2014 Colorado Preview: What You Need To Know
Colorado RB Christian Powell
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Colorado (Getty Images)
2014 Colorado Preview
What You Need To Know...
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense: The
Now that Colorado has laid the foundation on offense, it plans to build upon it in 2014. The Buffaloes operate out of the Pistol, led by up-and-coming coordinator Brian Lindgren. They went from 116th nationally in total offense in 2012 to 88th a year ago, while starting true freshman QB Sefo Liufau over the final seven games. When operated properly, the Pistol 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. Liufau is a year older and conceivably a year better. But he'll need more support, especially since long-ball threat Paul Richardson has graduated. Nelson Spruce is emerging as the new go-to guy in the passing game, while the backfield is crowded with options, led by Christian Powell and Michael Adkins. Three starters return to the O-line, but a new left tackle and center must be developed.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: Progress under coordinator Kent Baer, yes. But the Buffs have a long way to go before being a Pac-12-caliber defense. Colorado gave up an average of 44 points to Pac-12 opponents a season ago, pretty much struggling in all phases. Fortunately, eight starters return, headed by building block LB Addison Gillam. The greatest gains this fall will be witnessed in the back seven. Beyond just Gillam, 10 letter-winning defensive backs return to the fold. CB Greg Henderson is the veteran of a unit that can't help but be tighter in coverage than it was a year ago. The secondary could be significantly tighter if only it gets more help from the pass rush. Colorado got to the quarterback just 18 sacks, and now leading pass rusher Chidera Uzo-Diribe must be replaced. Fingers are crossed that redshirt freshman DE Derek McCartney can build on his breakout spring and DE Samson Kafovalu returns from the academic hoosegow.
Players You Need To Know
1. LB Addison Gillam, Jr.
Gillam didn't start playing high school football until his junior year, and he was largely overlooked coming out of tiny Palo Cedro, Calif., but he's on the Pac-12 radar now. After enrolling early and nabbing the job in the middle, he went on to collect a team-high 119 tackles, seven stops for loss and three sacks. Gillam became the first true freshman in program history to lead Colorado in tackles. The 6-3, 225-pounder possesses the right size, range and attitude to evolve into the defensive touchstone of the D for the next three seasons.
2. WR Nelson Spruce, Jr.
No, Spruce won't be Paul Richardson, who's now in the NFL. But he will be Colorado's best weapon in the passing game, particularly on third downs. The 6-1, 195-pounder is ready to pick up the slack and become the go-to guy through the air. Spruce works from out of the slot, running tight routes and securing anything thrown within his catch-radius. He's hauled in 99 balls in his first two seasons, capped by 55 receptions in 2013 for 650 yards and four touchdowns.
3. CB Greg Henderson, Sr.
Henderson has been the stalwart of the Colorado secondary for the past three seasons. In 2011 and 2012, he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12, an achievement he narrowly missed a year ago. The 5-11, 195-pound Henderson is very active in pass defense, sticking to receivers, beginning with a physical jam at the line of scrimmage. Henderson, who won't be outmuscled on jump balls, led the team with 10 pass breakups, while ranking third with 68 tackles.
4. DT Josh Tupou, Jr.
No one in Boulder wants to block Tupou, the best complement that can be given a defensive tackle. The 6-3, 320-pound junior is on the verge of a breakout season, his third as a full-timer. He's arguably the toughest and the strongest player on the roster, eating up blockers to help other around him make plays. Tupou had 38 tackles and 2.5 stops for loss last season, but numbers are no indication of his importance to the Buffaloes, especially when opponents are running the ball.
5. RB Christian Powell, Jr.
Powell has led Colorado in rushing the past two seasons, with an eye on making it three in a row. Doing so will require him to fend off challenges from Tony Jones, Michael Adkins and Phillip Lindsay, who brings more flash to the running game. Powell is a 6-0, 230-pound bruiser between the tackles, with just enough of a burst to outrace smaller defenders to the end zone. As a bonus, he's also an asset in pass protection as well. Powell rushed for 562 yards and three touchdowns on 147 carries in 2013, often absorbing contact close to the line of scrimmage.
6. OG Daniel Munyer, Sr.
Munyer is the veteran of a Colorado O-line welcoming back three-fifths of last season's starters. He's started 27 games, including all 12 in 2013. Last season, he led the Buffs in touchdown blocks, while ranking second on the team in knockdowns. The 6-2, 295-pounder is physical at the point of attack and vocal in the locker room and on the practice field. For being one of the team's sparkplugs, Munyer was given the Eddie Crowder Award at the end of spring for his outstanding leadership.
7. QB Sefo Liufau, Soph.
The Liufau era began in earnest last season, even earlier than most expected. The touted true freshman started the final seven games, finishing the season 149-of-251 for 1,779 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight picks. He displayed toughness and uncommon poise, a prerequisite for lining up behind center in Boulder. However, the 6-4, 225-pound Liufau was quite as nimble as advertised, especially when operating the zone-read option. Still, he has the demeanor of a four-year starter, provided Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College transfer Jordan Gehrke doesn't further narrow the gap in the summer.
8. CB Chidobe Awuzie , Soph.
Awuzie has been one of the biggest surprises for the Buffs since arriving from San Jose, Calif. last year. He started seven games as a rookie, becoming increasingly comfortable facing Pac-12 wide receivers. Awuzie posted 59 tackles, five stops for loss and a pair of forced fumbles. Hardly content with his auspicious debut, he's continued to improve, and was named Most Improved Defensive Back following spring drills. The athletic and hard-working 6-0, 190-pounder can either play cornerback or nickel for Colorado this season.
9. PK Will Oliver, Sr.
Along with senior P Darragh O'Neill, Oliver helps give the Buffs one of the better kicking tandems in the Pac-12. The senior was one of just four Colorado players to earn at least honorable mention all-league a season ago. Oliver has a powerful leg, which he uses to put points on the board when drives stall. He connected on 17-of-24 field goal attempts in 2013, including a pair from beyond 50 yards. His 53-yarder against Arizona was a personal-best as a Buffalo.
10. CB Kenneth Crawley, Jr.
Crawley showed steady improvement throughout the first half of his career. Now that he's a junior, with considerable starting experience, he's ready to become one of the Buffs' defensive leaders. The veteran of 20 career starts made 50 stops, two picks and five pass breakups a season ago. Crawley is a long and lean 6-1, 170-pounder from Washington D.C., with the closing speed and soft hips to flourish when quarterbacks avoid teammate Greg Henderson's side of the field.