Over the course of the last four seasons, Brady Russell has raised the bar at tight end for the Colorado Buffaloes.
During his career, the former walk-on has been the most productive tight end at CU in years, racking up 58 catches for 646 yards and three touchdowns.
Now a sixth-year senior, Russell is hoping to have his best season, but he also has his young teammates at tight end in mind.
“I want to leave (the tight end room) in a good place,” he said.
This summer, BuffZone.com will preview each position group for CU and in this installment, we look at the tight ends.
Although Russell doesn’t get the national attention of his peers at Utah and other schools, he has gone from being a freshman walk-on to one of the better tight ends in the Pac-12. And, this year, he’s one of the most important players on the Buffs’ roster.
“I think Brady takes a lot of pride in being the older guy in the room of what this tight end room is going to be when he leaves; what’s his legacy of this room,” tight ends coach Clay Patterson said. “You talk about a kid that walked on and then has become one of our best players on this football team.”
Russell isn’t resting on what he’s done to this point, however. He knows there’s room to improve and that the Buffs need him to be better.
“I got to grow a lot more in my pass game (this offseason) and understanding the different things I can do,” he said. “That’s probably where I’ve seen the most growth.”
As good as Russell has been, the Buffs haven’t had a productive second tight end in a long time. Russell has 58 catches over the past four seasons, but every other tight end that has come through the program in that time has combined for 23. Non-Russell tight ends have accounted for 60 receiving yards in the last two seasons combined.
Russell is the only tight end on the current roster that has caught a pass in college, but the Buffs are excited about the potential of their youth. In particular, Caleb Fauria, Erik Olsen and Austin Smith have turned heads at times in practice.
“It’s fun to see (the youth developing),” Patterson said. “It takes time to develop the strength in the weight room, so when you’re younger, you’ve got to have a lot more detail to be successful with your pad level, your hand placement, all those things and these kids are very, very intelligent. … The best part for them is they’re getting reps and they’re getting a ton of reps right now.
“We’ve just got to get them grown up pretty fast.”
In the Buffs’ offense, directed by first-year coordinator Mike Sanford, tight ends are expected to be featured more so than in recent years, so Russell needs help from the young group.
“Those guys are excited because they’re part of the progression,” Sanford said. “That’s a big part of it. They’re a major part of the actual progression in each one of our pass concepts.”
At the end of the spring, Russell was excited about his own development, but also the growth of his fellow tight ends.
“They came farther along than I would have ever imagined under coach Patterson and me trying to help as much as I can,” he said.
Position: Tight ends
Returners (2021 statistics)
- Caleb Fauria, R-Fr., 6-foot-5, 235 pounds
- Erik Olsen, R-Fr., 6-5, 245
- Louis Passarello, R-Fr., 6-5, 250
- Brady Russell, Sr., 6-3 250 (25 catches, 307 yards)
- Austin Smith, R-Fr., 6-5, 225
- Zach Courtney, Fr., 6-6, 235
- Cole Boscia, Fr., 6-3, 210 (walk-on)
- Brady Kopetz, Fr., 6-4 220 (walk-on)
- Matt Lynch (graduated; 4 catches, 22 yards)
- Alec Pell (transferred to Northern Colorado; 1 catch, 17 yards)
- Jared Poplawski (graduated)
- Nico Magri (walk-on; graduated)
- CJ Schmanski (walk-on; graduated)