The Colorado Buffaloes have had a depth problem at safety for quite a few years now. Even the vaunted secondary in 2016 didn’t have too many bodies they could throw back there if the starters got hurt (bless you Afolabi Laguda). From Joe Tumpkin (who deservedly got fired) to Shadon Brown to Tyson Summers to current coach Brett Maxie, there have been plenty of changes over the last five years. The top end talent has always been there for the safeties, but the depth has always been non-existent. In this current roster, the depth has been upgraded from “non-existent” to “untested”.
The unit lost an established starter. Derrion Rakestraw, who played extensively for the last two years, grad-transferred to Tualne for a chance to star. Rakestraw was a warrior for the Buffs and we wish him well. The other part of the pairing, Isaiah Lewis, came out of absolutely nowhere to be a certified stud for the Buffs. A former overlooked recruit under Mike MacIntyre, Lewis started against UCLA and immediately made a huge impact. Lewis still has a few years left to play as a junior, and the 6’ safety will be very exciting as he blossoms. Lewis is a smart player who uses his play recognition skills to play faster than he should be able to. Lewis thumps running backs and receivers when he needs to, but he really is a watchful eye first and foremost. Lewis, in 2021, will need to learn a new defense under Chris Wilson. He and Maxie have had two straight years together, which should help, and I expect Lewis to find himself in the “honorable mention” portion of a few All-Conference teams.
The presumed starter next to Isaiah Lewis will be Mark Perry. Perry has been a fan favorite since his athleticism flashed in 2019. After an up-and-down year in 2020, Perry ran some track in the spring and sounds rejuvenated this fall camp. His profile is the polar opposite of Lewis. While Isaiah is a (no offense) small-ish 6’, 200 pound safety, Perry is a 6’3 behemoth with over 200 pounds on him. And he is FAST. Perry can fly when he knows where to go. The hope is that another year wiser, Mark can start to fly around with confidence in the defensive backfield. If he can put it together for his junior and senior year, Perry will be a complete monster.
Now, we get to the fun parts. The unknowns. Chris Miller, somehow still a junior in eligibility, is back after another brutal injury last year. The Texas speedster has continued to bulk up and will split his time all over the secondary. CB, S, STAR, Miller has experience at all of those positions and he is a nice, veteran presence. However, at his point, it’s hard to rely on the 6’1, 200 pound Miller to stay healthy. The contribution that Miller makes on the field will be a welcome one and I will celebrate it. However, a depth utility man is probably about where he belongs right now.
Ok, let’s get to the freshmen. I’m in love with Trevor Woods. The Texas native is just a FOOTBALL PLAYER. He plays instinctually, with no second guesses, and he plays the ball in the air. His signature move in high school football was the pick-6. He’s already pretty well built he’s supposedly performed well so far in camp. Woods is going to make some plays. There are smoother names to keep an eye on. Trustin Oliver was a CU signee in 2020 before having to spend a year at junior college. He’s back as a souped-up freshman and he is gigantic. Oliver will need to get up to speed, but when he does, he will be hard to keep off the field. Toren Pittman is long and learn at 6’3 and 200 pounds, and has some serious bloodlines. He is moving in between safety and STAR.
Safety has an established starter and plenty of promise, but almost no guaranteed depth.