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Bye Week to Bye Week: Underperformers and Surprises

Looking at the "middle third" of the conference slate, I explore some of the pleasant surprises and shocking underperformers for the Buffs.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on your expectations, this season has been a disappointment or pleasant surprise. This young Buffs team has been consistently inconsistent, and as with most young teams, there's plenty to be furious and excited about. Along this same vein, since the ill-fated bye week before the ill-fated USC disaster, there have been plenty of players that have stood out for this Buffs team, in both good and bad ways.

Surprises

Kenneth Olugbode

What a difference learning on the job makes. Before the season, we all heard Coach Mac call Olugbode "really freakin' good". Since the first snap at Sports Authority Field against CSU, it seems as if Kenneth was actively trying to prove MacIntyre wrong. Overpursuit, poor tackling, getting washed out at the line of scrimmage, name a poor play by linebackers and it seemed KO had done it. Simply put, in both body and mind, it seemed as if he wasn't ready. He showed flashes against ASU and OSU, but it was largely a poor performance on a poor team for the sophmore. I'm assuming Mac showed Kenneth Olugbode Dragonball Z or maybe some Lou Ferrigno Hulk movies, because what happened after was nothing short of a transformation. Against USC, he held his own against some ridiculous athletes, in Boulder he made some huge plays against the Bruins, and was one of the few bright spots against Washington. The Arizona game showed more of the same growth. The proverbial lightbulb went on for Olugbode. He's been filling the correct hole, playing the read option beautifully, and perhaps most impressive, he's been making one on one tackles in space, specifically against running backs in the flat, a nigh-impossible feat for pre-Ferrigno Kenneth. He has shown tremendous potential, and after this year, he has a chance to be really freakin' good.

Bryce Bobo

#BoboMojo has arrived. After shining during the spring game, many fans were expecting more from the Bobo tie (still working out the nickname kinks) after the first few games of the year. He almost played hero against Cal, and then we heard nary a hair from the Buffs' most physical receiver. His first game back from the bye, and his first play back from the play, he immediately got paved into the field in southern Los Angeles against USC. Somehow he made the flight back to Boulder, and once again almost saved the game against UCLA with a beautiful route and even better running afterwards.He wasn't the biggest receiving threat against Washington or 'Zona, but his blocking on the edge has been felt, especially by Phillip Lindsay, who gets there faster than any other CU back. Bobo is a complete receiver, in line with Spruce (though not quite there yet), and after seemingly disappearing the first part of the year, he has become a bigger part of the offense. Lindgren has realized that when he needs 10 yards, he doesn't have to go to Nelson Spruce or T.Y. McCulloch. There's another reliable possession threat with the threat to go home every time he touches the ball, and he has the #BoboMojo.

Michael Adkins II

Another tale of a sophmore struggling early and coming on strong near the middle of the season. Michael Adkins took that idea to the extreme. There was a slow start to the season, not getting 100 yards against CSU and being passed up for Tony Jones and Christian Powell against Umass, and then the infamous fumble against ASU was the final straw. The young man's fragile psyche broke then, and that, combined with his injury, led to a largely ineffective early PAC-12 campaign. There were signs of life against OSU, but then the bye week came up and I thought all his momentum would leave him. I'm glad to be wrong here. He punched it in against USC, then blew up against UCLA. He had his first 100-yard game, looked like the explosive player we saw last year, and didn't seem intimidated by the athletes on the other side of the ball. He almost broke the long one in the first half in the Washington, then suffered an almost criminal dearth of touches in the second. The biggest difference I've noticed from the beginning of this year to now is his patience and decisiveness. He tried to create for himself too much at the beginning of the year, running into holes that weren't there yet or taking it outside before the edge was sealed. Honestly, I wouldn't blame him, because he had to do a lot of that last year with the offensive line being largely ineffective. This season is a different story. As soon as he figured out that push was real on this squad, he became a different back. he and Lindsay present a bright future in the backfield.

