Pac-12: Jimmy Smith

Plenty of change on Colorado depth chart

August, 22, 2011
Colorado's depth chart is much different than it was after spring practices, starting with an official switch to a 3-4 defense and true freshman Greg Henderson earning the starting nod at right cornerback opposite senior Travis Sandersfeld.

Henderson and Sandersfeld have the biggest challenge for the Buffaloes, as they are replacing NFL draft picks Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown.

As for the 3-4, Josh Hartigan switches from a defensive end to "Jack" outside linebacker. Will Pericak moves outside from tackle to end, while Conrad Obi is officially a nose tackle. The Buffaloes ran a 3-3-5 last season.

Here's the word on the defensive scheme from the official website.
The coaches are now listing the base defense as a 3-4, instead of a 4-3 which has been in place at CU since 1995; the Buffs last lined up in the formation in Bill McCartney’s final year as head coach in ’94. A newly-titled position, “jack” outside linebacker, now complements the two inside linebacker spots (“mike” and “will”) and the opposite outside one (“sam”). Josh Hartigan is the jack OLB, with the former defensive tackle now becoming left defensive end and is manned by Will Pericak and Curtis Cunningham. Conrad Obi (nose tackle) and Chidera Uzo-Diribe (right DE) are slotted next to the left end.

Sophomore Derrick Webb is the starter at the "Will" inside linebacker spot ahead of senior Patrick Mahnke.

Also on defense: True freshman Kyle Washington is the backup strong safety behind Anthony Perkins.

On offense, there aren't any real surprises, other than there being an "and" between senior receiver Tony Clemons and true freshman Tyler McCulloch, meaning they are considered co-starters at the "X" receiver.

There's also an "and" between redshirt freshman Daniel Munyer and sophomore Gus Handler at center.

Redshirt freshman Tony Jones is Rodney Stewart's backup at tailback.

Finally, the Buffaloes announced their team captains: quarterback Tyler Hansen, guard Ryan Miller, linebacker Jon Major and strong safety Anthony Perkins.

Hope & concern: Colorado

May, 17, 2011
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.

Next up:


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.

Spring wrap: Colorado

May, 9, 2011

2010 Overall record: 5-7

2010 conference record: 2-6 (Big 12)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: punter

Top returners

RB Rodney Stewart, WR Paul Richardson, QB Tyler Hansen, OG Ryan Miller, LB Jon Major, DE Josh Hartigan

Key losses:

OT Nate Solder, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Jalil Brown, LB Michael Sipili

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Stewart* (1,318)

Passing: Cody Hawkins (1,547)

Receiving: Scotty McKnight (621)

Tackles: Sipili (94)

Sacks: Josh Hartigan (7)

Interceptions: Brown (3)

Spring answers

1. Hello, my name is: The first priority since only one coach was retained from the previous staff was the get to know one another -- coaches and players. For the players, they needed to know that a new sheriff was in town, and coach Jon Embree made sure they knew things were different with a physically taxing spring session. Further, coaches had to find their own rhythm working together. And, obviously, new schemes had to be adapted: a pro-style offense and 4-3 base defense.

2. Hansen without Hawkins: After sharing the starting job with former coach Dan Hawkins' son Cody the previous three seasons, Hansen is a man-alone at quarterback. That might help, and the results in scrimmages suggested so. In one, he completed 18 of 19 passes for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns (a 255.6 rating), and his totals for all three scrimmages were 39-of-53 (73.6%), 531 yards/5 touchdowns/zero interceptions (188.9 rating). He also showed he's learning to get rid of the ball as he wasn't sacked in the three scrimmages.

3. Fronting the seven: Heading into spring, the defensive front seven was a question, even with a lot of guys back. It still is, but a number of players stepped up, most notably linebacker Doug Rippy and defensive tackle Conrad Obi. Both are upperclassmen who seemed energized by a coaching change. The 310-pound Obi, in particular, was a revelation. After playing just 100 snaps the previous three seasons, he dominated three scrimmages, piling up 20 tackles, six coming for a loss -- four were for no-gain, by the way -- with two sacks and a forced fumble. Oh, and outside linebacker Jon Major came back strong from a knee injury.

