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2013 Colorado Preview – Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 13, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Colorado Buffalo Defense


Colorado Buffaloes

Preview 2013 - Defense


- 2013 Colorado Preview | 2013 Colorado Offense
- 2013 Colorado Defense | 2013 Colorado Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Colorado is struggling to keep up with Pac-12 offenses. Heck, the Buffs would labor to stop Big Sky offenses these days. It’s back to the drawing board—again—for a unit that yielded at least 30 points to each of its last 11 opponents in 2012. The talent on hand is marginal, presenting coordinator Kent Baer with one of the toughest assignments of his 40-year coaching career. Colorado can count on DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, LB Derrick Webb and CB Greg Henderson. But after that trio, the team is going to need the youngsters to play well above their pay scale in order to help incite incremental progress against the run and the pass. DT Josh Tupou, LB Addison Gillam and CB Kenneth Crawley, for example, are being asked to build on their spring performances. The Buffaloes are so far away from being competitive that Baer and his assistants are staring at a two-year project at an absolute minimum.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Derrick Webb, 88
Sacks: Chidera Uzo-Diribe, 7
Interceptions: Jered Bell, Marques Mosley, 1

Star of the defense: Senior DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Kenneth Crawley
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Josh Tupou
Best pro prospect: Uzo-Diribe
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Uzo-Diribe, 2) Junior CB Greg Henderson, 3) Senior LB Derrick Webb
Strength of the defense: The ends, experienced players
Weakness of the defense: Yards on first down, big plays, run defense, pass defense, takeaways, red-zone D

Defensive Line

Chidera Uzo-Diribe was the exception up front for a Buffaloes D that didn’t win enough battles at the point of attack. At 6-3 and 245 pounds, he’s a defensive end in an outside linebacker’s body, using his quick first step and athleticism to beat opposing tackles into the pocket. On the cusp of becoming an All-Pac-12 performer a year ago, he collected 43 tackles, 10 stops behind the line and a team-high seven sacks. More than just being the program’s best bet to rattle the quarterback, Uzo-Diribe is also being called on for his veteran leadership.

While Uzo-Diribe is at right end, sophomore Samson Kafovalu is on the verge of winning the job on the left side. The 6-3, 250-pounder started four games at defensive tackle last year, but is much better suited for the edge. He made 20 tackles in 2012, and consistently applied pressure during the spring.

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding sophomore DT Josh Tupou , who’s coming off a table-setting first season in Boulder. The 6-3, 320-pound has great size and strength for the interior, and will continue to develop as he improves his conditioning and technique. The seven-game starter as a rookie notched 37 tackles and five stops for loss to create a lot of excitement regarding his future.

The battle at the other tackle spot is currently being led by 6-3, 275-pound sophomore Tyler Henington . He’s smaller, yet a lot quicker than Tupou, showing an ability to bust out of the blocks and into the backfield. He finished his first year with 25 tackles, two of which were for a loss.

Colorado will have a fair number of options off the bench, none more ready for promotions than 6-2, 255-pound junior Kirk Poston on the outside and 6-1, 290-pound senior Nate Bonsu on the inside. Poston was a pleasant surprise a year ago, coming off the bench to make 20 tackles, six stops for loss and four sacks. Is this the year that Bonsu steps up and recaptures his freshman form? The talent is there for him to become an important part of the rotation, but he needs to stay healthy in order to build on last year’s 24 stops in nine games.

Watch Out For … Tupou to begin earning the respect of the rest of the Pac-12. He’s big, he’s quick and he has a full year of experience now in the vault. In other words, the sophomore has a talent base that needed to really flourish as an interior lineman. If Tupou puts in the time and effort, he’ll be getting looks from NFL scouts in 2014.
Strength: Edge pressure. The Buffaloes shouldn’t need to blitz in order to pressure the pocket this year. Uzo-Diribe has the potential and the closing speed to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 D at the next level, while Kafovalu will be looking to build on his solid spring.
Weakness: Run defense. This is a serious and perennial problem in Boulder that shows no signs of waning. The D allowed an unthinkable 5.9 yards a carry last season, second highest in the FBS to only Eastern Michigan. Colorado allowed way too many plays to continue beyond the first line of defense, a reality that won’t go away in 2013.
Outlook: The Buffs got abused at the point of attack in 2012, and there’s no reason to believe that problem won’t exist again in 2013. Uzo-Diribe has an All-Pac-12 ceiling, and Tupou is on the rise. The two, though, won’t be nearly enough to overcome a deficient unit that too often is getting completely blown off the ball by opposing D-lines.
Unit Rating: 6

