Three things we learned this spring about the Colorado Buffaloes:
1. Backup plan: Attrition at quarterback left the Buffaloes with just two scholarship players behind center entering spring practices, but returning starter Sefo Liufau took a step forward as a true sophomore participating in his first spring practice, and, perhaps as important, sophomore Jordan Gehrke more than eased fears that he is a capable backup. As a better threat running the ball than Liufau, Gehrke might even find his way into the plan this fall.
2. More skilled than you think: While the big story entering spring drills on offense was the challenge of replacing receiver Paul Richardson, the feeling at the end is the skill is more than adequate both at receiver and running back. At receiver, Nelson Spruce and D.D. Goodson are the veterans, and redshirt freshman Bryce Bobo was a big riser this spring, claiming the top spot at X receiver. Top WR recruit Shay Fields arrives in the fall. At running back, there's good depth with 230-pound Christian Powell, Tony Jones, Michael Adkins and surging redshirt freshman Phillip Lindsay.
3. Looking the part: Since joining the Pac-12, Colorado has been younger, smaller and slower than most other conference teams. It also often played like it knew that. This spring, the second under coach Mike MacIntyre, the team seemed to take a step forward both physically and mentally. The players are in sync with their coaches -- no staff changes this offseason -- both in terms of scheme and how practice is conducted. After a mostly competitive performance in 2013, there's a belief the program can take a step forward this fall.
Three questions for the fall:
1. Sorting out the offensive line: The Buffaloes need new starters at center and left tackle and little was settled this spring, particularly with the return of Jeromy Irwin and the arrival of juco transfer Sully Wiefels in the fall. Marc Mustoe was listed No. 1 at left tackle and Alex Kelley at center on the post-spring depth chart.
2. Getting physical: MacIntyre and defensive coordinator Kent Baer both -- repeatedly -- talked about the need to be more physical on the line of scrimmage, so this goes for both sides of the ball. A lot of that is about what happens between now and fall camp in the weight room. The Buffs need to be stronger and better conditioned at the point of attack.
3. Who gets the sacks? The Buffaloes have played with a promising, but young secondary the past two years. Now that youth should fulfill its promise. But a secondary is only as good as its pass rush, and it's uncertain who will lead the charge to the QB with the departure of end Chidera Uzo-Diribe.
One way-too-early prediction:
Colorado improved dramatically in Year 1 under MacIntyre, and the depth chart is far more promising than a year ago. But in the rugged Pac-12, it's difficult to project six victories and bowl eligibility. That said, this team is good enough to beat someone it’s not supposed to beat. And it will in 2014. The Buffs will post a major upset in 2014.