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Colorado Buffaloes enter offseason with much uncertainty

Colorado heads into a long, dark, cold, winter with many question marks

The 2018 football season was a disappointment on a number of levels. Between blowing a 31-3 third quarter lead to conference cellar dweller Oregon State, to getting outscored 94-35 in the final three games, to losing seven in a row to close out the season and miss bowl eligibility, there were many low points.

Over the seven game losing streak, it seemed like the team invented a new way to lose each week: poor pass defense, an inept offense, lack of discipline/effort between halves. Whatever the reason was, they were unable to string together four quarters of good, consistent football.

Perhaps more concerning than the 2018 collapse, is the number of unknowns heading into 2019. The firing of head coach Mike MacIntyre was a long time coming as he couldn’t break out of a mediocrity rut. However, as defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson noted after the season ending loss to Cal, it remains to be seen whether the team gets better or worse.

After all, MacIntyre brought respectability back to a program that was previously one of the biggest laughing stocks in the power five, and hiring a new coach is always a risk. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Tucson where former Heisman hopeful Khalil Tate is pondering transferring after a major regression year.

Athletic director Rick George’s decision to opt for an organizational makeover in hopes of raising the program to elite status was certainly a gamble, and if the team regresses it could greatly backfire. But he, like many boosters and alumni, felt it was a worthy chance to take given the potential rewards. The two are looking for a energetic young coach who can inject a combination of energy, accountability, and leadership in a locker room that lacked all three towards the later stages of this season.

However the concerns around the remaining staff carry beyond just the head coach position. Will the team be able to retain quarterback guru Kurt Roper? Who’ll be calling the plays on offense? If it’s Chiaverini will he take a step forward in year two? What about the defense? Who from that side of the ball will stay? All of these are valid questions to ask with a new regime set to come into Boulder.

On defense, the team returns arguably their two most talented players in Johnson and linebacker Nate Landman, but they’ll lose five starters in Evan Worthington, Nick Fisher Drew Lewis, Javier Edwards and Rick Gamboa. Although none of them are beyond replacement, the team will likely miss Gamboa’s leadership in addition to Worthington, Fisher and Lewis’s veteran presence. Beyond the departing players, will a secondary that returns most of it’s personnel finally find some consistency or will opposing play callers continue to pick on them?

Offensively, 1,000 yard rusher and bell cow Travon McMillan is graduating. Two role playing wideouts in Juwann Winfree and Kabion Ento will also depart. McMillian’s shoes will easily be the hardest to fill out of the three as he had an outstanding lone season at Colorado.

The unit returns early season Belitnikoff frontrunner LaViska Shenault, along with his DeSoto HS teammate KD Nixon, and most likely quarterback Steven Montez. Although he’ll be missed in the run game, the departure of McMillan shouldn’t play a major role in the team’s success.

With all the talent they have on the field, whoever’s calling the plays needs to have more creativity and the ability to consistently put up points. As evident in the later stages of the season, Colorado will have little success as a team when their talented offense is completely inept.

Overall, 2019 is a year that has boom-or-bust potential - and with a new head coach, will be huge for the long term trajectory of the program. Although the team has some promising young bonafide playmakers, only time will tell if that can be translated into wins. With more question marks than one can count, for now all fans can do is follow the head coaching search and hope for the best.