Fall questions

1. Hey, buddy, can you spare a corner? Smith and Brown are off to the NFL, and their replacements didn't reveal themselves this spring. In fact, the results in general in the secondary were a bit worrisome, and incoming players may be needed to help.

2. Operation install: Much of spring was dedicated to figuring out what sort of talent was on-hand, so the offensive scheme wasn't fully implemented. That's going to be a chief task during fall camp.

3. Just for kicks? Embree was outspoken about how unhappy he was with the special teams play he saw on film in 2010, and he looked exasperated more than a few times this spring. The Buffaloes specialists are going to be young and were markedly inconsistent this spring. Sophomore punter Zach Grossnickle averaged just 39.5 yards per punt in 2010, while sophomore Justin Caster was No. 1 at kicker after spring practices.

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Updating Pac-12 in NFL draft

April, 30, 2011
Here's where things stand for the Pac-12 through three rounds of the NFL draft.

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanforrd: Carolina

Through three rounds by conference (with Nebraska in the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12):

SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Note: The old Pac-10 has 13 without two first-round picks from Colorado. Big Ten has 12 without Nebraska. Big 12 has 12 if Colorado and Nebraska are included.

Links: Recalling Ryan Leaf on draft day

April, 29, 2011
Happy Friday.

A Pac-12 review of NFL draft's first round

April, 29, 2011
Five Pac-12 players were picked in the first round, with Jake Locker going higher than some projected and Cameron Jordan going lower.

Here's the draft order:

No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Here's analysis by Mel Kiper. And here's more on the first round.

Kiper also projects the second round, which starts Friday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN (3 p.m. PT).

Kiper has Arizona DE Brooks Reed going first in the second round -- 33rd overall -- to New England. Other Pac-12 players in his second round: UCLA safety Rahim Moore to Houston at No. 42, Oregon State DT Stephen Paea to Oakland at No. 48 and Utah CB Brandon Burton to Philadelphia at No. 54.

Who is missing? Well what about UCLA LB Akeem Ayers, who was once considered a sure first-round pick.

Todd McShay also projects the second round, and he has Reed going first and Ayers going second, to the Buffalo Bills.

The rest of McShay's second round: Paea to Denver at No. 36, Moore to Minnesota at No. 43, Washington LB Mason Foster to Denver at 46 and USC DT Jurrell Casey to Seattle at No. 57.

Some draft links:

Ravens take CU CB Smith

April, 28, 2011
The best cover corner in the NFL draft fell to the Baltimore Ravens late in the first round of the NFL draft.

Former Colorado CB Jimmy Smith is that good, and falling to the 27th pick of the first round is a bit of a surprise.

Shocked he lasted this long.

Pac-12 lunch links: Former players eyeball NFL draft

April, 28, 2011
Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on 's are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art.

Locker 12th pick in Kiper's final mock

April, 28, 2011
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has released his final mock draft, and it's a bit different than his final 'Big Board," in large part because former Washington quarterback jumps from 25th on the Big Board to 12th in the mock draft.

Here's how Kiper rates Pac-12 players on draft day.

No. 8 Cameron Jordan, DE, California (Dallas)

No. 12 Jake Locker, QB, Washington (Minnesota)

No. 13 Tyron Smith, OT, USC (Detroit)

No. 22 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado (Indianapolis)

No. 23 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado (Philadelphia)

No. 26. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA (St. Louis)

We shall see. Round one is today, starting at 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN.

Some Pac-12 draft notes, Part 2

April, 27, 2011
ESPN draft guru Todd McShay took a measure of specific qualities of defensive players expected to be selected in this week's NFL draft, which starts Thursday, and a number of Pac-12 players fall into interesting spots.

Here are some notes.

Defensive line
Defensive ends
McShay ranks Arizona's Brooks Reed No. 2 in pass-rush skills among all defensive ends and No. 3 in instincts/motor.

He ranks Cameron Jordan No. 2 versus the run and No. 2 in versatility.

He ranks Jordan No. 3 overall among defensive linemen and Reed 11th.

Defensive tackles
McShay ranks Oregon State's Stephen Paea No. 2 in toughness/motor.

