The Colorado Buffaloes released their preseason depth chart in preparation for their 2012 season opener against rival Colorado State on September 1. The two-deep depth chart is mostly what was expected at the completion of fall camp but there are a few notable starters to mention.
I already previewed the offensive starters, now here is the second part of my three-part series previewing the Buffs’ defensive starters.
Some snap observations from defensive coordinator Greg Brown’s two-deep depth chart:
Left End: No. 1 Juda Parker, No. 2 John Stuart
Right End: No. 1 Chidera Uzo-Diribe, No. 2 Kirk Poston, No. 3 Samson Kafovalu
Uzo-Diribe is one of the better defenders that the Buffs have for the 2012 season and he will be counted on to lead the defensive line. He put on about 20 pounds this offseason, even though he was apprehensive at first because he thought it would slow him down. The result was that he feels much stronger but did not lose any of the speed that makes him so dangerous rushing off the corner.
As for Parker, he played in nine games last season as a freshmen but now he feels more comfortable and confident heading into this season. He finally feels that he is in good enough shape to be a consistent contributor, which was something he had trouble with last year. With almost a full season under his belt Parker should be a solid end player that will be as steady as they can be.
Defensive end coach Kanavis McGhee noted that Poston was his most improved player during August camp and that he has been very impressive in those practices. He initially came in a little underweight at 250 pounds but since has filled out a little bit and it’s added some much needed strength.
Defensive Tackle: No. 1 Will Pericak, No. 2 Nate Bonsu, No. 3 Tyler Hennington
Nose Tackle: No. 1 Nate Bonsu AND Josh Tupou, No. 2 Justin Solis
Pericak is the top tackler returning to the defensive line this year and worked extremely hard on improving his overall fundamentals and his approach to his position this offseason. He had to overhaul his entire style of play under the new coaching staff last season but now he finally feels like he’s got it all down and ready to make a huge impact.
Bonsu is in the best shape that he has been in since arriving in Boulder having slimmed down and gotten stronger. However, he’s being pressured by two very large freshmen. Tupou (6-3, 325) has turned heads and made an immediate impression on the coaching staff during fall camp. It’s been awhile since Colorado has had a large interior lineman that can clog up the middle running lanes but now they have two in Tupou and Solis. They should help improve the Buffs’ 10th ranked conference rush defense after giving up 183.9 yards a game last year.
Mike (Inside): No. 1 Doug Rippy, No. 2 Brady Daigh
Will (Inside): No. 1 Derick Webb, No. 2 Kyle Washington
Sam (Outside): No. 1 John Major, No. 2 Woodson Greer
The linebacking corps will be the most experienced and most talented group on the defense this season. On a defense full of positions with young guys at the top of the depth chart, the linebackers seem like 10 year veterans. Rippy and Major are both seniors and Webb is a junior so they have a wealth of experience and will be looked to be the leaders from the younger players.
Rippy is coming off a knee injury but is fully recovered and will be a full go once the season starts. Before he went down with an injury in week six, Rippy was the leading tackler and arguably their best defender. Major started all 13 games last year after dealing with injuries during his first two seasons. He limped his way to the finish in 2011 but is excited to be fresh and healthy to start 2012. Webb was a bit inconsistent last year, something he needs to improve on, but he is a big hitter that can change a game with a single hit.
Left Corner: No. 1 Kenneth Crawley, No. 2 Jeffrey Hall
Right Corner: No. 1 Greg Henerson, No. 2 Yuri Wright
Strong Safety: No. 1 Terrel Smith, No. 2 Parker Orms
Free Safety: No. 1 Ray Polk, No. 2 Marques Mosley
It was a forgettable 2011 for the Colorado secondary. They came into last season losing their two best corners to the NFL and then losing one of their replacements in week two. The safeties survived the gauntlet but still made their appearances on the injury list. In the meantime, CU’s pass defense was being provided by converted wide receivers and running backs and you can guess the type of threat they posed to Pac 12 quarterbacks.
This year the secondary gets a shot in the arm with young talent and the top two rated players from their 2012 recruiting class. One of those players has made his way into the starting lineup. Crawley is listed as the No. 1 left corner and will be tested all season long but seems to be up to the challenge. All camp he has been making big plays and obviously impressed the coaches enough to earn his starting spot.
Crawley will look towards the leadership of the elder players at safety this year as Polk (senior), Orms (junior) and Smith (junior) look to rebound from a tough 2011. Polk has the experience, Orms has the immense talent and Smith provides the big hits for the back secondary. CU will feature a lot of nickel packages this year with Orms and Mosley leading the nickel group.
The secondary can’t really get any worse after last year’s bad luck and scramble effort but teams will game plan against the Buffs with the mindset of throwing the ball on almost every down. The corners will be extremely young but they are talented and have the potential to surprise the rest of the conference once the season gets going.
Next we will take a look at CU’s special teams and how their depth chart shapes up.