CU Football: Unit-by-Unit Preview

In case you have been out and about all summer, and are just now getting back into football, unit-by-unit previews have been posted here on the website over the past eight weeks. With each unit, there is a current roster of players, their 2016 statistics, with “Reasons to be Excited” and “Reasons for Concern“.

Below you will find the “Bottom Line” from each posting, along with a link to the full story on each unit.


Bottom Line … I will always be a big fan of Sefo Liufau. He left Boulder as CU’s all-time all-everything when it comes to the passing game. Liufau is CU’s all-time leader in pass attempts (1,383); completions (870); passing yards (9,568); touchdowns (60 – tied for first); completion percentage (62.9%) and total offense (10,509 … almost 3,000 yards ahead of No. 2 on the list, Kordell Stewart)

Liufau will be missed.

For those uninitiated with the Colorado football program, it is easy to see the Buff offense needing to fill a significant void in both talent and leadership. (An example, from Athlon: “Montez has a gunslinger mentality, and needs to improve his decision-making”).

Buff fans, though, know that the Buffs may actually be seeing an upgrade in quarterback production. While Liufau was as tough as nails, Montez, at 6’5″, 225-pounds, looks more like a quarterback should look.

And, in the games in which Montez has played, he has had his moments. With another spring under his belt, and his position as the starter understood, the 2017 team is his team to lead.

Montez, for his part, feels he is ready.

“I feel like quarterback is one of those rare positions in football where you have to think you are the best, baddest dude on the field at all times. That’s how I look at the game and that’s how I play the game,” Montez said this spring. “You almost have to venture into cocky to go out there and perform extremely well as a quarterback.”

With Phillip Lindsay behind him, a strong offensive line to protect him, and one of the nation’s best wide receiving corps to throw to … Montez could have a season (or three) to remember …

Here is a link to the full preview of the quarterbacks …

Running Backs 

Bottom Line … Phillip Lindsay has proven to be durable. In only one game last season did Lindsay not have at least ten carries and 50 yards, and that was in the blowout win over Idaho State, in which Lindsay had seven carries for 30 yards (and two touchdowns) before taking the rest of the afternoon off in a 56-7 laugher.

If Lindsay can remain healthy, then the Colorado rushing attack can be quite effective. The Buffs were 56th in the nation last year in rushing, going for 182.6 yards per game. While not a dominating number, the 182.6 yard per game average was over 60 yards per game better than in 2015, and the average was the highest for any CU team since the 2002.

If Lindsay can remain healthy, there is no reason to believe that the Colorado rushing attack won’t do even better in 2017. The offensive line has four returning starters, and the passing game will be amongst the most feared in the Pac-12 conference, if not the nation. That combination will make a successful running game a true option for CU’s co-offensive coordinators, Darrin Chiaverini and Brian Lindgren.

Phillip Lindsay is a leader. Phillip Lindsay is a dynamo. Phillip Lindsay is more than capable of posting CU’s first back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in … well, ever. (Eric Bieniemy had two 1,000-yard campaigns, but they were 1988 and 1990).

Just keep Phillip Lindsay healthy … and watch him go.

Here is a link to the full preview of the running backs …

Wide Receivers 

Bottom Line … Not since the days of Charles Johnson, Michael Westbrook and Rae Carruth has a Buff quarterback had so many weapons at their disposal. It’s worthy of note that Colorado has produced nine 1,000-yard receivers in its history. On that list were 1,000-yard receivers in 2013, 2014, 2015 (Paul Richardson in 2013; Nelson Spruce in 2014 and 2015) … but not last year. The ball was spread around so much that, even in a successful season, the Buffs were unable to produce a 1,000-yard receiver.

Also worthy of note … only once in CU history, the Buff offense produced two 1000-yard receivers in the same season. In 1992, after playing a century-plus of football, and not having a single receiver crack four digits, Charles Johnson had 1,149 yards receiving, while Michael Westbrook had 1,060.

That record might be matched this season. Colorado has enough fire power in the passing game to potentially produce two 1,000-yard receivers.

Another record worth shooting for … never has Colorado produced a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver in the same season. Last year, Phillip Lindsay went for 1,189 yards on the ground, while the Buffs’ leading receiver, Shay Fields, had 845 yards in receptions.

