CFN 2013 Preview - Colorado Buffaloes
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Colorado Buffaloes
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- By Richard Cirminiello
New head coach Mike MacIntyre made a winner out of San Jose State. Anything is possible.
Head coach: Mike MacIntyre
First year: 0-0
4th year overall: 17-21
Off. 29, Def. 29, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best Colorado Players
1. WR Paul Richardson, Jr.
2. DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Sr.
3. CB Greg Henderson, Jr.
4. LB Derrick Webb, Sr.
5. RB Christian Powell, Soph.
6. OT Charles Harris, Sr.
7. P Darragh O'Neill, Jr.
8. WR Nelson Spruce, Soph.
9. QB Connor Wood, Jr.
10. DT Josh Tupou, Soph.
8/31 Colorado State (in Denver)
9/7 Central Arkansas
9/14 Fresno State
9/21 OPEN DATE
9/28 at Oregon State
10/12 at Arizona State
10/19 OPEN DATE
11/2 at UCLA
11/9 at Washington
11/30 at Utah
MacIntyre took command of one of the nation's worst programs in 2010, a team so bad that it was struggling to compete at the FBS level out of the WAC. Sound familiar, Buffs fans? Two years after arriving at a sure-fire dead end job, though, he'd guided the Spartans to their best season ever and a hard-to-fathom ranking in the final Top 25 poll. It was a textbook defying of the odds, which MacIntyre will now attempt to duplicate at Colorado.
The Buffaloes are bad—like worst team from a major conference bad. They haven't been over .500 since 2005, and last season's 1-11 mark represented a low-point in the annals of Colorado football. This school currently resides at rock bottom. And a new staff, with all of its new energy and fresh ideas, has been tasked with gradually getting the team back to a more competitive level. It'll be neither easy nor expeditious.
Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree did a number on Colorado's foundation, going 20-54 as the talent level on the field and fan interest at Folsom Field declined precipitously. MacIntyre has been hired to do more than just coach. He'll need to clean up a bunch of messes that were not his doing, and change the climate of losing permeating throughout the campus.
Success at Colorado will not be measured in the standings, at least not for a while. This is a team that was outscored by an average of four touchdowns a game last year. No, this summer and fall is all about installing new systems, learning personnel and changing approaches to the game. True freshmen started 57 games in 2012, tops in the FBS, so at least the new staff will be preaching to a young squad, much of which hasn't been spoiled by a decade's worth of futility.
MacIntyre won double-digit games at San Jose State last season. It's what counts as a rallying cry in Boulder these days. The program, gutted in recent years, is light years behind the rest of the Pac-12, and will remain there for a long time. Still, it has a coach who's been worked miracles before. And will be asked to do so again.
What to look for offense: Loading the Pistol in Boulder. When operated properly, the Pistol attack, designed by former Nevada coach Chris Ault, can be a nightmare for defenses to stop. It requires an athletic and versatile quarterback, who lines up in a shotgun formation, but closer to scrimmage than traditional sets. It can be run many different ways, depending on the personnel. The Wolf Pack, once the home of QB Colin Kaepernick, leaned heavily on the run. But new coach Mike MacIntyre had David Fales under center at San Jose State, a team that ranked No. 6 nationally in passing in 2012. Colorado is flush with pro-style quarterbacks.
What to look for on defense: A Baer of a job ahead. New coordinator Kent Baer has been around the coaching block a few times, but he may have bitten off more than he can chew in Colorado. Not only are the Buffs out of their league defensively, but that league happens to be the high-octane Pac-12. Just how bad is the situation that Baer inherits? Sacramento State touched up the Buffs for 466 yards last September to set off a season of futility. Colorado houses a couple of decent players, but not nearly enough to incite the kind of improvement this program needs in 2013.
The team will be much better if ... the Buffs become a (much) better first-down team. A school is not going to win many games in the Pac-12 if it's constantly operating on its heels. And that's been the case at Colorado for the past few seasons. The offense averaged 4.2 yards to start a series, which is not awful. But the D yielded an average of eight yards on first down, an impossible hurdle to overcome. It's no wonder the unit couldn't stop anyone. Who could when the other team was constantly facing second-and-short situations?
The Schedule: The Buffs always have a problem with Colorado State, but they can't blow the rivalry game or it could be yet another brutally long season. Central Arkansas will be the one sure-thing win on the schedule, and then it's going to take upsets the rest of the way to come up with any more victories, including the date with Fresno State before getting a week off.
Going to Oregon State and Arizona State wouldn't be horrible for a decent team, but wrapped around a home game against Oregon makes it tough for a rebuilding program. Missing Stanford from the North will help, but going to Washington isn't going to help. Arizona, Cal and USC are coming to Folsom, and getting a win out of the three would count as a positive step forward. Utah is one of the few teams in the Pac-12 the Buffs can beat, but the regular season finale is on the road.
Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Paul Richardson. Out of sight, but definitely not out of mind. Richardson sat out all of 2012 with an ACL tear, and his absence was felt by the rest of the team. On a squad that's painfully short on playmakers, No. 6 is a notable exception, a field-stretcher who helps open up the field for his teammates. Last season was a scratch, but in his first years a Buffalo, the 6-1, 170-pound speedster pulled down 73 catches for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe. Uzo-Diribe pointed to last season as his breakout moment at Colorado, and then set out to deliver on all of his potential. Somewhat lost in the chaos that is the Buffaloes D, the disruptive 6-3, 245-pounder racked up 43 tackles, 10 stops for loss and a program-high seven sacks. Uzo-Diribe is sudden off the snap, and is constantly working on improving the technique and the quickness that help spur around the edge and into the backfield.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Connor Wood. Obviously, no single player is going to spark an overnight turnaround this quickly at Colorado. However, the Buffs sure could be more competitive in 2013 if they were getting crisper play out of the quarterback position. Wood may never develop into the ballyhooed recruit of the Texas Longhorns a few years back. Still, if he can bring some much-needed stability and pop to behind center, the offense has a chance to keep Colorado in a few more games this fall.
The season will be a success if ... Colorado is more competitive than in the last two years, and captures momentum that can be taken into 2014. Forget the record. Wins and losses cannot define this Buffaloes team, especially with a new regime in charge. This is a two or three-year process, meaning 2013 is all about adopting new systems, improving conditioning and changing a dysfunctional culture. Win or lose, it'll qualify as a good sign in Boulder if the team is playing better in November than in September.
Key game: Sept. 1 vs. Colorado State. Of all the games on the perennial schedule, this one is by far the most important to Buffaloes fans. The Buffs lost to the Rams in Denver a year ago, setting the tone for what wound up being a miserable campaign. Colorado has no rivals in the Pac-12 yet, and might not for a long time. This is an intense rivalry game, one that Mike MacIntyre would love to bag in his debut as the Buffs' head coach.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Average first down gain: Colorado 4.2 – Opponents 7.9
- Third down efficiency: Colorado 29.9% – Opponents 44.0%
- Interceptions: Colorado 3 - Opponents 19
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