The buzz is starting again and preparation for another season is on the minds of many in Boulder. The questions still remain for the Colorado Buffaloes on the football field. Can this be the year the Buffs become competitive in the Pac-12 conference? Can they advance the program toward recruiting top-tier talent again? Both have been challenging tasks for the Buffs since joining the conference almost five years ago. Head Coach Mike MacIntyre continues to rebuild this season, with the best recruiting class of his tenure to go along with adding more experienced coaches to his staff. Even with a roster that’s one of the youngest in FBS, there's no lack of quality among the freshman and redshirt players at Colorado.
Devin Ross tops the list of players ready to make an immediate impact for the Buffs. The redshirt sophomore wide receiver joins Nelson Spruce, Shay Fields and Bryce Bobo, as down field targets for quarterback Sefo Liufau. Ross had the biggest offense play of the spring game by connecting with Liufau for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Speed is a major factor of his game- the former high school track star runs a 4.49, 40-yard dash and has the ability to hit the next gear while in stride. The Buffs' receivers are optimistic they can be successful by becoming a coverage threat for opposing defenses. MacIntyre has the ability to spread the field more effectively with four deep route runners, freeing up the runners in the backfield. Ross is the second most experienced out of the group behind Spruce, who returns for his senior season.
Another player turning heads this spring was running back Kyle Evans. Like Ross, he also put up a huge effort in the spring game by rushing for 96 yards and a touchdown. The 5 foot 6, 175 pound true freshman is a walk-on to the program from San Jose, California and is expected to play at some point this season. Evans is one of six running backs, giving the team another option at the position with Christian Powell, Phillip Lindsay and Michael Adkins carrying the majority of the load for the Buffs. Considering the injury prone nature of the position, having Evans will be beneficial towards the end of the season, if not sooner. Evans has experience on both sides of the ball after playing defensive back in high school. The transition prepared him to become more physical, along with helping him understand how to run downfield. Evans will be learning the system from established backs but will be ready when his number is called.
A strong running game starts with the offensive line, a position the Buffs have lacked depth at for quite some time. Sam Kronshage and Jonathan Huckins are looking to change that. The two redshirt sophomore linemen were high school teammates at The Woodlands HS (The Woodland, TX), where both earned PrepStar All-Central Region honors and Texas state honors. Offensive line coach Gary Bernardi will have additional big, able bodies to work around the line this season. Kronshage and Huckins are part of the rotation. Both are versatile enough to play any position on the line and will improve in Bernardi’s system for the next couple years. They’ll join senior Stephane Nembot, who has improved greatly on his footwork and agility. To Bernardi's credit, he’s done an outstanding job of identifying the strengths for each player and fitting them into the line accordingly.
Recruiting on the offensive line has been a focal point for MacIntyre's three classes; this year is no exception with top prospect Tim Lynott. The four-star lineman from Regis Jesuit HS (Aurora, CO), was heavily recruited by a number of schools, but decided to stay home and turned down sixteen other offers. He was impressed with CU coaches throughout the entire process and felt MacIntyre was genuine by not overcompensating. Lynott will join the Buffs this summer and has the potential to play as a true freshman for Bernardi. He’s already started the process of bulking up and has surpassed the 300 pound mark.
The battle to watch going into the summer won't be on the offensive line, but rather for the starting kicker position between Chris Graham and Diego Gonzales. Both redshirt players are looking to take over the starting job this season and had strong performances in the spring game. Gonzalez appears to be the front-runner for the position after showing consistency throughout the past year’s practices. The Mexican native has the ability to make field goals from 60+ yards and gives the Buffs an added weapon. Both Gonzales and Graham will be competing with incoming freshman recruit, Alex Kinney from Rocky Mountain HS (Fort Collins, CO). All three have the potential to start but it will come down the kicker who’s most proficient. Assuming Gonzales’ able to work on his accuracy this summer, he should be named the starter come August.
The defense has made the most improvements over the course of the offseason. Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt has been working hard to improve the Buffs’ struggles by focusing on cleaning up from the disasters from the past few seasons. Part of the transformation with a new defense involves working with new talent, and Afolabi Laguda will be a name Buffs’ fans should come to know. The junior college transfer joins CU from Butler Community College and will play an big role in the secondary. Laguda’s known for being a hard hitting coverage safety and at 6 foot 2, 200 pounds he’s able to diagnose plays as they develop. Leavitt will work Laguda into his style of defense and welcomes his physical nature on the field. Another player that’s going to be a contributing factor this season is linebacker Deaysean Rippy. The Pittsburgh transfer had to sit out last season due to NCAA rules and joins the Buffs for his first season. Rippy was a four-star recruit in 2012, receiving offers from Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and USC -- just to name a few. He’ll bring intensity to the outside linebacker position and has a ton of upside. Pairing him with Leavitt, who’s coached all-pro linebackers like Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman with the 49ers, gives Rippy an advantage of becoming a great college player.
MacIntyre’s demeanor is contagious among the players. He enters his third season at CU with the intentions of doing what seemed to be impossible. Turning around the worst stretch in CU history would serve as a victory. The drought has almost spanned a decade for the program, with the Buffs’ last appearance in a bowl game in the 2007 season. Athletic Director Rick George has shown confidence in Coach Mac and believes the Buffs will be playing in a bowl game along with competing for a Pac-12 championship by next year. The 2015 season will prove if CU is ready for the next level and can live up to fans expectations. For now, the Buffs are constructing depth at every position and hope the talent on the field can translate into wins.