Last year I had to figure out what to say about Colorado without knowing a lot about them. Well, a year later and having seen them play in the conference, I still don’t know a whole lot about them.
Head coach Jon Embree comes into his second season with a little more feel for the Pac-12 as well as for just being a head coach. Last year was his first ever at the helm. He retained both offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and defensive coordinator Greg Brown. Not only that but the entire coaching staff returns intact.
Colorado will have a new quarterback running the show. It appears it will be Texas transfer Connor Wood. The main contender to challenge is Nick Hirschman, who saw time in a number of games last season but mostly in garbage time of some blow-out losses. Now added to the mix as of early July is Kansas transfer and former starter Jordan Webb. Since he has graduated, he is eligible right away.
Rodney Stewart was something of a workhorse for the team, but now he is gone. Last year's backup Tony Jones had just under 300 yards as a red-shirt freshman and he appears to be the next guy in, but I think this will be a unit that runs by committee.
Stewart was also a threat out of the backfield to catch the ball. He was second on the team in receiving yards.
They also lose three of their top four actual receivers. I expected Paul Richardson to be the go-to guy this year until he tore his ACL in the spring, and now the Buffaloes will have to turn to some young and inexperienced players to step up.
If there is one bright spot for the offense it is on the line. Four starters are back, including Jack Harris who missed part of last season with a leg injury. Having an experienced line should help the young running backs and keep some pressure off the new quarterback.
The defense will play around the linebackers. All three starters are back led by Doug Rippy, who missed half the season and still made honorable mention all Pac-12.
The strength that is the linebackers is kind of where the good news ends.
The defensive line has senior Will Pericak to lead them, but after that they will rely on a couple of sparingly-used backups. Also expect to see some true freshman play as the Buffaloes brought in nine defensive linemen with the class of 2012.
The secondary returns two starters in corner Greg Henderson and safety Ray Polk. Parker Orms saw pretty good time last season so I would expect him to step into the strong safety spot. As for the other corner, Josh Moten could earn the spot but will likely be challenged by some highly-touted, four-star recruits.
Both kicker and punter were solid for Colorado last year and will only be sophomores. The only thing that could prevent them from being just as productive is the dreaded sophomore slump. You know, if you believe in that kind of thing. Stewart was the leading return man last season, so someone new will need to be found.
The transition to the Pac-12 wasn’t easy last year and the growing pains will continue into 2012. I would be surprised if they didn’t at least mach last year's three wins and maybe even win a game or two more. It would be surprising, however, if they won enough for a bowl game.