Buffs' defensive improvements promising for 2016 season


It’s hard to look at Colorado's schedule and say that much (if any) progress has been made. But when looking closer at some of the Buffs’ numbers this season, it’s pretty obvious that some huge strides were made on the defensive side of the ball.

Buffzone.com’s Brian Howell broke down some of Colorado’s defensive improvements in a story today, including the Buffs’ big jump in scoring defense, from 11th in the Pac-12 in 2014 to sixth in 2015.

"Overall, I'm really proud of them this year,” defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt told Howell. “We've shown some resiliency. We'll get better with most of those guys back. There's something there."

The Buffs held opponents to fewer points because of the little things they did all over the field. We did a deeper dive into some of the Buffs’ improvements from 2014 to 2015 as outlined below, and it’s staggering the improvements that were made -- with many of the same players -- in just one season.

Yards per play: 6.55 (2014), 5.72 (2015)

Yards per rush: 5.6 (2014), 5.0 (2015)

Yards per pass attempt: 7.5 (2014), 6.5 (2015)

Interceptions: three (2014), 14 (2015)

Plays of 10 or more yards: 22 percent of the Buffs’ defensive plays (2014), 18 percent of the Buffs’ defensive plays (2015)

Points per drive: 2.6 (2014), 2.0 (2015)

These numbers are fantastic this season, but they also bode well for the future of Mike MacIntyre’s program. As Howell points out, only three significant contributors off this year’s group won’t be around next season (safety Jered Bell, cornerback Kenneth Crawley and defensive tackle Justin Solis), and the Buffs are happy with a lot of their young players.

With a solid offseason, this Colorado team -- which came dangerously close to knocking off several opponents this season -- could be poised to turn a few close losses into wins in 2016.

"I think we're going in the right direction toward next year,” safety Tedric Thompson told Howell. “Leavitt has completely turned this defense around.”