Linebackers

In Derrick Webb , the Buffaloes will be spearheaded at linebacker by last season’s leading tackler. The hard-hitting third-year starter at weakside made 88 stops, five behind the line of scrimmage, and had a penchant for coming up big on third-down situations. A 6-0, 225-pound guided missile, he’ll often be seen bouncing all over the field as he looks for someone to level. Webb plays with boundless energy and enthusiasm for the game, something he’s gradually learned over the past couple of seasons to harness and properly direct at opposing backs.

Padlocking the job at strongside this offseason was Woodson Greer . The 6-3, 225-pound junior had little impact on the field a year ago, making a dozen stops in six games. However, he’s been a man on a mission since the spring, earning recognition as the team’s most improved linebacker of March and April.

Addison Gillam has turned heads in practice as well. Despite being a rookie, he did not look out of place atop the depth chart at middle linebacker. The 6-3, 220-pound former grayshirt from 2012 originally signed with San Jose State, but decided to follow the new coaching staff to Colorado.

Junior Brady Daigh won’t give the job to Gillam without a fight. The 6-2, 250-pounder is big and physical, and is arguably the toughest all-around player on this side of the ball. He excels in run defense, which this D certainly needs, chipping in 40 tackles and five stops for loss in 2012. Daigh was not 100% in the spring, but he’ll have no restrictions this summer.

If Greer squanders his opportunity for a starting gig, fifth-year senior Paul Vigo will be the beneficiary. The 6-1, 205-pound former safety doesn’t exactly fit the mold at strongside, but his range will be an asset against spread offenses. He was very active last fall, notching 46 tackles and four stops for loss.

Watch Out For … Daigh to spend a lot of time on the field, regardless of how Gillam performs in the summer. The junior is just too steady against the run to be relegated to the sidelines. Plus, at 250 pounds, he brings some much-needed muscle and physicality to the second level of the D.
Strength: Range. The Colorado linebackers are an athletic crew, with the range to rush the passer as well as to cover receivers. Webb is the epitome of the unit, flying across the field looking for a way to put his imprint on the game.
Weakness: Holding up at the point of contact. The fact that the Buffaloes gave up close to six yards per carry in 2012 was a total team breakdown on every level. The linebackers certainly shared some of the culpability, too often getting lost in traffic, while failing to shed the blocks of bigger players.
Outlook: Like so many areas of this program, Colorado has a capable front man, in this case Webb, to go along with only modest support from the balance of the unit. The linebackers are no better than average entering the 2013 season, pinning their hopes on average defenders, like Greer and Gillam, whose experience to this point is limited.
Unit Rating: 6

Secondary

Three starters are back from a defensive backfield that got shredded throughout 2012. Despite the horrendous results on a macro level, junior CB Greg Henderson quietly continued to build on his debut in Boulder. For the second straight year, he earned honorable mention All-Pac-12, making 47 stops and three pass breakups in 10 games. Part of the reason that Henderson’s numbers were so pedestrian was that opposing quarterbacks often chose to avoid his section of real estate.

Avoiding Henderson meant that sophomore CB Kenneth Crawley got picked on relentlessly in his first season with the team. The 6-1, 170-pounder from Washington D.C. had 58 tackles and broke up three passes. But buried beneath the numbers were growing pains in the form of blown coverages and successful deep balls. Crawley has plenty of potential, and will be better this year, but his development will take time.

