Pac-12: Jack Harris

Colorado Buffaloes season preview

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
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We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Colorado Buffaloes.

Colorado

Coach: Mike MacIntyre (16-21, 0-0 at Colorado)

2012 record: 1-11, 1-8 Pac-12 South

Key losses: OT David Bakhtiari, TE Nick Kasa, OLB Jon Major, DT Will Pericak, FS Ray Polk.

[+] EnlargeMike MacIntyre
AP Photo/Brennan LinsleyMike MacIntyre is charged with turning around Colorado after making a winner out of San Jose State.
Key returnees: C Gus Handler, TB Christian Powell, WR Tyler McCulloch, S Marques Mosley, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, P Darragh O'Neill, WR Paul Richardson, Derrick Webb.

Newcomer to watch: It’s too early to tell which one, but three freshmen wide receivers -- Elijah Dunston, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo (ironically numbered 1, 2 and 3) -- are all making a case to be in the rotation and two-deep.

Biggest games in 2013: The season opener against Colorado State (Sept. 1) is always a big one, and the rivalry with Utah (Nov. 30) is starting to take shape.

Biggest question mark: While no official word has come down on who will start at quarterback, it’s looking more and more like Connor Wood will at least begin the season as the starter. So we can at least put a partial check mark there. The biggest question is really what sort of progress -- if any -- we’ll see in Mike MacIntyre’s first season as the new head coach. He comes in with solid credentials and was Mr. Fix-It at San Jose State. But with the new job comes a new set of challenges. Chief among them, the proverbial challenge of “changing the culture.” MacIntyre made it clear that he wants to win and compete immediately, and he believes that his players have bought in. We’ll see how much on Sept. 1.

Forecast: The media doesn’t have much faith in the Buffs, picking the team that went 1-11 last season to finish last again in the Pac-12 South. This might be one of those situations in which the team shows improvement -- just not in the win department. Remember, San Jose State appeared to take a step back in MacIntyre’s first season, going 1-12, but it was during that time that he was establishing his schemes and philosophies, and in Year 2 they went 5-7. By the third season, the Spartans were 11-2 (10-2 under MacIntyre) and ranked in the top 25. No one is saying the Buffs will be ranked in three seasons, and most people probably aren't expecting it. The Pac-12 is a different animal than the now football-less WAC, but it's not wrong to hope for a postseason berth in the next 3-5 seasons.

And this season, the Buffs are loaded with young players who gained a ton of experience last season. They return 17 starters (eight offense, nine defense) including a young secondary that took its licks last season. Mosley, Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright all started last season, and Greg Henderson and Parker Orms are the veterans of the group. Up front defensively, Uzo-Diribe is a talented pass-rusher, and linebackers Derrick Webb and Paul Vigo should be the anchors on defense.

Offensively, they lose Bakhtiari to the NFL and Alex Lewis announced a transfer, which was followed by some bizarre and unfortunate circumstances. But they get Richardson back after he missed all of 2012 with a knee injury. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the most explosive wide receivers in the country and should give the Buffs a stretch-the-field threat they were lacking.

Powell also quietly put together a strong second half last season, posting a pair of 100-yard games and four touchdowns over the final five. If they can plug the left side of the line (it’s looking like veteran Jack Harris at left tackle and Kaiwi Crabb at left guard), he could inch closer to 1,000 yards on the ground after posting 691 and a 4.4 yards per carry average last season.

There is talent on Colorado’s roster, but, as what's becoming a trend with Colorado, fans are going to have to be patient until the new staff figures out how best to use it.

Colorado names its captains

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
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The Colorado Buffaloes selected their 2013 captains on Thursday -- picking six players through two rounds of voting.

Seniors Jack Harris (offensive tackle), Chidera Uzo-Diribe (defensive end), Paul Vigo (linebacker) and Derrick Webb (linebacker), along with juniors Paul Richardson (wide receiver) and Connor Wood (quarterback) will serve as the Buffs' captains in the upcoming season.

Traditionally, Colorado has picked its captains in August. But new head coach Mike MacIntyre wanted to move up the process.

"We elected captains early this year so they could be leaders throughout the summer,” MacIntyre said in a statement. “We demand and expect a lot out of our leaders on this team, and I’m very excited about the six players selected by their teammates to serve as the captains.”

