In-Depth Depth Chart – Defensive Backs

 

Previously postedQuarterbacksRunning backsWide ReceiversTight EndsOffensive LineDefensive Line … Linebackers

 

Defensive Backs … 

Fall “Pencil” Depth Chart:

(Note … CU plays a 3-4 defense, but lists 12 defensive positions, including a “Buff Backer” a safety/outside linebacker hybrid. The Buff Backer is being discussed with the defensive backs)

Buff Backer (S / OLB Hybrid): 

Davion Taylor, Jr. … Kyle Trego, Sr. … Shamar Hamilton, Jr.

Left Cornerback:

Chris Miller, R-Fr. … Dante Wigley, Jr. … Ronnie Blackmon, Soph. … Kevin George, Soph. … L.J. Wallace, Fr.

Free Safety:

Evan Worthington, Sr. … Kyle Trego, Sr. … Lucas Cooper, Jr. … Aaron Maddox, Soph. … Hassan Hypolite, R-Fr.

Strong Safety:

Nick Fisher, Sr. … Isaiah Lewis, R-Fr. … Darrion Rakestraw, Soph. … Ray Robinson, Fr.

Right Cornerback: 

Trey Udoffia, Soph. … Delrick Abrams, Jr. Jr. … Mekhi Blackmon, Soph. … Uryan Hudson, Soph. … Brock Miller, Fr.

 

By the Numbers (2017):

— Evan Worthington … Played in 12 games; 11 starts … 800 snaps … 86 tackles (66 unassisted – more unassisted tackles than anyone else on the team) … Three interceptions (most on the team) … Five tackles for loss … Seven passes broken up … Eight third down stops

— Trey Udoffia … Played in nine games; eight starts … 545 snaps … 33 tackles (3 unassisted) … One interception … Ten passes broken up … Seven third down stops

— Nick Fisher … Played in ten games; two starts … 315 snaps … 29 tackles (22 unassisted) … One interception (100-yard return for a touchdown) … Four third down stops

— Dante Wigley … Played in 12 games; four starts … 592 snaps … 28 tackles (24 unassisted) … Two third down stops … Six passes broken up

— Ronnie Blackmon … Played in five games; no starts … 21 snaps … One tackle

— Derrion Rakestraw … Played in two games; no starts … 13 snaps … One tackle

— Kyle Trego … Played in four games … 28 snaps … no tackles

 

Reasons to be excited:

Buffs have an excellent pair of safeties

Senior free safety Evan Worthington could be the next CU defensive back to hear his name called on Draft Day.

“He’s a pro guy,” said CU defensive passing game coordinator ShaDon Brown. “He’s going to be a pro safety. He just has to keep developing himself as a technician and doing the right things, and he’s done that. He’s matured more than any kid probably I’ve ever seen from a boy to a man in terms of his mental focus.”

Indeed, the leap Worthington made last year was significant. After coming off a one-year suspension — a year in which his son was also born — he not only had to work his way back up from the bottom, he also had to shake off a year’s worth of mental and physical rust.

But now, in his second spring since returning to the team, his mental game is starting to match his substantial physical talents.

“He knows he’s a phenomenal athlete,” Brown said. “He’s big —  6-1, 210 pounds — and  he’s a 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy. He can run, he can change directions, he can jump, he can do all those things. But now it’s playing consistent technique, making the plays that you should make. When you get better mentally, the game slows down. Instead of you reacting, you see things before they happen and that’s what he’s doing now. He’s seeing things before they happen versus last year, when he was just reacting and running.”

Worthington’s running mate in the defensive backfield is senior Nick Fisher. Despite only starting two games in his career, Fisher was voted as one of CU’s captains this fall.

While not starting, Fisher has played in 36 games, paying attention to those playing ahead of him, soaking in the lessons taught by Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Afolabi Laguda.

“I think I’ve been behind a lot of good guys, all in the NFL right now,” Fisher said. “I’ve learned a lot from Ted, I learned a lot from Fo. When I first got here I played corner and nickel and I learned a lot from Chido.

“Everything they instilled in me, I still try to keep that going, as far as work ethic, film, and just the demeanor out on the field. They taught me a lot.”

Between the pair, Worthington and Fisher have 70 games of experience.

“When they’re out on the field, the other nine guys have a calming effect,” Brown said. “They also can eliminate problems when they see things before the snap, in terms of checks and communication. They’re doing a good job leading.”

 

— There are plenty of cornerback candiates to choose from 

Red-shirt freshman Chris Miller is a name CU fans have been hearing about for over a year, but have yet to see on the field of play. Miller could be the next great Buff cornerback, and is listed as a starter on the fall “pencil” depth chart.

And it’s not as if the Buffs are being forced to start a freshman at corner. Sophomore Trey Udoffia and junior Dante Wigley both started seven games last year and have been good in camp.

“The guy that’s really most consistent is Trey,” cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose told the Daily Camera. “He just has a really good feel for it and has been in the system. Dante is doing a really good job; he’s really starting to elevate his game even more now.”

But wait, there’s more. Junior college transfer Delrick Abrams, Jr. and sophomore Ronnie Blackmon are also in the mix.

“Since the start of camp we’ve gotten better and improved every day,” cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose said. “But the great thing is we have five guys fighting for these two starting spots and they’re competing hard. We’re mixing them up, putting them with ones, putting them with twos, letting them get a chance to go against the one receivers and two receivers to see who wills step up to the plate and make plays.”

As Brown said, each has had some excellent days — and each has had some less-than-stellar moments. Now, the key will be finding two players who can give the Buffs the most consistency at a position that demands a thick skin as well as terrific athletic ability.

“The guy who can be consistent and the guy who can be productive is the guy who’s going to get the start,” Ambrose said. “We’ll find those guys in the next week or so.”

 

Reasons for concern:

— Buffs still looking for a Buff Backer … and depth at safety

Ryan Moeller was CU’s Buff Backer for much of last last season, with Evan Worthington filling in when Moeller was hurt. Moeller finished with 44 tackles in ten games, but with only one-half sack and one tackle for loss.

It’s safe to say that the Buff coaches and fans are looking for more from the Buff Backer this fall.

Is Davion Taylor the answer?

“Great athleticism, great speed, he’s strong and has good size for his speed,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said of the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Taylor. “We’re going to try to get him in position to make plays and use his athleticism.”

If Taylor is not the answer?

Behind Taylor on the depth chart is Kyle Trego, a senior who was on the field for all of 28 snaps last season (zero tackles).

Trego is also the first option at free safety should Evan Worthington go down.

The first backup to Nick Fisher at strong safety? Redshirt freshman Isaiah Lewis.

So … Sure, there are talented players on the roster, and there are a number of underclassmen who may be plugged in should the starters at Buff Backer and safety go down.

But Buff fans will be hoping that Davion Taylor, Evan Worthington and Nick Fisher are not only effective …

… but remain healthy.

 

Bottom Line

Colorado may not yet be in position to claim “Defensive Back U”, but the Buffs are getting close.

In the last eight drafts, Colorado has had six defensive backs taken, including four in the past two seasons – Chidoe Awuzie; Ahkello Witherspoon; Tedric Thompson; and Isaiah Oliver.

With Ashley Ambrose back in Boulder to work with the cornerbacks, the number of draftable Buff defensive backs will only rise. Evan Worthington may hear his name heard next April, with some Buff fans wondering whether we will be able to keep Chris Miller for the next four seasons.

There is a concern about experienced depth, and Athlon only rates CU’s secondary as the 9th-best in the Pac-12.

Still, most Buff fans are confident that the CU defensive backs are one of the best – if not the best – unit on the team.

I would tend to agree …

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