 yards. Now it’s about putting the lessons taught by the NFL rookies into practice.
“I think I’ve actually grown a lot since last year,” Stanley said. “Kind of learned a lot of things from K.D., Viska, Tony. … I think I’m ready to come in and just show what I can do for real this time.”
He’s not the only one thinking that way.
“I’ve built my confidence way more this season just being around Viska and Tony and getting their advice and just talking to them,” junior Daniel Arias said. “And just learning from them and learning what they do and how they do it has built my confidence. This season, I feel like I’m ready. I feel like this is my time to shine, and I’m going to do what I can to help my team win.”
There are additional challengers for the available targets. Dorrell said Stanley, redshirt freshman La’Vontae Shenault, Laviska’s younger brother, and true freshman Chris Carpenter made big plays during Saturday’s scrimmage. Running back Jaren Mangham, another capable pass-catcher, rushed for a couple of scores, the coach said.
“I think he did a nice job in the run game,” Dorrell said. “It was spread out pretty good. (Tight end) Brady Russell had a nice couple of catches today and had some runs after. They are all doing a really nice job.”