Nate Landman, MLB
The worst part of Landman’s game is the fact that he’s behind a very solid starter in Rick Gamboa and a freak in Drew Lewis. Gamboa is not getting unseated, at least not fully, because of how reliable he is. You know you’re getting an average to above average starter every single play. Lewis is not getting unseated because it’s hard to take his speed and strength off the field. His pass rushing abilities are also next level. So here is Landman. He came on strong as a freshman at the end of last year and left plenty of fans excited for his potential next year. He is fast, physical, and plays downhill. So Landman has a hard cap on his playing time in 2018, but it’s worth watching if Landman can separate himself as the 3rd MLB in spring practice.
Trey Udoffia and Dante Wigley, CB
Udoffia is another talented member of the crowded CB carousel. As a redshirt freshman last year, he started out strong and showed a lot of potential before being hurt near mid-season. During his absence, Dante Wigley stepped up and also showed some playmaking ability. Now, in the spring of 2018, they’re going to battle again. Udoffia and Wigley are the presumed frontrunners to hold down the boundary corner spot opposite Delrick Abrams. Udoffia is a little more athletic than Wigley, but he’s slighter and a little shorter. If one of them can separate during spring practices, it would offer a lot of clarity to the 2018 defense and let the other pieces shuffle to the right spots. If Wigley wins out, Udoffia could slide to nickel cornerback and be just fine. If Udoffia wins out, Wigley has experience in the nickel position and could also provide badly-needed depth at safety.
Dante Sparaco, OLB
This is a big piece of the defense. Other than Jimmie Gilbert’s herculean solo effort in 2016, the Buffs have struggled with consistent pass rush in Mike MacIntyre’s tenure. Last year started out strong, with Jacob Callier, Derek McCartney, and Dante Sparaco all getting pressure against CSU. But then Sparaco got dinged up and lost out on snaps, McCartney filled more of a run-stuffing role, and Callier lost out on time as CU had to get bigger. Drew Lewis ended the year as CU’s best pass-rusher. But it’s a new year, and with unfounded results comes unfounded expectations and excitement. Sparaco is now fully healed and working with the starting unit on defense. He is big, ready to play, and a natural pass rusher. With Nu-umoto Falo coming back to provide some stability to the OLB position, Sparaco has some tough competition to gain time. He needs to use the spring to show the coaches what he can do again.