He ranks Paea 17th overall among defensive linemen. He also has USC's Jurrell Casey at 19th.

McShay ranks Oregon's Casey Matthews No. 2 in instincts/recognition among inside linebackers.

He ranks Washington's Mason Foster No. 1 in range versus the run among inside linebackers.

He ranks UCLA's Akeem Ayers No. 2 in third-down capabilities among outside linebackers.

McShay ranks Ayers No. 2 overall among the linebackers. Foster is No. 4 and Matthews is 13th.

Defensive backs
McShay ranks UCLA's Rahim Moore No. 2 in instincts/recognition and No. 1 in cover skills and ball skills among safeties.

He ranks Colorado's Jimmy Smith No. 1 in cover skills and No. 2 in run support among cornerbacks.

McShay ranks Smith No. 3 overall among defensive backs. He ranks Moore seventh. Utah cornerback Brandon Burton is 13th and USC cornerback Shareece Wright is 14th. Colorado's other cornerback, Jalil Brown, is 17th.

Kiper's final 'Big Board' before NFL draft

April, 27, 2011
ESPN draft guru has released his final 'Big Board' before the NFL draft begins Thursday.

So where did your favorite former Pac-12 players end up? Well, truth be told, all the conference players listed ended up in the same place they were on the last Big Board.

Here's where they rank and what Kiper has to say about each.

No. 13 Cameron Jordan, DE, California
: Frame and skills capable of handling 3-4 or 4-3 defensive end duty. Has top athleticism, smarts and speed for defensive end position.

No. 16 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
: Excellent size and speed combination, Smith quietly shut down receivers all season. Character issue overstated in eyes of many personnel folks.

No. 17 Tyron Smith, OT, USC
: A future blindside tackle. Fallen some after a quick rise. Good frame, athleticism and quickness. Has added bulk.

No. 22 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
: A physical specimen, has great length and has added bulk to his long frame. Could be moved along offensive line to provide help early in NFL career.

No. 25 Jake Locker, QB, Washington
: In eyes of evaluators, rebounded some with good workouts, interviews after combine. Arm, attitude, athleticism all there. Accuracy the question.

In Todd McShay's latest mock draft from April 20, he projected six Pac-12 players being picked in the first round, but not Locker.

Here's how he ordered the players and where he sees them going.

No. 9 Tyron Smith (Dallas)

No. 12 Jordan (Minnesota)

No. 21 Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona (Kansas City)

No. 22 Solder (Indianapolis)

No. 23 Jimmy Smith (Philadelphia)

No. 32. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA (Green Bay)

Pac-12 lunch links: Character not an issue for CU's Smith

April, 25, 2011
Got money, and you know it
Take it out your pocket and show it
Then throw it like
This a way (uh huh)
That a way (uh huh)

New Pac-12 draft projections

April, 6, 2011
ESPN NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have posted new mock drafts that include the first three rounds.

You can see Kiper's here Insider and McShay's here Insider.

Here are the Pac-12 players in Kiper's draft (he has the conference being shut out in the third round).

Round one
9. OT Tyron Smith, USC: Dallas
17. DE Cameron Jordan, California: New England
21. OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA: Kansas City
25. QB Jake Locker, Washington: Seattle
26. CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado: Baltimore
29. OT Nate Solder, Colorado: Chicago

Round 2
36. FS Rahim Moore, UCLA: Denver
38. DE Brooks Reed, Arizona: Arizona
43. DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State: Minnesota
54. CB Brandon Burton, Utah: Philadelphia

And here are the conference players in McShay's draft.

Round one
9. OT Tyron Smith, USC: Dallas
12. DE Cameron Jordan, California: Minnesota
22. OT Nate Solder, Colorado: Indianapolis
25. QB Jake Locker, Washington: Seattle
27. DE Brooks Reed, Arizona, Atlanta

Second round
37. DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State: Cleveland
38. OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA: Arizona
46. FS Rahim Moore, UCLA: Denver
48. CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado: Oakland
49. LB Mason Foster, Washington: Jacksonville
56. DT Jurrell Casey, USC: New Orleans

Third rond
84. RB Shane Vereen, California: Tampa Bay

Some interesting differences and similarity, including both having Tyron Smith going to Dallas at No. 9 overall Jake Locker going to the hometown Seahawks at No. 25.

