Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Hope & concern: Colorado
By ESPN.com staff
Every team has hope heading into the offseason. And every team has concerns.
Ergo, we're going to run through the conference and look at the chief matters -- on the up and downside -- for each Pac-12 team.
Biggest reason for hope: Plenty of guys back from a team that just missed bowl eligibility.
Why exactly are so many folks so sure that the Buffaloes are going to get pushed around in the Pac-12 next year? Sure, they got pummelled at California, 52-7, but use schizophrenic California as a measuring stick at your own risk. Colorado also beat some good teams -- Hawaii, Georgia and Kansas State -- and finished one win short of bowl eligibility. Two losses were by a total of nine points, and, of course, there was that epic collapse against Kansas. So things could have been different in 2010, a season that cost Dan Hawkins his job. The Buffaloes have 14 starters back in 2011, including a veteran QB (Tyler Hansen) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Rodney Stewart). They also have an impressive young receiver (Paul Richardson), an NFL prospect on an experienced offensive line (guard Ryan Miller) and a key starter returning from injury (linebacker Jon Major). Further, they figure to be highly motivated for three reasons: 1. They will seethe over a lack of respect; 2. They will be energized by new coach Jon Embree; 3. They will be fired up for playing in the new Pac-12.
Biggest reason for concern: The secondary looks shaky.
Colorado started two cornerbacks last fall, Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, who were NFL draft picks, yet they somehow were terrible against the pass. They ranked 112th in the nation in pass-efficiency defense, with opponents throwing 27 TD passes, which would have ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in 2010. Even more stunning: Opponents completed 68 percent of their passes against Colorado. That would have ranked last in the conference. Injuries were an issue, but that doesn't obscure the fact that Smith and Brown are now gone and it's unclear who will replace them. Two players listed No. 1 on the post-spring depth chart, cornerback Parker Orms -- a safety last year before blowing out his knee -- and strong safety Anthony Perkins, missed spring with knee injuries. Toss in the quality of quarterbacks in the Pac-12, and questions in the secondary are grounds for concern.