Throughout his time at Colorado, Alex Fontenot has been through a lot.
He’s had three head coaches. He’s been a backup and a starter – and then a backup again. He’s dealt with a major injury. He’s watched many teammates come and go.
As he prepares for his final season, however, Fontenot isn’t focused on anything that’s happened in the past.
“I just take it day by day and just try and put myself in the best position to just keep moving forward and keep bettering myself and my game,” the senior running back said in the spring.
This summer, BuffZone.com will preview each position group for CU and in this installment, we look at the running backs.
While there are familiar faces in the backfield, led by Fontenot, this is an intriguing position group because of the changes in the offseason.
Jarek Broussard, who led the Buffs in rushing the last two years and was the Pac-12 offensive player of the year in 2020, transferred to Michigan State. Ashaad Clayton, a four-star recruit in the 2020 class with a load of potential, transferred to Tulane.
CU’s coaching staff targeted FCS All-American Ramon Jefferson to replace Broussard. Jefferson committed to CU in January and was in the Buffs’ plans throughout the spring. In May, Jefferson changed his mind and eventually landed at Kentucky.
What’s left is Fontenot and a lot of players with unproven potential, but that doesn’t mean the Buffs can’t find success in the backfield.
“I know we can get it done,” Fontenot said. “That’s the confidence I have in our room. … The talent is still there.”
It starts with Fontenot, who is entering his sixth season with the Buffs. He has 14 career starts, 11 of those coming in 2019, when he led CU with 874 yards and five touchdowns while catching 27 passes.
After missing the 2020 season with a hip injury, he was the No. 2 back behind Broussard last year. Fontenot rushed for 326 yards and a team-high five touchdowns.
Coming off the hip injury, Fontenot proved himself again last year, but is eager to put up more production this year as he aims for the lead back role once again.
“I know what I can do. I know what everybody else can do,” he said. “I know that I could put myself in a position to be great every time, so I always bet on myself, really. It’s nothing I really worry about proving to other people, it’s something that I already know I can do.”
In addition to confidence in himself, Fontenot believes in fellow veterans Deion Smith and Jayle Stacks.
Smith also missed 2020 with an injury but flashed his talent in a limited role last year. Now in his fifth season, Smith has just 260 yards on 76 career carries, but had a great spring and said, “I feel like in my time here I have yet to really just show everyone what I have.”
Stacks is a big back with only one career rushing attempt, but he could find a bigger role in new coordinator Mike Sanford’s offense.
“He’s kind of a do-it-all guy right now; a Swiss Army Knife playing a lot of roles for us and doing a really good job with it,” Sanford said.
True freshmen Anthony Hankerson and Victor Venn joined the team this summer and will battle for playing time, as will walk-on Charlie Offerdahl, who shined in the spring.
While it’s a very different group than a year ago, it’s a group that running backs coach Darian Hagan and the Buffs will rely on to move the ball.
“They’re playing with a lot of passion,” Hagan said. “I like the group. I love coming to work and coaching that group. It’s awesome.”
Position: Running backs
Returners (2021 statistics)
- Alex Fontenot, Sr., 6-feet, 200 pounds (96 att., 326 yards, 5 TD; 13 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD)
- Deion Smith, Jr., 6-0, 190 (53 att., 192 yards, 2 TD; 5 catches, 21 yards)
- Jayle Stacks, So., 5-11, 235 (1 att., 4 yards; 1 catch, 3 yards)
- Charlie Offerdahl, R-Fr., 5-11, 185 (walk-on)
- Noah Wagner, R-Fr., 6-4, 220 (walk-on)
- Anthony Hankerson, Fr., 5-9, 190
- Victor Venn, Fr., 5-10, 175
- Dominick Mastro, So., 5-10, 200 (walk-on; transfer from Arizona State)
- Christian Sarem, Fr., 6-2, 230 (walk-on)
- Jarek Broussard (transferred to Michigan State; 142 att., 661 yards, 2 TD; 13 catches, 81 yards)
- Ashaad Clayton (transferred to Tulane; 20 att., 84 yards, 1 TD)
- Joe Davis (transferred to Southern Utah; 5 att., 22 yards)
- Isaiah Harper (walk-on)