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You can read the entire Colorado Buffaloes preview in Athlon Sports' 2013 Pac-12 magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
Pac-12 South PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mike MacIntyre, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Brian Lindgren | DEF. COORDINATOR: Kent Baer
The rebuilding project in Boulder continues in 2013 with coach Mike MacIntyre taking over the role of lead architect after predecessors Jon Embree and Dan Hawkins failed to get the job done. Colorado is running a quarterback-friendly offense featuring plenty of Pistol formations that helped San Jose State produce more than 4,300 passing yards and 1,475 rushing yards in 2012 on MacIntyre’s watch.
With Jordan Webb, who started nine games in 2012, lost for the season with a torn ACL, Connor Wood emerged as the leading candidate to earn the starting quarterback job in the spring, which led to fellow junior Nick Hirschman deciding to transfer. Wood appeared well ahead of redshirt freshman Shane Dillon in the spring. True freshman Sefo Liufau, who can run and throw, will have a chance to earn the job in August.
Paul Richardson’s return from knee surgery that forced him to sit out 2012 is the No. 1 reason fans of the program are excited. Richardson gives the Colorado offense a badly needed gamebreaker who will force defenses to play things more honestly.
There are four running backs likely to earn playing time in the new offense, led by sophomore Christian Powell, a bruiser who started last season at fullback only to become the starting tailback in Week 2. Junior Tony Jones and sophomore Donta Abron are nice complements to Powell’s power. Both are shifty and speedy. Senior Josh Ford might be the most well-rounded in the group.
This was a sore spot a year ago with so many young players being forced into action. The Buffs gave up 226.0 rushing yards per game and nearly 500 total yards. It will be under the direction of veteran defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who has a history of improving turnover numbers.
The strength of the defensive line is in the middle where there are several capable tackles in Josh Tupou, Nate Bonsu, Tyler Henington and Justin Solis. Coaches need to find a pass-rusher who can complement Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who led the team in sacks last season. Samson Kafovalu might be that man.
Senior Derrick Webb was the team’s leading tackler in 2012, and he should be a big factor again, especially if the linemen in front of him begin to eat up blockers. True freshman Addison Gillam was the surprise of spring on the defensive side of the ball at middle linebacker. Junior Woodson Greer and senior Paul Vigo are solid outside linebackers who could be interchangeable. Cornerback Greg Henderson is the standout in a secondary that picked off only three passes last season and none in the final eight games. Fellow corner Kenneth Crawley says he feels more comfortable this year after being burned by the Pac-12’s veteran receivers in 2012. Coaches have to find some answers at safety.
All of the starters are back from 2012. Punter Darragh O’Neill is capable of punting with either foot and should be a candidate for the Ray Guy Award. Placekicker Will Oliver didn’t get many opportunities in the dismal 2012 season, but he has been accurate and dependable in his first two seasons.
After a failed two-year run with Embree, Colorado made one of the offseason’s best coaching moves by hiring MacIntyre. He will have his hands full this season, as the Buffaloes were one of the worst major conference teams of the BCS era in 2012. The quarterback position is a question mark, and Colorado needs to replace its best offensive lineman. Last season, the defense allowed 46 points per game (most in the nation), and even with seven starters back, this unit may not be much better in 2013. The Buffaloes will show improvement, but wins could be difficult to come by this year.
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