2017 could just be the year that the Buff Nation sees a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver in the same year.

… They are that good.

Here is a link to the full preview of the wide receivers …

Offensive Line

Bottom Line … When you have four returning starters along the offensive line, with two of those starters being seniors, and two of those starters being sophomores, you have a good mix.

When you have a senior – with starting experience – ready to take over the fifth starting position, you are in good shape.

When you have a junior and three sophomores ready to step in and contribute, you are content with your depth.

When you have two freshmen who are so talented that they may push senior starters for playing time, you are excited about the future.

There is a great deal to be excited about when you are talking about the Colorado offensive line.

Now it’s up to offensive line coach Klayton Adams, along with co-offensive coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Brian Lindgren, to get the most out of this group.

Here is a link to the full preview of the offensive line …

Defensive Line

Bottom Line … Colorado lost its entire starting defensive line to graduation, and does not have players with significant playing experience in line to take their place.

If we were analyzing any other Pac-12 team with that sentence, we would label the unit a “weakness”.

It is what it is.

Still, the Buffs do have some talented players on the roster, and have brought in some junior college help.

Plus, only one defensive coach from last year’s staff remains, defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat. Not much in the way of continuity, but at least the returning lineman don’t have to re-introduce themselves to their position coach.

If CU fails to make a bowl game in 2017, much will be made of the departure of defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.

In truth, if CU does fail to make a bowl game in 2017, a likely culprit will be the Buff defensive line …

… Here is a link to the full preview of the defensive line …


Bottom Line … If Rick Gamboa has another good season, and Derek McCartney comes back and plays to the potential seen in 2015 and early 2016, the Buffs are not that bad off at linebacker.

The Buffs have a bevy of juniors – Drew Lewis; Terran Hasselbach; Michael Mathewes; and junior college transfer Shamar Hamilton – ready to step into the lineup.

The Buffs also have a host of young talent – eight red-shirt or true freshmen – who could have an immediate impact upon the roster.

Until the season starts, however, the linebacker corps will remain an unknown.

For those who predict a decline from the Buff defense, senior captain Rick Gamboa has some advice:

“Everyone can think what they want,” said Gamboa. “Everyone’s going to find out Sept. 1.”

Here is a link to the full preview of the linebackers …

Defensive Backs

Bottom Line … It’s rare for Colorado to have three members of the same unit drafted into the NFL in the same season.

Colorado lost Ahkello Witherspoon, Chidobe Awuzie, and Tedric Thompson this April, and a dropoff is to be expected.

However, the dropoff is not going to be as great as those with only a passing familiarity with the Buffs are predicting.

Afodabi Laguda will become a familiar name to the Buff Nation this fall.

Ryan Moeller will have another solid season.

Isaiah Oliver will become CU’s next “shut down” cornerback.

There is enough talent throughout the remainder of the roster to make the Buffs’ secondary a solid unit.

Will Colorado again rank in the top 20 nationally in pass defense and scoring defense? Perhaps not.

But the secondary is not in rebuilding mode … it’s reloading.

Here is a link to the full preview of the defensive backs …

Special Teams 

Bottom Line … When CU’s return units take the field, either for kickoffs or punt, there is reason for Buff fans to be excited.

There are plenty of fast wide receivers and defensive backs on the roster who can become game changers, even if the leading punt and kickoff returners from last year do not fulfill the same roles as before.

When the Buffs go into punt formation, or line up for a field goal attempt, however, there is less confidence.

The Colorado kicking game is still very much a work in progress, and the Buff Nation will have to wait and see which of the three candidates for the field goal position emerges.

“I think our special teams will be definitely improved if our kickers come through like I think they will,” MacIntyre said. “That didn’t really hurt us last year, but it could have. You can’t go two years in a row thinking that won’t (hurt you).”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

As for punting … it’s Alex Kinney again. Colorado was 118th in the nation in net punting last year, yet has no other full-time punter on the roster other than Kinney.

Hit and hope.

That’s how I approach my golf game.

But at a school which produced kickers like Mason Crosby, Will Oliver, Jeremy Aldrich, and punters like Barry Helton, Keith English, and Mitch Berger … hit and hope should not be considered adequate.

Here is a link to the full preview of the special teams …


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