Colorado’s Football Chances in 2014: Laying it All on the Line

The first week of spring practices at the University of Colorado were over-shadowed by the 2-1 showing by the men’s basketball team at the Pac-12 championships in Las Vegas. While the Buffs in Vegas were posting back-to-back 59-56 wins over USC and Cal to secure an NCAA tournament berth, the football team quietly went about the first four (of 15) practices, culminating in a 71-play scrimmage on Friday.

What have we learned from the first week of spring ball?

The Buffs are facing difficulties in the trenches …

Defensive line … Spring practices started with the revelation that two of CU’s four scholarship defensive tackles would not be participating in spring drills. Juniors Justin Solis and Samson Kafovalu are being held out in order to concentrate on academics, with the hope that they will be available this fall. Solis started the final seven games of the 2013 season, and finished with more tackles (39) than any other defensive tackle. Kafovalu, meanwhile, played in ten games last fall, recording 20 tackles.

“It is a setback but they are able to workout in the weight room early in the morning before everybody gets there,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We have them up going in study hall and they are going to class. We have to make sure they realize how important the academic side of it is. They have been doing a great job so far this semester on it, they just have to finish the semester out well.”

The other two scholarship defensive tackles on the roster are also juniors, Josh Tupou and Tyler Henington … except that Henington might not be staying at defensive tackle. “We might move Tyler out to defensive end,” said MacIntyre. “He’s running a lot better, and he’s quicker. We can move him inside and outside, and he can give us a quick pass rusher inside. Against teams with a big tight end, he’s quick and powerful enough and has good leverage, he can help us some there as well. You will probably see him at both spots”.

So, with no other scholarship defensive tackles, who will be filling the middle of CU’s defensive line. Enter … sophomore Clay Norgard. The 240-pound former fullback and linebacker is being moved to defensive tackle this spring. “We will keep Clay at defensive tackle,” said MacIntyre. “That’s where he played in high school. We just need to try and beef him up some. I think against a spread football team, when they are throwing it all of the time, and they are not doubling him as much, with his quickness he’s really a natural in there. Now, he’s little for in there. When we play teams who are going to pound and power us, he won’t be able to be in there much, and he won’t probably want to, as there will be 600-pounds doubling him”.

Now, I’m a big Clay Norgard fan, and I’m glad he has – apparently – found a home on the roster, but the Buffs are down to one player this spring who lined up at defensive tackle last fall.

Yes, there is every reason to believe that Justin Solis and Samson Kafovalu will return to the team come August, and incoming freshmen Eddy Lopez and Jase Franke will add depth to the roster this fall.

But, at least for now, the Colorado defensive line is definitely an area of concern.

Offensive line … Matters are not much more settled along the offensive line.

Three starters return from last year’s line, with Daniel Munyer, Kaiwi Crabb and Stephane Nembot all back. Last fall, Munyer started every game at right guard, Crabb started every game at left guard, and Nembot started every game at right tackle.

Leaving only two holes to fill, right?


The musical chairs began early this spring. Two players being counted on to contribute right away were Jeromy Irwin and Marc Mustoe, but neither will assume starting roles this spring. Irwin sat out last season after breaking his foot last summer, and is still not healed. Mustoe, meanwhile, suffered a broken fibula against Charleston Southern last October, and is limited in what he can participate in this spring.

Even the settled positions are not settled. Crabb, who has played in the interior his entire career, is being tried at offensive tackle. “Right now, what I’ve seen so far, I think he can do it (move to offensive tackle)”, said MacIntyre. “Now, we’ve got to see as we keep scrimmaging and putting other things on him, but the first three days, he’s looked very nimble out there on his feet, which is good. He’s lost some weight (Crabb played at 300 pounds last fall), he’s trying to lose a little bit more, because out there you’ve got to be a little quicker. Inside you’re covered up, you’ve got a little more mass … especially with his height, he’s not real, real tall (6’3″)”.

With Crabb moving outside, there is another spot available inside, with red-shirt freshman Jonathan Huckins trying out at both center and guard. Said MacIntyre of his offensive line: “We’re trying to get all of them to get better, we’re trying different guys at different spots, which helps us for depth, which will also help us during games injury-wise. We’re trying to find the best guys who can play the different spots. Some guys can play guard, they can play center, but they can’t play tackle. Some guys can play tackle, but they can’t snap it. We’re trying to figure all that out, which gives us the luxury of doing that now. Of course, we’d like to have everybody out here, but (not having all of the players available) helps us take a look (at everybody else)”.

