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Spring Practices … First Look: Defensive Backs

Program Note … Spring practices will begin February 23rd (Spring Game: March 17th). Leading up to spring ball, previews will be posted for each unit of the 2018 Colorado roster.

Previously posted: QuarterbacksWide ReceiversTight Ends/FullbacksRunning Backs … Offensive LineDefensive LineLinebackers … Up next: Special Teams

 

The roster: 

Defensive backs

Players lost (with 2017 season stats) … Ryan Moeller (39 career games; 25 starts … 44 tackles – 36 unassisted) … Afolabi Laguda (39 games; 26 starts … 67 tackles, 48 solo) … Andrew Bergner (27 games; no starts … six special teams points) … Isaiah Oliver (37 games; 16 starts … 27 tackles, 13 passes broken up)

 

CORNERBACKS (8 scholarship):

Seniors: None
Juniors: Delrick Abrams; Dante Wigley; Davion Taylor (Buff back)
Sophomores: Ronnie Blackmon; Darrion Rakestraw; Trey Udoffia
Redshirt freshmen: Chris Miller
True freshmen: L.J. Wallace

SAFETIES (9 scholarship):

Seniors: Nick Fisher; Jaisen Sanchez; Kyle Trego; Evan Worthington
Juniors: None
Sophomores: Kevin George; Aaron Maddox
Redshirt freshmen: Isaiah Lewis
True freshmen: Hassan Hypolite; Ray Robinson

 

The stats (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

 

 

Watching the 2017 season wind down, Colorado fans were fairly certain that cornerback Isaiah Oliver wouldn’t be back for his senior season.

As it turned out, Oliver didn’t keep the Buff Nation in suspense for very long, declaring for the NFL draft just five days after CU’s season-ending loss at Utah.

With the departures of Oliver, along with free safety Afolabi Laguda and nickel back Ryan Moeller, Colorado must replace three of its five starting defensive backs.

The strong safety position was manned ably for most of last season by Evan Worthington, who led the team in unassisted tackles (66) and interceptions (3). Worthington also started the final two games at nickel back last fall after Ryan Moeller was lost to injury, but his natural home is at strong safety.

Replacing Afodabi Laguda at free safety, however, remains problematic. Senior Nick Fisher has the most experience, but, his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against Cal notwithstanding, Fisher has not been a proven quantity. Another senior, Jaisen Sanchez, missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, and will be limited in his participation this spring.

There is hope that junior college transfer Aaron Maddox will be an answer at safety, but he won’t be able to earn playing time this spring. Maddox, as it turned out, played his freshman year at Pima Community College with a torn labrum in my left shoulder. Maddox has undergone surgery, and a full recovery is expected, but he will not be a participant in spring practices.

At the cornerback positions, the front-runners for the starting positions are Dante Wigley and Trey Udoffia, who had 12 starts and over one thousand snaps between them last fall. Both players showed promise at times last fall, but also struggled at times.

Challenging for immediate playing time will be junior college transfer Delrick Abrams, who will have three years to play two at Colorado. Abrams was ranked by 247Sports.com as the No. 69 junior college player in America and the No. 9 cornerback.  In his two years at Independence Community College in Kansas, the Louisiana native played in 20 games, posting 61 tackles (41 solo), had five tackles for losses, four interceptions and broke up nine passes.

Another player for Buff fans to keep an eye on is red-shirt freshman cornerback Chris Miller. A three-star prospect from Denton, Texas, from the Class of 2017, Miller chose Colorado over offers from the likes of Notre Dame, Missouri, Iowa and Ole Miss, and will have his first chance to make a pitch for 2018 playing time this spring.

The fifth defensive back position (the Buffs opened only one game last season without a nickel, or “Buff back”, on the field) will also need to be filled. Ryan Moeller graduated in December, and must be replaced.

The Buff coaches believe they have found the right man for the job in junior college transfer Davion Taylor. Taylor was ranked by 247Sports.com as a four-star prospect, the seventh-ranked junior college prospect in the country and No. 1 at outside linebacker (also rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN).

“He’s very athletic, very fast,” said Mike MacIntyre of Taylor, who will also run track for Colorado this spring. “He’s 225 pounds and runs a 10.5 (second) 100 meters. I’m really excited about him. He’ll be able to pass-rush and do that for us. He’s a guy that I see that’ll pass-rush out of that class. There are other guys too, but he’s a guy that’s already here and working out and will practice in the spring.”

To help coach the Buffs’ diverse defensive backfield, CU has brought back former coach Ashley Ambrose, who will coach the cornerbacks.

“They’re an excellent group of guys,” Ambrose said of CU’s coaching staff. “I felt like we jelled together even on the interview. We talk a lot of the same language and I’ve been in the system before. (Secondary coach ShaDon Brown) is a great coach. I’m excited to be working with him. He has a lot of knowledge and I’m going to learn a lot of things form him, as well as coach Eliot.”

Colorado has established a reputation over the past few seasons of developing NFL-caliber defensive backs. This fall, only two defensive backs return who started at least half of CU’s games last fall, safety Evan Worthington and cornerback Trey Udoffia. There will be considerable competition this spring for 2018 regular season playing time, with an influx of young talent and junior college additions.

With question marks concerning CU’s defensive line and linebacker units, the defensive backfield needs to continue to be a strength.

Sorting out the roster this spring will go a long ways toward achieving that goal.

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7 Replies to “Spring Ball First Look: DB’s”

  1. I disagree about Laguda…dont really remember him making a much of an impact at all last year. The only play that I can remember is him standing over one of the opposing players as the ball carrier ran right by him for a touchdown. IMO the DB unit will be better in 2018 even with the loss of Oliver.

  2. I could see Ray Robinson also factoring in at Buff-backer in the future.

    We have a very good grouping of 6 players competing for the cornerback spots; great coaches too. As long as the front seven gets pressure on the QB this unit won’t be a weakness for the team. However, we don’t have any obvious NFL talents on the 2-deep roster right now like the past few years; so if they get left on an island we could be in big trouble.

    Safety is probably the biggest concern in the secondary, specifically Free Safety; but I have high hopes for Kevin George to push Nick Fisher and Kyle Trego for starting time.

  3. This is gonna be real fun thing to watch. Coaches gotta get em the right position and scheme. All new coaches since two years ago.

    Let’s Go Elliot, no excuses this year period. You know what you got. Build a scheme to take advantage of it.

    Buffs

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