An initial vote was held June 2 and the field was narrowed to 10 finalists. The top six were so close that MacIntyre opted for six captains. A maximum of four players are allowed to walk out for the coin toss, so the players will rotate throughout the year.

Buffs shuffling O-line again

May, 13, 2013
5/13/13
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With the news breaking late Friday that Colorado offensive lineman Alex Lewis will transfer to Nebraska, and the subsequent news of Lewis' arrest on Saturday along with quarterback Jordan Webb, new Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre finds himself needing to replace another former starter on the offensive line.

[+] EnlargeAlex Lewis
David Dermer/Getty ImagesAlex Lewis' decision to transfer leaves a hole to fill on Colorado's offensive line.
Lewis started 12 games last year at left guard, and the Buffs had already lost David Bakhtiari to the NFL a year early -- meaning the left side of the offensive line will have to be replaced.

So be it. This is just another among the challenges MacIntyre has to overcome at Colorado.

Lewis missed all of spring ball after having shoulder surgery in November. The Buffs were certainly looking forward to getting him and his experience back in the fall, but in his absence others were able to work in at the position -- meaning they won't be starting completely from scratch when fall camp comes around. Still, Lewis was all-league honorable mention last year, so his departure isn't an insignificant one by any means.

Just another obstacle Mac & Co. will have to deal with moving forward.

So where does this leave the Buffs up front?

  • Left tackle: Jack Harris moves over, and he has some experience after starting 11 games last year -- six at right guard and five at right tackle. He finally got some consistent playing time after missing the majority of 2011 with an ankle injury. Depth is a huge issue, here, however.
  • Left guard: Vacated by Lewis, junior Kaiwi Crabb sat atop the post-spring depth chart while Lewis was rehabbing his shoulder. Sophomore Jeromy Irwin will also be in the mix and sits second on the depth chart.
  • Center: Gus Handler is solid and will probably be on the Rimington watchlist again. He started the final 10 games of 2011 and started five games last year before suffering ankle and knee injuries. Other than learning a new system and adjusting to a new set of starters on the line, the Buffs are set in the middle. Brad Cotner sits behind Handler on the depth chart, and Daniel Munyer also has some experience at center after filling in for Handler last year.
  • Right guard: Munyer, who missed most of spring with a fractured fibula, was an all-league honorable mention last year and should be 100 percent by August. He started all 12 games last year, six at right guard and the remaining six at center filling in for Handler. He's probably Colorado's most consistent performer on the line. Alex Kelley will back him up.
  • Right tackle: Stephane Nembot played in 10 games last year, starting seven. Injuries forced him into action during his redshirt freshman season, so the sophomore has some experience. Marc Mustoe is No. 2 on the depth chart.

The Buffs also have five linemen coming in -- most of them with good size already (Gunnar Graham, 6-foot-5, 305 pounds; Jonathan Huckins, 6-3, 310; Sam Kronshage, 6-5, 275; John Lisella, 6-4, 240; and Colin Sutton 6-5, 295).

It's likely one or more will have to, at the very least, crack the two-deep and help provide some depth.

Biggest shoes: Colorado

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
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Starters in, starters out. That’s college football. Players’ eligibility expires, and they leave for the rest of their lives, whether that includes the NFL or not.

And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

Our concern with this series? The biggest shoes -- in some cases Shaq-like size 23s.

Biggest shoes: David Bakhtiari

Quantifying the impact of an offensive lineman is always difficult. Quantifying the impact of an offensive lineman on a one-win team that was either last or near last in the league in almost every offensive category is even tougher. But anyone who followed Colorado the past couple of seasons understands the impact of the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder. He started 11 games at left tackle and yielded 2.5 sacks for the entire season -- meaning he did his part for a team that allowed 50 sacks in 2012. He consistently continued blocks downfield and is a legitimate NFL player.

Stepping in: To be determined…

Though completely reasonable, Colorado was still a bit caught off guard when he decided to jump to the NFL early, so there wasn't much time spent grooming a replacement. At this point – especially with a new coaching staff coming in and shifting to a pistol offense, it’s pretty wide open. We could see someone like Stephane Nembot move over to the left side. Jack Harris is also a possibility -- as is a guard like Jeromy Irwin shifting positions. It’s up in the air – and replacing the two-time second-team all-conference selection won’t be easy.

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