Honorable Mention: Phillip Lindsay, Derek McCartney

Underperformers

Addison Gillam (Mainly his Health)

Talking about Gillam just makes me sad now. What could've been this year if the gods didn't conspire against him. He started off with the elbow sprain, and he even played through that pretty well against ASU, but then the concussions started hitting, and the bye week was a needed sigh of relief for Gillam. It's been downhill from there. He had a forgettable game against USC, and then didn't suit up for UCLA or UW, due to different ailments that became a big issue. Addison Gillam is a mystery this year, much like the overall CU team. The whole is still there, brimming with potential, and at times he seems so close to breaking through, but then another setback, different from the last, knocks him down a peg. At the beginning of the year, he weighed a svelte 225 (ish) pounds, and now he is at a borderline ridiculous 207. Health takes priority here, and anyone dropping weight like that has bigger problems than football performance right now. I wish Addison the best, and his sophmore year, just like the program's, is a "what could have been."

Jimmie Gilbert

Not much was expected of Gilbert this year, as he is still thin as a rail and raw to the program, he is more about potential than production at this point. Still, something would be nice. He can bend the edge well, and can chase after those pesky dual threats. The key word here is "can." I'm just not seeing it this year. Feel free to disagree with me all you want, but Gilbert can't hold up against the run, and so far he hasn't done well rushing the passer, either. Out of the current defensive ends, my ranking would have to go McCartney, Coleman, Wilson, Shaver, Gilbert, and whether that's the product of a better supporting cast or stagnant growth, Jimmie Gilbert has not been productive. He is being thrown into the fire too early, but with the state of the program as it is, that's happened to many a player over the years. He had no recorded stats against USC and UCLA, and while his seven tackles against Washington look nice, five of them were assists. Gilbert seems like a classic case of someone who comes on as an upperclassman and dominates, but as of right now, his body isn't ready for PAC-12 play.

Sefo Liufau

I wish I didn't have to put him here. There is no kid easier to root for then Sefo, who plays like the kid one year to young for the pickup game at the park, all scrap and heart. The fact is, he has cost this team chances to win. No one player loses a game for a football team, but Liufau has killed plenty of chances at victory before they get off the win. His naysayers posit that he can be nothing more than a game manager, but what I'm seeing right now is anything but. At times, he has been the offense, finding the right man, calling the right play, and doing whatever it takes to get those yards. Other times, he has been the downfall, throwing picks, holding on to the ball too long, forcing throws that aren't there. The Arizona game snapped his streak of games with multiple touchdowns, and advanced his streak of games with multiple interceptions, and that should tell you everything you need to know about Sefo this year. He has shouldered the load for this offense, and I don't think he was quite ready for that weight. He performed reasonably well against CSU and UMass, keeping the team in both of those games, and made some great throws against ASU. Cal was a coming out party for him, with ridiculous stats and a gritty performance. After another great game against OSU, he was heading into the bye week riding high. Like both of the other disappointments, USC was a trouble game. The superior athleticism caught Sefo off guard, and many times his throws put the receivers in a position to lose. A mediocre performance at UCLA was followed by a disheartening one at Washington, where his picks in the 2nd half took away all momentum that the team had. In the Arizona game alone, he had four turnovers, and that tells you everything you need to know about his recent work. There is no harsher critic of Sefo Liufau than Sefo Liufau, and he will work way too hard to fix his errors. Right now, he is trying to do too much, and it shows.

This season has been one of many emotions for Buff fans, and the excitement and disappointment has come all to often this season. I would like just one boring win, please. Given the remaining schedule, it seems like I will have to wait until next year. Putting this together showed me how hard it was to find three glaring disappointments on this team, as with the exception of one certain program figurehead, there really hasn't been many glaring weaknesses on this team that can be singled out. Tell me who your most disappointing and surprising are in the comments, and Go Buffs.