DENVER - SEPTEMBER 04: Safety Travis Sandersfield #19 of the Colorado Buffaloes intercepts a pass intended for Tyson Liggett #23 of the Colorado State Rams during the the Rocky Mountain Showdown at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 4 2010 in Denver Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
With recruiting heating up and the 2011 regular season just around the corner, it is a good time to assess how the Buffs are looking at each position going into the season and for the upcoming years. So far we have covered quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, offensive line, wide receivers, defensive line and linebackers. Next up are the defensive backs who we specifically waited for until the end of camp for the depth chart released. Below is the depth at the position by eligibility year as we stand today:
|Fall Eligibility Chart - Cornerbacks|
|Jonathan Hawkins||Makiri Pugh||Parker Orms|
|Arthur Jaffee||Jered Bell|
|REDSHIRT FROSH||2011 SIGNEES||2012 VERBALS|
|Josh Moten||Sherrard Harrington|
|Fall Eligibility Chart - Safeties|
|Anthony Perkins||Ray Polk||Terrel Smith|
|Travis Sandersfeld||Vince Ewing|
|REDSHIRT FROSH||2011 SIGNEES||2012 VERBALS|
|Jordan Marquez||Jermane Clark|
|Justin Gorman||Will Harlos|
|Current Fall Depth Chart|
|Left Cornerback||Right Cornerback|
|Travis Sandersfeld - Sr||Greg Henderson - Fr|
|Ayodeji Olatoye - So||Parker Orms - So|
|Paul Vigo - So||Jonathon Hawkins - Sr|
|Josh Moten - RFr|
|Free Safety||Strong Safety|
|Ray Polk - Jr||Anthony Perkins - Sr|
|Terrel Smith - So||Kyle Washington - Fr|
|Will Harlos - Fr||Arthur Jafee - Sr|
breakdowns after the jump...
2011 Season and Depth:
Defensive back is one of the more interesting positions on the 2011 Colorado Buffaloes' team. The Buffs return two experienced safeties in senior Anthony Perkins and junior Ray Polk. Perkins has started 18 games, appearing in 29 total over his career while Polk has started 15 games, appearing in a total of 23.
Perkins is the most experienced defensive back for the Buffs and he will be counted on to bring consistency as Colorado will have to replace both of last year's starting cornerbacks. Defensive coordinator Greg Brown will be relying heavily on his returning safeties to provide leadership for the inexperienced cornerbacks.
Perkins only played in five games a year ago after suffering a torn ACL during the Missouri game. For the first four games last year, Perkins had 36 tackles, an average of nine per game which led the team.
As a sophomore, he played in all 12 games, including nine starts. He had the third most tackles on the team with 78. The big question mark with Perkins is how he will recover from his ACL tear. Perkins did not participate in spring ball to allow extra time for his knee to heal. He has been able to participate this fall and is listed as the starting strong safety.
Perkins was also named one of the four captains this offseason by his teammates.
Behind Perkins is sophomore Terrel Smith and freshman Will Harlos. Smith started the final six games of the season in replacement of the injured Perkins. Smith did an excellent job for a true freshman. In the final six games of the season, Smith led the team in tackles, averaging 10 per game. He finished with 60 total tackles, including 17 in the season finale against Nebraska which was a single game CU record for tackles by a true freshman. He had an interception and a sack as well. Expect Smith to see action this year and once Perkins graduates, to take the strong safety spot as a junior.
At the free safety spot, Polk started all 12 games a year ago and was on the field for 788 plays, second only to cornerback Jalil Brown. Polk, in his second year playing safety after he was primarily a running back in high school, was second on the team in tackles with 72.
Polk is one of the more physically gifted athletes on this year's squad but is understandably still learning the position. This being year three of his collegiate career, Buff fans are hoping to see Polk's instincts catch up to his ability. Behind Polk is true freshman Kyle Washington who came into camp and impressed the coaches. Washington has the physical tools to be a good safety. During camp he wasn't afraid to hit and was able to grab some attention from head coach Jon Embree
The good news is Polk and Perkins have had a strong fall camp. Both will need to have all-conference seasons and most important, stay healthy, for the Buffs to be successful this season especially with the lack of experience at cornerback.
2011 Season and Depth:
It's rare to find two cornerbacks off one team get drafted in the top three rounds of the NFL draft. That is exactly what happened to the Colorado Buffaloes. Defensive coordinator Greg Brown will have to replace first round draft pick Jimmy Smith and third round draft pick Jalil Brown at the cornerback spot. Brown and Smith started all 12 games and averaged over 750 total plays last year. No other corner had more than 200 plays in 2010 (Jonathan Hawkins).
None of the returning corners separated themselves this spring which made the cornerback position one of the more followed during fall camp. Top candidates to replace Brown and Smith going into fall camp were sophomore Deji Olatoye, sophomore Parker Orms, senior Travis Sandersfeld and sophomore Jered Bell although Arthur Jafee and Jonathan Hawkins were listed as 1-2 for the right corner spot on the depth chart. CU also welcomed incoming freshman Sherrard Harrington and Gregory Henderson to the team and with the position unsettled out of spring, the job was up for grabs even for the freshman.
The Buffs had a few setbacks this fall at the position with projected starter Jered Bell tearing his ACL, incoming freshman Sherrard Harrington injuring his hip and potential starter Parker Orms missing most of fall camp with a calf injury. With these players out, true freshman Gregory Henderson stepped up and frankly, earned the starting right cornerback spot. From the fall practices I saw, he was the most aggressive and physical of all the cornerbacks who took the field. I think that played a big role in him being named the starter. Henderson was one of the more lightly recruited players in the 2011 class. Over his high school career, he totaled over 100 tackles and had 22 passes broken up and nine interceptions. As a high school senior, he was ranked the as the 10th best cornerback in California and the 122nd corner in the nation by ESPN. He was named first-team All-State, All-CIF Southern Section, first-team All-Riverside County and first-team All-Big VIII honors. His senior year, he had 65 tackles, 13 pass breakups, seven interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Behind Henderson is sophomore Parker Orms, who missed all of spring camp and most of fall ball but still managed to ascend up to the backup spot. I wouldn't be surprised to see Orms on the field plenty this year. He was the starting nickelback as a freshman in 2010 but was injured in the first game of the season and missed the rest of the year. He is a playmaker and if he is healthy, he can help this team.
As for the left cornerback spot, the coaching staff named Travis Sandersfeld as the starter. Last year, the 6'0" 205 pound senior was listed as a safety and played some nickelback. He missed several games with a leg injury in 2010. He played in seven games and totaled 39 tackles. Sandersfeld brings some experience to the position which is a big plus to him being on the field. Behind Sandersfeld is Deji Olatoye, a 6'1" sophomore. Olatoye, like Orms, will see action in the nickel spot.
Bottom line, the Buffs don't return much experience at the cornerback position in the two deep on each side. Other than Sandersfeld who played most of his career at safety and nickelback, the remaining three players have played in a total of 11 collegiate games with one start. The one start was Orms where he had limited playing time before being injured and Olatoye played in 10 games but only 48 total plays. With the Hawaii Warriors just 11 days away, this is the one area that gives Buff fans the most discomfort. Hawaii averaged over 500 yards per game on offense a year ago, good for sixth in the nation. The Warriors had the top passing offense in 2010 averaging over 394 yards per contest. Hawaii has to replace nine starters from last season's team but QB Bryant Moniz returns from his 5,000 yard passing season. Defensive coordinator Greg Brown will have to come up with a scheme to get pressure on Moniz and not leave the cornerbacks on an island.