Like most of us, Kirk Morrison hadn’t the foggiest idea who Jarek Broussard was two months ago.
But the ESPN analyst and former NFL linebacker got a hint that something was coming. Something big. Morrison laughed as he recounted, in hindsight, a conference call with CU coaches a few days before the Buffs’ Nov. 7 opener with UCLA. And the notes that he’d scribbled down from those same coaches’ scouting reports in advance of working the CU-Bruins game for ESPN 2.
NO. 23 BROUSSARD
•You will be surprised.
•We’ve got a lot of confidence in him.
•He was the best back coming out of camp.
Hindsight’s a heck of a thing. Flash forward to mid-December, and he’s one of the best backs in the country.
“I think he’s athletic,” Morrison, the ex-San Diego State standout, said of the Buffs’ newest star tailback, who rushed for 187 yards in his debut against the Bruins and hasn’t looked back.
“You just see how quick he is to the hole, how he accelerates. And my only thing was, I think I got scared a couple times when he came out of the game because his knee brace had slipped.”
Other than the knee brace — and more on that in a second — not much has slowed the kid from Dallas down, once he got a taste. Certainly not Pac-12 defenses: Despite not having a workhorse frame, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Broussard heads into Saturday’s showdown with Utah ranked second in FBS in rushing yards per game (183.2) having pretty much put a new-look, ground-centric CU offense on his back.
And, here’s the scary part, he’s done it at less than 100% health.
“He’s probably 95%,” Buffs coach Karl Dorrell said of Broussard, who sat out last fall rehabbing his left knee. “And he’s been that been that way all camp.
“I can’t wait for him to end up leaving that (brace) in the garage or in a dorm room or whatever it is that says, ‘I’m ready to go.’ … As long as he can continue to do what he’s doing, he can put two new braces on, I don’t care. As long as he can continue to do what he’s doing, I’ll never complain, as long as he’s being productive.”
Broussard hasn’t just carried the No. 21 Buffs (4-0, 3-0 Pac-12) to within a whisker — CU has to beat the Utes and UCLA has to beat USC (4-0, 4-0) Saturday — of returning to the Pac-12 championship game for the first time since 2016. He’s running, from a pace perspective, with some of the greats in Buffs annals. Broussard’s 733 yards after four games are six more than the 727 Rashaan Salaam racked up in 1994 after his first four contests en route to winning the Heisman Trophy that fall.
“We talk about (that history),” Broussard said earlier this week. “We talk about it (in) our running back room. But we mostly just focus on the game that’s in front of us. We’re not really focused too much on accolades or anything.”
And 12 or 13 games are a truer sample size than, say, six or seven. But is Broussard, who’s been named the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Week twice already, serving notice that he deserves to be in the preseason Heisman picture for 2021?
“It’s always going to be about the non-conference schedule, right?” Morrison replied. “In the Pac-12, I’ve felt like they’ve always, obviously, been hurt by their television contract.
“But maybe Fox can help that out (on Saturday) by having him on their Big Noon Kickoff, by getting more attention to (him). I think that’s what it’s going to take — more exposure. I think, before, you don’t know the name.”
You might after Saturday. Step 1: Racking up a big game for a good team (check), in front of a lot of eyeballs (also check), on the national stage (also, also check).
With Michigan-Ohio State becoming another COVID-19 cancellation, the CU-Utah tilt is expected to be the most-watched Buffs home football game, nationally, since Mel Tucker’s overtime win at Folsom Field over Nebraska last Sept. 7.
“The Heisman is always going to go, to me, to the best player on the best team,” Morrison laughed. “I think if he’s on a 9-3 Buffs team, it’s kind of hard. But if he’s on a 12-0 Buffs team that’s playing for a conference championship, then we can have that discussion.”
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