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Colorado football and the evolving coaching staff

The Buffaloes staff upgraded thrice over the offseason.

NCAA Football: Colorado State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of upheaval for the Colorado Buffaloes. Since 2015, CU has replaced the entire defensive staff, and only two of the original coaches from Mike MacIntyre’s first year in 2013 remain (Klayton Adams and Gary Bernardi). The point is, MacIntyre has been here five years, and his staff is undergoing an evolution. With the new hires and reshuffling of positions in the offseason, the change is nearly complete.

Defensively, this group of coaches could not be more different than the original group. Kent Baer at DC had a lot of extensive high-level coaching experience, but he preferred running his own unit. Besides Baer, there was a painful lack of experience on staff. Almost no one on staff held the reputation of recruiter. With the hires of Ashley Ambrose and Kwahn Drake official, the new defensive staff has a new focus. DJ Eliot is young, but has P5 experience as a DC and a position coach, and he is plenty willing to take input from the best defensive coach on staff (MacIntyre himself). One could argue that ShaDon Brown is the least veteran coach on staff as he has never held a position as big as passing game coordinator or been at a school at this level. But Brown has proven himself everywhere he has gone and his personality shows that he is due for another big promotion pretty soon (in my opinion).

The rest of the staff rounds out a nice mix of experienced and young. Ross Els has done it before at every level, and he has served as recruiting coordinator before, which means he knows how to emphasize it. Kwahn Drake is a shade over 30 and has recommendations from just about anyone that has coached with him. He could not be more different from Jim Jeffcoat in terms of personality. Ambrose is a plus recruiter on his second go-around at CU after proving himself at every other level. He has a strong hold in CU’s recruiting footprint and knows how to coach corners. Each coach has at least a strong plus in one aspect of his job, and more importantly, none have any glaring weaknesses to work around.

On offense, the staff is more experimental. Which makes sense, given that MacIntyre’s specialty is the defensive side of the ball. Brian Lindgren needed a change of scenery, and with the OC gone, the identity of the offense is gone too. In general, the offensive side has had less change in Mac’s time here. Klayton Adams and Gary Bernardi remain from the original staff, and the changes have been more incremental. This year, however, there is a more wholesale move. Darrin Chiaverini and Klayton Adams were both promoted, which is a huge vote of confidence and a smart move in order to keep these coaches on staff for as long as possible. Chiv and Adams are both rising stars, and if they succeed this year, interest from other teams will intensify. Chiaverini has stated on record that he wants to go as fast as possible and spread the ball around. While Lindgren pushed the pace, he also had slower developing plays and put a lot of pressure on the O-line.

If CU truly tries to go Ricky-Bobby fast, they will use simpler plays. This should help Steven Montez and the offensive line. Adams was promoted because of his reputation as a strong recruiter and his attitude. Hopefully, putting two heads together will lead to a stronger balance in the run-pass split. My biggest hope is that Adams and Chiv don’t overthink it, as Lindgren sometimes did. If the run is working, don’t get fancy. If the pass is working, don’t get fancy.

There should be some trepidation about having two first-time coordinators running the show, but MacIntyre relaxed that worry with the hire of Kurt Roper as a QB coach. Roper is a perfect addition to the offensive meeting room. He has been a P5 OC twice before, and a P5 QB coach for 20 years. He knows what he’s doing, and he can answer questions that C&A might have. MacIntyre is not an offensive coach, so having a mind like Roper helps MacIntyre as much as it helps the new coordinators. To round out the staff, Darian Hagan has a strong record as an RB coach (Rodney Stewart, Hugh Charles, and Phillip Lindsay) and a recruiter, and Gary Bernardi has recruiting potential if his feet are held to the fire.

There are still one or two more moves that the Buffs may make in the next year, but for the most part, this blueprint is final. The staff is well-rounded, competent, and most importantly for MacIntyre, cooperative. No egos in here. I think this will pay off big dividends in 2018.