The Colorado Buffaloes defense is teaming with young talent, but there are few players that are proven at the Pac-12 level. If you’re being cynical, the only defenders who are guaranteed to be difference makers are Rick Gamboa and Evan Wothington. Gamboa is a terrific player who sees everything on the field at inside linebacker, but he’s a limited athlete and can only do so much. Worthington, on the other hand, has the instincts and physical tools to be Colorado’s best defender.
In 2017, Worthington was an essential player. After missing 2016 due to a suspension, Worthington came back to the Buffs matured and focused. He was always physically gifted, but he learned that he couldn’t get by on that alone. With more effort in practice and better habits in the film room, he transformed into a superb player. He was everywhere last season and he consistently made plays at both the line of scrimmage and 30 yards deep in coverage. He had a gaudy statline of 87 tackles (6.5 for loss), 6 pass deflections and 3 interceptions.
In 2018, Worthington will be better and his role much more important. Last season, he had the experienced Afolabi Laguda in support and the always reliable Ryan Moeller at Buff Backer, plus Isaiah Oliver was there to shut down half the field. Now Worthington will play safety alongside three new starters in Nick Fisher (S), Davion Taylor (Buff) and Chris Miller/Dante Wigley (CB). Taylor will be tasked with focusing on run defense and Fisher is more of a coverage safety, so it seems Worthington will be patrolling the field waiting to make a play, wherever it is. Worthington will take on Tedric Thompson’s old role of “roaming badass”. It’s a role he should excel in because he’s such a well-rounded player who can do virtually anything he wants. He has the size and physicality to be a force against the run, and he has the range and play recognition to be an elite coverage safety.
With so many unproven players on the defense and little depth at safety, Worthington has to be at least the same player as last season for the Buffs to be successful. If CU wants to have a good defense, they will need him to step up and become a star. If Worthington’s past is any indictation, improvement seems guaranteed.