Colorado Buffaloes 2016 Preview and Prediction
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#61 Colorado Buffaloes
Pac-12 South PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mike MacIntyre, 10-27 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Brian Lindgren, Darrin Chiaverini | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jim Leavitt
Previewing Colorado’s Offense in 2016
The big news early in the offseason in Boulder was that former Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb had committed to join Colorado as a graduate transfer. However, Webb decided in May to transfer to California instead, leaving uncertainty at the quarterback position for the Buffaloes. Three-year starter Sefo Liufau is recovering from a Lisfranc foot fracture that ended his junior season prematurely. With Webb choosing California and Liufau still recovering, redshirt freshman Steven Montez could be starting his first game in the season opener. He would compete with senior Jordan Gehrke for the job in camp - if Liufau is not back at full strength.
Colorado’s offense took a step back last season in many regards, and the inconsistency of offensive line play was a big reason why. It will be a boost to get left tackle Jeromy Irwin back from a knee injury. Center Alex Kelley and left guard Gerrad Kough return to their starting roles, making the left side of the line the strength of the unit.
Colorado has four running backs returning who have made significant contributions in the past, but there could be times this fall when all of them are on the sideline watching true freshman Beau Bisharat carry the ball. Bisharat is the highest-rated recruit of MacIntyre’s tenure. He should help the Colorado ground game improve after ranking 87th nationally in 2015.
CU signed five wide receivers in its recent recruiting class, and it wasn’t with an eye toward the future. Junior college transfers Kabion Ento and Juwann Winfree are expected to make an immediate impact and could earn starting roles.
Previewing Colorado’s Defense in 2016
There are a lot of players returning on this side of the ball and reason to believe the Buffaloes will continue to improve in their second season under defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
Once again, the secondary appears to be the strength of the defense, with cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and safety Tedric Thompson figuring to have a chance to play in the NFL in the future. Free safety Ryan Moeller returns from injuries he suffered when he was hit by a car last season, and junior Afolabi Laguda and senior Ahkello Witherspoon bring versatility and experience. Young cornerbacks Nick Fisher and Isaiah Oliver should be improved after being thrown to the fire as true freshmen a year ago.
Three different linebackers have led the team in tackles the past three seasons, and they’re all back. Senior Kenneth Olugbode, junior Addison Gillam and sophomore Rick Gamboa, along with junior college transfer Drew Lewis, will compete for the two starting jobs at inside linebacker, but they ought to be able to keep each other fresh regardless of who starts.
The defensive line and pass rush should be stout with senior Josh Tupou expected back from a year-long suspension. He will team with Derek McCartney, Jimmie Gilbert, Jordan Carrell and Leo Jackson, who were impact players in 2015.
Previewing Colorado’s Specialists in 2016
Colorado allowed six blocked kicks last season, which led to the firing of the former special teams coordinator and splitting those duties among the staff. Punter Alex Kinney averaged 38.1 net yards per punt, and placekicker Diego Gonzalez made only 18-of-29 field goal attempts, including 3-of-7 from 30-39 yards.
This will be the most experienced team CU has had in years. The pieces are in place for the Buffaloes to finally make a jump up the Pac-12 standings, especially if Liufau returns at full strength in time for the season opener. No one is expecting Colorado to contend for a title, but the program must continue to show progress in MacIntyre’s fourth year on the job.