University of Colorado Boulder Alex Fontenot...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Alex Fontenot goes outside at the Texas Christian University game on September 2, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Less than two weeks ago, the Colorado Buffaloes were so depleted in the fall that they finished a game in Oregon with only one player available for scholarship.

This week, the Buffs may be fully stocked and having a hard time finding a carry-all for everyone.

On Tuesday, Alex Fontenot, who has not played since September 10 in the Air Force, went through his final practice in a no-contact jersey. He can finally return on Saturday when the Buffs (1-7, 1-4 Pac-12) host No. 8 Oregon (7-1, 5-0) at Folsom Field (1:30 p.m., ESPN).

“(Wednesday) should be his first day on the line,” interim coach Mike Sanford said. “Most of that was a precaution, as opposed to what we are trying to push too quickly like us. … Today, he got a scout reps, then tomorrow he wears the blue jersey, so I’m excited to get Alex back.”

Fontenot, who started his first two games of the season, was discharged with a chest injury. He ran for 84 yards in 20 loads before the injury.

Junior Dion Smith leads the Buffs with 354 yards. He missed the October 22 game at Oregon State through injury, but scored the first game of his career for 100 yards (111 yards, one touchdown) in Saturday’s 42-34 loss to Arizona State.

Rookie Anthony Hankerson started playing for Oregon, but was injured early in the game and hasn’t played since. He is third on the team at 140 yards and Hankerson said Hankerson “looked like he’s back in full today as well.”

Sophomore Jayle Stacks has run 76 yards in the last two games, and the Buffs have also walked on Charlie Offerdahl (second on the team with 163 yards).

“You can actually see that we’re getting, I think, pretty good experience with Font,” Sanford said. “For me, he runs like a hammer. In the seven weeks since his injury, he has gained, I think, about nine pounds. So he looks good — and he weighed a good nine pounds.”

The difficulty now lies in finding the carriers of Fontenot and others behind Smith.

“Obviously the challenge will be that Dion is playing good football at the moment,” Sanford said. “Getting Deion into Rhythm is very important, because it provides that opportunity for explosive play at any time, and so is Font. We’re going to work these guys and still have a really healthy rotation coming back.”

Arias adjusts

After several drops in the receiver, Daniel Arias wasn’t on duty for the attack against ASU. However, he has been back in the mix on special teams. In this role throughout his career, Stellar was named the Buffs Special Player of the Week.

“It was fun being there,” said Arias, whose speed is an advantage as a gunner on the shooting team. “I really enjoy playing the gunner. My brain, when I’m out and about, it’s either tackle or a fair hunt. I love doing it. I know I’m going to win every time, so it’s fun for me. I just run around the court and try to play” .

Arias forced 26 fair catches in his career, one shy of the CU record (Ryan Iverson had 27 from 2010-13). Arias didn’t get the chance to set the record this year, but that chance is there again.

“I hope I can get this game done, so I have to keep working,” he said. “Special teams are really important, so when I get my shot I’m going to make sure I go as fast as I can and give everything I have to the specials.”

Arias leads the Buffs with 19 catches and is second with 309 yards, but it’s unclear how much he’ll play when going forward in attack. Sanford believes Arias could play in the NFL on special teams.

“There have been some scouts who have come from here and … see a lot of value in him as a defender and a down-to-earth player in Punting Units,” Sanford said. “I think he really answered the bell (against Arizona State University) and I think he’s going to make himself some money with what he put on the tape, really, as a gunner’s guy, and as a guy who stopped working.”

Reducing returns

Punter Trent Carrizosa has seen a mean drop in recent games, but some of that is by design. Low stopping times gave opponents chances on replay and CU ranks 127th nationally in allowing 225 yards from shootouts.

To fix that, Sanford said, “You can see that we’re doing more of the drop mentality, but we’re improving our break time, and we’re improving the ball position.”

This change contributed to Arizona State University receiving just 19 yards in five returns.

Leave a Reply