The guys over at Corn Nation, the Nebraska blog on SBNation, asked us to put together a small synopsis of the Buffs going into spring ball so that they could educate their fan base on what to hear out of camp this year. I thought it would be good to share so you can see what I am looking at going into camp.
Corn Nation: Who's Gone: (What Star Players Are Gone in 2009)
Biggest loss on Offense: Center Daniel Sanders. Right now the Buffs have three or four guys who can probably step in but not like Sanders did. He was a big performer for the Buffs and right now, no one has any experience at the position worth mentioning. Look for Mike Iltis, Blake Behrens or Evan Eastburn to battle for the starting spot this offseason with the favorite being Iltis who is recovering from an ACL injury. Other than that, the Buffs lose no one of any significant value on offense from last year's team. Same goes for next year as Colorado will only lose a starting tight end, a fullback and an offensive guard. This offense will have a lot of time to grow together.
Biggest loss on Defense: CU lost a few significant senior starters from 2008 although many underachieved. On the underachiever side you can put DT George Hypolite, DT Brandon Nicolas, DE Maurice Lucas and S Daniel Dykes. LB Brad Jones and S Ryan Walters will be the hardest players to replace. Jones led the team in sacks last year and was the only player that could get any sort of consistent pressure. The good thing for the Buffs is that linebacker is one position we have recruited well at and have many candidates to replace him. B.J. Beatty will provide the Buffs with Jones-like pass rush skills. Beatty is one of those guys who flies around and makes plays. Also look for redshirt freshman LB Jon Major and LB Doug Rippy to see time and with the Buffs returning All Big 12 players in LB Shaun Mohler and LB Jeff Smart, linebacker should not be a concern. The only concern on defense in my mind, and it is a big one, is defensive line. Even though Hypolite, Nicolas and Lucas underachieved last year, they were the only guys we had and the only guys we saw play with any significant time. This year, we are flying blind and all positions are up for grabs. Hawkins got two big recruits in 5* DE Nick Kasa and 4* DL Edward Nuckols in 2009 but whether they will be ready to go physically is never a guarantee. Cornerback should be solid with plenty of depth and although the Buffs lose both safeties, Walters and Dykes had plenty of injuries last year giving replacements S Anthony Perkins and S Patrick Mahnke time to get a feel for the spots as freshman. Walters was a leader of the defense as well as a pretty hard nosed ball player so that will need to be filled in 2009.
Corn Nation: Who To Watch: (The best guys on your team, and maybe your quarterback if you have a new one)
see more after the jump...
Right now as Buff fans we get really optimistic before the season starts about a lot of players, we always do that! Here are a few:
RB Darrell Scott - has dropped all the excess weight he had carried last year as a freshman, down to his high school weight of 205 pounds (was at 225), is said to be healty again, running a 4.4 forty, got mentioned in a recent interview with our strength and conditioning coach saying he was the hardest working player this offseason and really made a point to show everyone that he is ready to break out in 2009. I have no doubt that 2008 will be a distant memory after this season.
RB Rodney Stewart - hard not to have him on this list even though I think Darrell Scott will replace him as the starting back. Although he broke his leg late in the season, he worked hard this offseason and tested out as the strongest player pound for pound on the team. No questioning what he did last season was pretty amazing for a freshman (can't you tell that we had a lot of freshman playing last season...it makes me sick typing this). This running back combo could be special for years to come.
WR Markques Simas - was ineligible last season but is said to have a strong GPA this year. He was a four star commit in 2007 and should be the top play maker on the edge in 2009. It has been reported that no one is even close to his talent level at wide receiver and he just torched the defensive starters last year playing on the scout team.
OT's Ryan Miller and Nate Solder - they will anchor this line, a line that if healthy, has the talent to be a top 3 or 4 squad in the conference. Both of these guys have the build (6'9" 300+) and the athleticism (Solder ran a sub 5.0 forty this offseason) to be pro prospects.
QB Tyler Hansen - because we need a change. The offseason should do wonders for him learning the playbook and gaining confidence controlling the offense. People forget that last year he was strictly the scout team quarterback until about two weeks before the Kansas State game. Basically, he had to learn the Colorado playbook in a few short days. He is taller, has better feet and a better arm than Cody Hawkins. The only thing that we need to see is his ability to grasp the offense and the leadership that goes along with being the starting Q.
WR Josh Smith - was third in the Big 12 last year in all purpose yards and ninth in the nation. Need a more consistent performance from him but if he dedicates himself, he has already shown that he can be explosive and a game changer.
LB Shaun Mohler: impressive last year in his first season as a JUCO transfer. Became a starter after the second game and never gave it up. I expect second team All Big 12 or better this year for Mohler. Was honorable mention last year. He plays down hill and is my pick for CU's defensive player of the year.
LB Jeff Smart: Second team All Big 12 linebacker last year. He isn't the most gifted linebacker the Buffs have but he is the most productive. He might get pushed by some of the younger, bigger guys this year but I expect another strong season from him.
CB Jimmy Smith: he will be the first cornerback selected out of the Big 12 in 2010's NFL draft. He has great size (6'3" 200 pounds) and is by far and away the most athletic player on CU's roster. Husker fans should remember Smith after last year's game.
CB Cha'pelle Brown: an All Big 12 player last year. What he lacks in size, he offsets with consistent play. With the return of 2007 starter Ben Burney from injury as well as the emergence of backups Jalil Brown and Anthony Wright, Cha'pelle will have his hands full but I expect him to be the day one starter based on last season.
Corn Nation: Under the Radar players who might make an impact this season:
OL Bryce Givens - a former Nebraska commit, Givens has added 25 pounds this offseason to go along with his great athleticism. He should push for a starting spot if he can stay healthy.
LB's Doug Rippy and Jon Major - part of the big 2008 LB recruiting trio, look for Rippy (who is physically ready to play at the college level) and Jon Major to push for time. Unfortunately, the cream of the crop in 2008, LB Lynn Katoa, is struggling both on and off the field and it wouldn't be a surprise if he never suited up for the Buffs.
DL Conrad Obi - honestly, we have no idea who is going to make up three or even all of our starting defensive line spots. I can't even make an educated guess but Obi is said to have all the physical talent but now it is time for the sophomore to turn it into production. CU is very young on the D-line.
DL Curtis Cunningham - he saw the most action of any player as a backup last year which was pretty amazing considering he was a 260 pound true freshman. If I had to put my money on one player starting next year on the defensive line, it would be him. He showed in limited action that he can make plays.