The long-awaited start of the Mike MacIntyre era finally began yesterday when the team reported for the first spring practice of the new head coach's tenure with the Buffaloes. Sure, MacIntyre has already put his mark on the incoming class and has surely dove into 2014 recruiting, but this is the first time that the new staff will put this team on the field and see exactly what they have to work.
This spring will be an extremely important one for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is an administration and fan base that are starved for some sliver of hope that this ship is now headed in the right direction. Hopefully, these next fourteen practices and the spring game will show us a glimmer of that hope and allow fans to start to daydream of the success we dream will come someday soon.
To help get everyone prepared for spring ball, I've put together what I think are the five most important questions to be answered this spring.
5) Will Football Jesus finally deliver the Buffs a quarterback?
No offense to Tyler Hansen and the situation he found himself in during his time at Colorado, but this program is now looking at 10+ years without a difference maker at the quarterback position. There is certainly plenty of blame to be placed on the lack of assets on offense as a whole, but the fact remains that more so than any other position on the team, the quarterback should make the offense better. This team needs a playmaker, not a game manager.
With most fans looking past last year's trio of Jordan Webb, Nick Hirschman and Connor Wood and hoping that either Shane Dillon or true freshman Sefo Liufau will step up and seize the job, they could be setting themselves up for a level of disappointment when a starter is announced. Whoever is given the job needs to be able to lead this team in a way that has not been seen in Boulder since Gary Barnett led the Buffs.
4) Can Colorado's young secondary turn the corner (PUN!)?
Greg Henderson, Yuri Wright, Kenny Crawley, Marques Mosley... all thrust into a starting role as first-time college players and asked to square off against some of the best collegiate offenses in the game. The struggles of the previous coaching staff to provide the level of coaching that is needed for this position group are well documented, but the fact remains that these guys have experienced the speed of the game and now is the time to adapt or die (figuratively, of course).
Andy LaRussa and Charles Clark have some pieces to work with as they try and revamp what has been, statistically, one of the worse units in football over the last two seasons, but it remains to be seen how much progress can be made in year one.
3) Who will step up on the defensive line?
The loss of Will Pericak is going to be a big, big hole that Colorado has to fill. Put Pericak on a defense where he isn't subject to double teams and significant game planning from the opposition and I feel that he could have been a household name. There aren't many games that I can remember where Pericak wasn't one of the only bright spots on a defense that was usually getting severely worked over.
At the defensive tackle position, solid starters will have to arise from names like Josh Tupou, Nate Bonsu, Tyler Henington and Justin Solis, but there isn't a guy on that list whose play to date has inspired much confidence.
At defensive end, where Pericak eventually moved in his senior season, Chidera Uzo-Diribe has got to step up and be a leader on this team. The talent is there, but he has been plagued by inconsistency and a bad habit of disappearing for large stretches at a time. Whether Kirk Poston, Juda Parker or another name steps up on the other side, the ability of the ends to get to the opposing quarterback will play a huge role in the success of this defense.
2) How will quickly can this offense master the Pistol?
The Pistol offense, as a buzzword, has moved well past the mainstream and is now in the portion of the "buzz lifecycle" where ESPN tries to mention it at least 10 times per day. The success of the offense in college football and especially the NFL, with players like Colin Kaepernick and RGIII becoming mainstream and millions of fans inaccurately calling formations as variations of the Pistol, has diluted the meaning of the word. Mike MacIntyre will install his version of the offense at Colorado and hope that he has the same success that he did at San Jose State.
We heard with Hawkins and Embree about how their new offenses were going to suit the talent on hand and help prepare the unit for success and saw the Buffaloes offense perform at miserable levels in both instances. Will this time be different?
1) Where will this offense find playmakers?
Think back to last year, and name the guys who caused you to hold your breath when they got the football? Still thinking? Yea, they didn't exist. The return of Paul Richardson will be a boon for a wide receiver unit that all of a sudden looks not so bad (yep, that's supposed to be a compliment), but even when he was healthy, there was a concerning lack of consistency in his play.
Gerald Thomas showed flashes of game breaking ability, but then he would drop three catchable balls in a row. Donta Abron teased us at times with his ability to make the defense miss, but to date there aren' t any guys on this offense that will keep defensive coordinators up at night. Can that change prior to the start of the 2013 season? Absolutely. Will it? I really, really hope so.
What answers are you blokes hoping to see the questions above? What are you most looking forward to seeing this spring?
By Jon Woods