Updated: Jul 25, 2020
The top 10 players returning to the Colorado Buffaloes for the 2020 college football season.
Important to note that this list is based upon last year's data and film from on each specific team as well as judgment based upon the player's position both his skill and the level of talent around him at the said position and influential cohorts. Positional value also plays a large factor in these rankings as does the offensive or defensive scheme.
1. Mustafa Johnson, DI
2. Alex Fontenot, RB
3. Nate Landman, LB
4. K.J. Trujillo, CB
5. K.D. Nixon, WR
6. William Sherman, T
7. Terrance Lang, Edge
8. Derrion Rakestraw, S
9. Brady Russell, TE
10. Mekhi Blackmon, CB
Honorable Mention: Jaren Mangham, RB; Casey Roddick, G; Carson Wells, Edge; Jalen Sami, DI; Jamar Montgomery, Edge
Johnson had a down year in 2019 with injuries compounding everything, compared to an utterly dominant year in 2018. He'll be out to prove that 2019 was an anomaly as he looks to return to the player that brought down 10 sacks and a bevy of other pressures in 2018. He also presents a challenge for offensive linemen to take on one-on-one with his strength and speed combination as he can routinely shed blocks to stop running backs just the same as he can push his way into the backfield in the passing game.
Landman and Trujillo were a toss-up at Nos. 3 and 4 as Landman does indeed rack up the tackles but has an issue, like most linebackers who rack up that many tackles, with misses. Improved technique not only sees him jump up on this list but also cracks into Day 2 of the NFL draft as well. Trujillo had four pass breakups and a pick last season while he did a great job of limiting big plays and yards after the catch if he did allow a reception at all.
Blackmon and Rakestraw round out an impressive secondary as Blackmon played just four games last season but finally looks to have the time to prove his worth. He hasn't allowed a catch longer than 39 yards in his career so far and with some more targeted passes and more snaps his way, you should know his name sooner than later. Rakestraw had three picks and three pass breakups to go with some solid run-filling duties as well.
On offense, this team will be without Steven Montez for what feels like the first time in a decade but will still have the services of Doak Walker Award preseason watch list member in Fontenot. He ran for 873 yards on just 185 carries last season, splitting time with Mangham, but with a full workload out of the backfield, his 4.7 yards per carry and over 2.8 yards after contact per attempt should bode well for him in 2020.
Nixon and Russell add a valuable set of pass-catchers for the new quarterback situation in Boulder after Nixon finished third on the team with 465 yards and three scores. With a ton of Laviska Shenault's targets available, Russell and Nixon should absolutely see a large increase in production.