TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 29: Runningback Cameron Marshall #6 of the Arizona State Sun Devils rushes the football against the Colorado Buffaloes during the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Buffaloes 48-14. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Tomorrow is the Colorado Buffaloes spring football game. Unfortunately, due to depth issues and injury concerns, it may be less of a spring football "game" and more of a spring football "practice." But still, this is our first (and last) chance to see the Buffaloes this spring. Which means it's our first chance to see Connor Wood throw the football, how Ray Polk looks coming back from injuries, how the offensive line looks after replacing both Guards from 2011, how the offensive skill positions look despite not returning any of the leaders there from last year, and a plethora of other things.
I know we don't want to hinge all of our expectations for the Buffaloes on this one evening of football, but it will be tough not to.
And knowing that what we see will have a huge impact on our outlook, let's look at five guys who we want to see step up tomorrow:
No surprise here. He's taken all of the 1st-team snaps this offseason, but he hasn't been named the starter and the coaching staff still felt the need to go after a graduate-transfer. He was highly touted coming out of high school, but couldn't beat out a pretty awful QB at Texas before transferring here (though that's a story for another day). He's still learning the playbook, but that's not really what we're looking for tomorrow. We want to see how well he runs the offense and how "in command" he looks. And he has to be able to make all the throws while also showing that he can step up in the pocket. We've hear positive things, but they've all been tempered by the coaching staff as well. We need a starting quarterback in Boulder, and it would sure be nice to have already found him.
Follow the jump for a little Shangri-La!
Our offense depends on getting huge contributions from the tight end position. And not just from one guy, but from multiple guys playing a variety of roles. We have a few candidates for the "Move" TE, the guy who is going to see more passes, but we only really have one for the big, blocking tight end. Last year it was Alex Lewis but it looks like he's going to be starting on the left side of the offensive line. This year it needs to be Kasa, so it would be nice for him to look good in that role tomorrow. Physically, he's the prototypical tight end. At 6'6", 265 and with great speed, he certainly looks the part. And he looked strong if un-polished as a blocker in limited opportunities after making the position switch towards the end of 2011. We need him to continue to improve in all areas, and it would be nice to see some of that on display tomorrow. He's still getting used to catching the ball and running routes, but it sounds like he's flashed the ability to do so, and he's got the size and strength to block. If he can focus on the little things, have someone just throw footballs at him in his spare time and learn as much of the offense as he can, he could be a real weapon for us. And we desperately need him to be.
We already found out that he is atop the chart at one of the receiver spots (the one formally opposite Paul Richardson, who is now out for 2012 with an ACL tear), but without anyone else standing out, we need him to take over a leadership role in addition to a starting spot. He's got good size, sneaky speed and big hands, and he was very productive in high school. After sitting out his first year, we need him to burst onto the scene and play well beyond his years. We aren't running a high-flying attack like some of our conference foes, but we do need to get the ball downfield and over the middle. He's been touted as a fearless Wideout who can lull DBs into a false sense of security, and we need to see him do that now that he may be our best option at WR.
Josh Moten/Sherrard Harrington
We know what we're going to get from Greg Henderson. He's solid and it sounds like he's working hard to improve, but he's a guy with the right mentality, able to shake off mistakes and compete on every play. What we don't know is what's going to be happening across the rest of the defensive backfield. Moten has been getting some 1st-team reps, but Harrington has also received some praise and is a great athlete. Yes, we do have some highly recruited DBs coming in, but we also are going to be trotting out more than 2 cornerbacks a good number of plays with the multiple-WR sets our opponents like to use, and we don't want to be depending on more than one true freshman at a time. Both Moten and Harrington have their strengths, and we're hoping to see that they've improved in the other areas this spring.
We know that Jon Major has one starting spot locked up (can you say Most-Underrated-Guy-On-The-Defense, Mr. Sam LB?) and if Rippy comes back at (or close to) full strength, he's got that other spot, but we need that third guy who can really fly around and make plays at the LB position (Jack LB I'm counting as more of a defensive lineman for us). Webb can be that guy, as he is arguably the hardest hitter on the team and he has great speed. He's gotten bigger and he believes he hasn't lost any quickness, and he also is apparently finally starting to wrap his brain around the game. That can only mean good things for the Buffaloes. We also will see a good amount of Kyle Washington at his spot (another guy getting rave reviews), but Webb is the guy who has played the position for a few years. Webb stepping up and truly becoming a playmaker, which is different and much better than a big hitter, would help our defense out a ton.
Now obviously we would like to see a whole lot of other players step up, but that goes without saying. But these guys would help improve our outlook a lot, and pave the way for a more successful 2012 for the Colorado Buffaloes on the gridiron.