Glass half-full: Colorado is finally building quality depth along the offensive line.

Glass half-empty: Colorado is still in trouble in patching together a workable offensive line.

Stats of note from the first scrimmage …

Colorado conducted a 71-play scrimmage on Friday. There were no punts or kickoffs, and every drive started at the 50-yard line. In 12 drives, the offense generated 363 yards of total offense and six scores (five touchdowns and a field goal).

– Sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau was on the field for four drives, with the offense scoring on each. Liufau went 7-for-11 passing for 108 yards and a touchdown. The CU offense also posted two rushing touchdowns and a field goal with Liufau under center.

– Sophomore Jordan Gehrke had the reins for six drives, resulting in two touchdowns. Gehrke went 12-for-17 for 158 yards and a score, but was also sacked three times.

– The Colorado rushing attack was anemic, posting 116 yards on 35 carries … a 3.5 yard per carry average. Last season’s starter Michael Adkins sat out with a twisted ankle, senior Tony Jones was the leading ball-carrier, with 37 yards on six carries, including a 24-yard touchdown run. The Buffs’ second-leading rusher was Sefo Liufau, who had a 22-yard run as part of his 22 yards rushing (on four attempts). Sophomore Terrence Crowder had 16 yards on four carries, while red-shirt freshman Phillip Lindsay needed eight carries to compile 12 yards.

– The receivers were led by junior Nelson Spruce, who had four catches for 48 yards a ten-yard touchdown reception on the first drive of the scrimmage. Junior walk-on Wesley Christensen made the most of his opportunities, with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Gehrke to go with a 48-yarder which didn’t result in a score (a tough trick on a 50-yard field). Red-shirt freshman Bryce Bobo caught the coach’s eye with a pair of catches, including a 23-yarder.

– On defense, sophomore linebacker Addison Gillam, who set a freshman record for tackles last season (with 119), opened his sophomore campaign by leading the defense in the first spring scrimmage. Gillam had eight tackles (six unassisted), with much expected from his this fall. “He’s a little bit bigger and stronger,” said MacIntyre, “so I’m hoping he will pop the guys back a little bit more, cause a few more turnovers. I didn’t see anything glaring that he did wrong out there, but I’m pretty sure he played good”.

– Other defensive standouts included senior defensive end Juda Parker (six unassisted tackles, including two tackles for loss), sophomore safety Tedric Thompson (four unassisted tackles), and red-shirt freshman defensive end Derek McCartney, who had two sacks.

– As noted, there were no kickoffs or punts, but the kickers were called upon for extra points (going six-for-six), with walk-on red-shirt freshman Chris Graham attempting the only field goal (good from 38 yards out).

Here is a link to all of the statistics from the March 14th scrimmage …

Up next …

The Buffs will have practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week. All three practices will be in pads, and will be conducted from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m. at the CU practice fields.

Practices are open to the public, and the Buffs will be conducting scrimmage No. 2 of the spring on Friday morning (in the stadium).



3 Replies to “Recap: Week One of Spring Ball”

  1. Yo Stuart,

    You really got the “glass half to completely empty” vibe going on here. What’s up with that? The Buffs have been manhandled in the trenches for years so hoping for the same old thing to carry us forward is not gonna work.

    I look for much more competition on the offensive line this year. A year or more as a starter should not guarantee a job to anyone.

    In addition to Jonathan Huckins, look to transfer Sully Wiefels along with Alex Kelley and Brad Cotner to push for playing time. Whewn Irwin and Mustoe get back this summer, the level of play along the O-line should be higher than it has been in years.

    Some other big bodies to keep an eye out for are Kronshage, Kough, Darby and Sutton.

    After a full year training with Forman, our guys should be noticeably stronger this year. That is especially true for the younger guys, who were able to lift throughout the season last year.

    Have faith in Mac and staff. They have a plan and know what they are doing.


  2. Not suprised we are lacking in the trenches. But seeing improvement is what it is all about. Coach ’em up Mike Mac. 6 wins this season is a reachable goal.
    Get to it.



    How about them Hoopsters? Huh.

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