NFL Draft stars of tomorrow were on display today in Boulder
Apr 22, 2023, 6:16 PM
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
On Saturday, the world of college football and the sports world was focused on Boulder. Their spring game was held in the afternoon, and it was the only spring game to be broadcast on ESPN this year. Folsom Field is always beautiful, but on Saturday with snow on the flatirons and light snow in the air it was incredibly scenic.
The Colorado Buffaloes have a head coach who gets a ton of attention – and for good reason. Deion Sanders is in his first season as their coach, and he’s made the Buffaloes the talk of the town. It’s no surprise that their spring game – essentially a glorified practice – was sold out. With more than 45,000 fans watching in person, and who knows how many thousands of others at home watching on television, the players put on a show.
While the Buffaloes will have no players drafted into the NFL in 2023, that’s going to change soon with Sanders running the show. Some players have a couple of years left in Boulder, but there is finally some serious NFL talent in black and gold.
Here are some of my thoughts on these potential NFL players.
Shedeur Sanders – QB
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shedeur Sanders (Deion’s son) selected in the first round of the NFL Draft when he declares to go pro. I think he needs two seasons in Boulder to get to that point, but the natural talent as a passer is there. I love the way he plays with confidence and a cool demeanor. Sanders does not get rattled, and he does a good job of patiently going through his reads as a passer. I like his footwork (the most important attribute for a QB), and he uses his hips and his natural throwing motion to zip the ball all over the field. Sanders is not the runner his father was in the NFL, but he did have a nice touchdown run where he exhausted all options as a passer before darting in for the 7-yard score. I’d like to see him speed up his decision when he sees a player get open. More trust from his eyes will help him hit tighter windows in the NFL that are wider open in college football.
Travis Hunter – WR/CB
I’m not sure if Travis Hunter is going to play wide receiver or cornerback in the NFL. I know he’s going to play both for the Buffaloes. He lined up on both sides of the ball on Saturday, and Hunter showcased why he was the no.1 high school player years ago. Hunter has the looks of a first-round pick – mainly as a cornerback. I like his speed and concentration as a receiver, and that helps him on the defensive side too. Hunter is fast, understands angles, and he can use his body to gain better position than defenders tasked with stopping him or receivers tasked with making a play against him. Hunter has all the makings of a Pro Bowl player in the NFL, and he’s certainly going to be a superstar and a fan favorite for Buffs fans.
Other Notable Players
In addition to Sanders and Hunter, there were other players who popped on Saturday’s practice. On both sides of the ball, the Buffs have a mix of young and experienced players who could be playing on Sundays.
Dylan Edwards (running back) is a compact freshman at 165 pounds, but he is an explosive running back. He can eat up yards quickly, and he’s got quick feet to change direction in the blink of an eye. Edwards will never be a pile pusher, but he’s what I call an “inside/out” runner, which means he has no problem taking a carry inside before bouncing it outside. In addition to making big plays as a runner, Edwards can also line up and play receiver if need be.
Trevor Woods (safety) is a junior who arrives at the ball-carrier with bad intentions. He’s a holdover from the last regime, but he fits in with the new talent Sanders has collected. Woods sets the tone with aggressive play, and even in practice he was still hitting like it was a game. I like his intensity, and I know that scouts covet what he brings to the football field as well.
Montana Lemonious-Craig (wide receiver) made the play of the day. Going through 11-on-11 drills, the Buffaloes practiced being backed up in their own end zone. Sanders dropped back, and he bombed a pass down the field that Lemonious-Craig ran under for a 98-yard touchdown that got the capacity crowd fired up. That wasn’t his only play, as the Buffaloes showed a tendency to go to him near pay dirt because of his size and “my ball” mentality.
Kaleb Mathis (wide receiver) is a freshman slot receiver who has the makings of a big playmaker from that position. It seemed like the hyper-tempo offense wore the defense down as the day of practice went on, and Mathis making plays after the catch was part of that. He’s fearless underneath, and Mathis was able to take a big hit, hang onto the ball, and move the chains for the Buffs offense.
Jake Wiley (offensive line) can be part of the answer up front. They did some 1-on-1 drills in what scouts affectionately call “the pit” and I was impressed with Wiley’s game. He’s strong, understands leverage, and he’s got the base to lock up his man regularly. In addition to the physical attributes, Wiley’s game was consistent on Saturday – that’s something pro scouts will be looking for.
Shane Cokes (defensive line) had a good day in the pit. He’s got a large wingspan, and I appreciated the way he fought with his hands. In addition to a jarring punch after the snap, Cokes flashed other moves like a quick spin move to get to the quarterback.
Shakaun Bowser (defensive end) is a freshman who needs to put on weight, but he showed good speed-to-power moves in the pit. I will be watching the rest of his college career with great interest. It’s not often you see such a young player with that kind of savvy going against much more experienced players.