Jimmy Smith lasting to the 48th pick in McShay's draft surprises me. McShay also has Mason Foster and Jurrell Casey going in the second round, while Kiper doesn't even have them picked at the end of his third round.

We shall see.
Defensive coordinator Greg Brown thinks Colorado is in for an "eye-opening" experience when the Buffaloes begin Pac-12 play. Or he might be playing a little possum.

Brown, who's beginning his third stint in Boulder after spending the 2010 season as Arizona's co-defensive coordinator, said this when asked about the Buffaloes move into the new conference.

[+] EnlargeColorado's Greg Brown
Liam Foley/Icon SMIAfter a season in Arizona, Greg Brown is back in Boulder and will be the Buffs defensive coordinator.
"It's going to be an eye-opener," he said. "Colorado had a small taste of it playing one team: Cal-Berkeley, up there [a 52-7 California win]. Everybody saw the final score from that one. The thing that was just striking going into the Pac-10 that I had no idea of, was just how good the league is. Two things hit you between the eyes in the Pac-10 as a defensive coach. No. 1 is how innovated the offensive coaches are, how innovative those schemes are. Coming from the Big 12, I thought in the Big 12 we had all those quarterbacks that one year, with great teams across the board. So I said, 'OK, what else can the Pac-10 show you that I haven't seen in the Big 12?' Believe me: It was a lot. It was an eye-opener because the schemes and the quarterbacks. The second part would be how fast it is. There is a lot of speed in that league."

For example, Brown said this about the Wildcats 48-29 loss at Oregon, which came after both teams had a bye week.

"They did more with their bye week and came up with more innovative schemes that we had not seen," he said. "My hat is off to Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich, their offensive coordinator. They put in things we hadn't seen. It was a hard go playing those guys up there."

This seems to be a common rhetorical path among the Colorado folks -- coaches and players -- by the way: Lots of praise for the new conference, sometimes at the expense of the old one. As linebacker Jon Major said, the Pac-12 has no "cupcakes." This may be tweaking the Big 12 on the way out or celebrating the Pac-12 on the way in. Perhaps a bit of both.

As for Brown's decision to bolt Tucson after only one season, his answer is fairly straight-forward.

This is is home. He was born in Denver and his father, Irv, a long-time Denver radio personality, is a a former baseball coach and football coach at Colorado. Being back in Boulder means his two young daughters get to see their grandparents regularly. He loves the town and knows new coach Jon Embree well.

"I knew what he would bring to the table as a head coach and I wanted to be a part of it," Brown said.

Oh, and there's no "co" at Colorado. This will be his defense. At Arizona, he not only shared the job with Tim Kish but he coached the secondary, which is coach Mike Stoops' specialty. And Stoops, you may know, is not a laid-back, hands-off head coach.

Considering Brown was the Buffaloes' secondary coach from 2006-09 under Dan Hawkins, he's fairly familiar with his talent. While he uses terms like "hungry" to describe his players, it's clear that there are some areas that concern him, starting with the departure of cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, who will be early-round NFL draft picks.

"That's going to be tough to replace," Brown said. "There is nobody on the horizon that looks like they are going to be able to step into those shoes immediately. We've got young guys who need to develop. It's going to take some time to do that."

And Brown suspects his defense is going to have to take some chances to pressure opposing quarterbacks, which often means a high-risk, high-reward scheme.

"If you don't have the automatic four guys who can rush the passer without help, then you obviously need to be creative and bring some extra guys and pick and choose your poison," he said. "Because the more guys you bring, the more you're exposed out there. And as I just stated, we've got a lot of young guys back there feeling their way."

Or to be more succinct, Brown said: "Somebody's band is going to play, either their band or our band."

Still, don't see this as Brown fretting about his players ability to compete. While he acknowledges that Oregon and Stanford have separated from the conference a bit -- at least based on 2010 and the 2011 preseason perception -- he sees 10 other teams with legitimate hopes to move up the pecking order.

Said Brown, "After the those two, the rest of the league is so balanced. Anybody can beat anybody."