Editor’s note: Welcome to the CU Independent’s week-long season preview of the Colorado Buffaloes football team. Each day we will delve into the different aspects of CU football leading up to the CSU vs. CU game. On Day 3, we will take a look at the defense.
While last season’s 5-7 record may have been a disappointment for many of the Buffalo faithful, there was a silver lining: the pass defense.
In the pass-happy conference that is the Big 12, Colorado finished first in pass defense by allowing only 215.3 yards per game, and they say they expect to be on top of that category again this season.
“We plan to defend our title,” said junior cornerback Jimmy Smith with a chuckle. “You know, it’s a pass-happy league and we just want to be number one again.”
Smith isn’t the only one with high expectations for the secondary this fall.
“We expect [the cornerbacks] to play at a high level,” said fourth year defensive coordinator Ron Collins. “They are the strength of our team right now and we ask a lot of them, both mentally and physically.”
However, as the Buffs’ record showed last season, the defense wasn’t perfect, as they ranked ninth in the Big 12 in run defense.
Fans are still trying to forget about last season’s Missouri game when the Tigers hung 58 points and ran over the Buffs for 189 yards.
Collins said he’s looking for his unit to step up this season in the run category.
“We’d like to be able to shore up the run defense, and keep the pass defense right where it is,” Collins said. “We hope to force teams to throw the ball more, and that comes with stopping the run, good field position and just a total team effort.”
Senior linebacker and captain Jeff Smart said that stopping the run is one of the defense’s goals this season.
“You strive for perfection,” Smart said. “Improving against the run is probably our number one goal, but we would like to improve all around.”
Along with the run defense, Colorado will be looking to improve in the turnover department as well with them tying for ninth in the Big 12 last season with a minus seven turnover margin.
“We’d like to see more turnovers, forcing more interceptions,” Smith said.
Smart said one of the best ways to increase their turnover margin is by pressuring the quarterback.
However, where that pressure will come from has been one of the Buffs’ biggest question marks this off-season, as the team lost three starters on the defensive line, including two-time All-Big 12 tackle George Hypolite.
So how will they replace that kind of experience? Collins puts it bluntly: “You don’t.”
“We have to have guys play up to their abilities, that’s what we’re looking for, and if they can play hard and play smart I think that we have a chance,” Collins said. “There’s not a whole lot of expectations for [the new players]. Each day is a learning experience for them and we expect those guys to get better every day.”
For Smart, he said he’s interested in seeing how the new guys play in the CU style of defense during the regular season.
“I’m excited to see them play,” Smart said. “They did real well in the spring, we’ve got some young guys who came in this fall and have been impressive.”
Smart and the rest of the CU fans will get their chance on Sunday, when they host arch-rival Colorado State at Folsom Field.
However, Collins isn’t letting out any of his defensive strategy before Sunday’s game.
“You’ll have to wait for game day to find out,” said a grinning Collins.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Chris King at firstname.lastname@example.org