The staff is happy to have senior SS Parker Orms back for a final year. He’s the most versatile defensive back on the team, spending time at cornerback earlier in his career. And often the most productive and instinctive as well. Finally healthy in 2012, he appeared in a career-high 10 games, making 52 stops, four tackles for loss and a team-best six pass breakups.

Ray Polk needs to be replaced at free safety, creating an opening that junior Jered Bell is hoping to plug. The 6-1, 195-pound defender has good size and two dozen games of experience, but hasn’t been especially productive in the first half of his career. He returned from an ACL tear last year, but never really was at full strength. Keeping Bell company at free safety is 6-0, 180-pound sophomore Marques Mosley . He laid a pretty solid foundation as a newcomer by starting seven games, and making 56 tackles.

Behind Orms at strong safety, 5-9, 190-pound senior Terrel Smith is a luxury to have coming off the bench. His 19 career starts are second only to Henderson on defense, and he was second on the team a year ago with 70 tackles.

Backing up Henderson at one corner spot will be 6-0, 195-pound junior Josh Moten . He had a hard time impressing the former staff, playing in only four games last year, but he feels as if he might have a new lease on life since the changing of the guard.

Watch Out For … Crawley to be better than last year, yet still struggle against quality receivers. He’s going to get there for the Buffaloes, but not this quickly. It’s going to take time, maybe another year, before he truly feels comfortable jumping routes and going stride-for-stride with opposing receivers.
Strength: Experience. The defensive backs have played a lot of football in Boulder over the past couple of seasons. The Buffs are likely to start three upperclassmen and three players with extensive reps in the regular rotation. It doesn’t guarantee much, other than the fact that this group won’t become unnerved in front of a packed building.
Weakness: Pass defense. When the ball was in the air a year ago, the Buffaloes were usually getting schooled by receivers. Absolutely nothing went right for the secondary, which ranked 120th nationally in pass efficiency defense. More than two-thirds of opponents’ passes were completed, and Colorado sported a horrifying 13:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2012.
Outlook: The fact that things can’t get much worse for the secondary is small consolation in Boulder. The Buffs practically performed at an NAIA level last fall, yielding at least five touchdown passes to four different opponents. Hope comes from the returns of Henderson and Orms, the staples of the defensive backfield. However, progress will hinge on the play of Crawley, who has to make quarterbacks think twice before picking on him.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

The Buffaloes are thrilled to be returning Darragh O’Neill , one of the Pac-12’s top punters. The 6-2, 185-pound native of Ireland was named honorable mention all-league in 2012, ranking 18th nationally at 43.5 yards per attempt. An all-around talented athlete, O’Neill can punt with his left or right leg.

Junior Will Oliver will handle placekicking duties, while sharing kickoffs with senior Justin Castor . Oliver didn’t get many opportunities to showcase his leg during last season, making 6-of-8 field goal attempts, with a long of just 37 yards.

Watch Out For … the competition in the return game to heat up in the summer. The team hasn’t named regulars at either punt or kickoff returner. Sophomore Marques Mosley , who averaged 26.1 yards on kickoffs and had a 100-yarder against Utah, will almost certainly be in the hunt for touches.
Strength: Punting. O’Neill is one of the hidden gems on a roster that isn’t exactly flush with sure-things. He punts for distance and precise angles, pivotal reasons why the Buffaloes stood third in Pac-12 net punting a season ago.
Weakness: Covering kicks. No FBS program was worse than Colorado in 2012 at covering kicks. The team yielded an unacceptable 27.8 yards per return, two of which were taken back for touchdowns. For the sake of the beleaguered D, the Buffs need to plug the holes in their kicking game.
Outlook: While there is surely work to be done, especially in kick coverage and kick returns, Colorado can take solace in the specialists it’ll roll out each Saturday in 2013. O’Neill and Oliver are only at the halfway point of their career, the former having an All-American ceiling and the latter harboring untapped potential.
Unit Rating: 6.5
 
- 2013 Colorado Preview | 2013 Colorado Offense
- 2013 Colorado Defense | 2013 Colorado Depth Chart