With Coach Mike Macintyre entering a defining fourth season as the Colorado Buffaloes head coach, the quarterback position is a giant question mark. However, there are many players that will make a big difference this season if the Buffs want to consider the possibility of going bowling. If these five players below have a big season, we may see a change of trajectory for this program.
5. Junior wide receiver Devin Ross
With Coach Darren Chiaverini's fast paced offense set to be unleashed against Colorado State, he will need the wide receivers to step up and make big plays. There won't be for dropped footballs, and that was a problem for Devin Ross last season. With better fundamentals, and a little more confidence, I believe Ross will have a breakout year this season.
During spring practice, Ross told BuffsZone writer Brian Howell, that his numerous drops in the UCLA game, which more than likely cost the Buffs the win, "motivates" him. He even seeked out advice from a guy who knows a thing or two about catching the football - all-time Pac-12 receptions leader Nelson Spruce.
Anyone who watched the offense at Texas Tech knows that smaller fast receivers like Jakeem Grant succeeded, and if Ross' confidence gets amplified, the Pac-12 might want to watch out.
4. Senior defensive tackle Josh Tupou
After spending a season playing rugby and working as a landscaper, DT Josh Tupou is finally set to return from his one year suspension and has a huge second chance to change his reputation in 2016. If Tupou can stay healthy and pick up where he left off in 2014, he will likely become a force and a leader of a talented Buffs defensive line in 2016.
Since joining the Buffs in 2013, I don't believe I have heard coach Macintyre be so excited about a players NFL potential then with Tupou.
"I think he's a high (NFL) draft choice as a 3-4 nose tackle," MacIntyre told the Daily Camera. "With a high draft choice in there at nose tackle, I think it helps you a lot. I think he'll be even more hungry than he would have been last year, so I'm excited about getting him out there."
Tupou was eligible for the NFL Supplemental Draft last season, but is adamant about getting his degree and finishing off his career with a bowl victory. The 6-foot-3 225 lb. senior earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2014 after registering 42 tackles and three sacks. His presence should make a big difference in Jim Leavitt's defense that was ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing defense.
3. Redshirt freshman guard Timmy Lynott Jr.
With the older group of the offensive line struggling last season, seeing Tim Lynott Jr., atop the right guard position gives me hope that the bunch will be improved in 2016. Lynott, who was one of the most hyped in-state recruits in quite some time, impressed Chiaverini during the Spring,
The Buffs originally had Lynott at center for most of the spring, but with senior Alex Kelley implementing his slate as the starter, Macintyre has Lynott at his normal high school position of right guard, and I think that is the right spot for him. At Regis Jesuit High School, Lynott was a three-year starter at right guard and played there on the Buffs' scout team last season.
Lynott was ranked as a top lineman in the nation for a reason, and I think since the older guys struggled so much last season, a change needs to be made by putting in the 6-foot-2, 300 lb., Lynott in early and often. The more experience he gets, the better he will be and he is probably the player I am most excited to see how he does.
2. Junior running back Michael Adkins II
Michael Adkins II has shown so many spurts of brightness but injuries have taken most of his college career. This season can change all of that, especially with the transfer of Patrick Carr, and the graduation of Christian Powell. He will be relied on to get the run game going behind Phillip Lindsay. I believe, if he stays healthy and shows the big-play abilities he showed against Charleston Southern in 2013, he will be the number one running back in 2016.
The San Diego native has showed so much potential but every time he gets rolling, injuries seem to get in the way. Knee and ankle injuries have consumed most of Adkins 2014 and 2015 campaign, but a big year in 2016 would help the Buffs replace Powell. Adkins had a solid spring as he compliments Lindsay, but he has more ability, and I believe he should be the feature back this season. However, it will depend on if he can stay healthy and how well the offensive line plays.
1. Junior middle linebacker Addison Gillam
With everything that Addison Gillam has gone through personally and with the injury bug hitting him, I would be so excited to see Gillam have a freshman season-like bounce back, because he deserves it. He was announced as the starting inside linebacker yet again on the preseason depth chart. When Gillam is healthy, he is essentially the quarterback for the defense. Addison not only is a leader on the defense, he also is a tackling machine, which we saw back in 2013.
As a true freshman in 2013, Gillam set a school record for tackles by a freshman with 119. That's what makes Gillam so important is there isn't another player (or we haven't seen one yet) on the roster that can come in and make an impact on the defense like he can. Sure, there are other linebackers on roster that Colorado has that need to make a big impact like Kenneth Olugbode, but Gillam is a unique star player when it comes to the impact he can have in a game and over the course of a season. If he can stay healthy we know what kind of impact he can have on the defensive side, and I am so excited to see what he can do in 2016.