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CU Buffs 2010 Depth Chart

Scott WilsonCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2010

CU Buffs 2010 Depth Chart

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    Entering the 2010 football season, the CU Buffs football team has many questions to answer. Coach Dan Hawkins will now be in his fifth season in charge of the program and everyone knows that it could be his last.

    With CU now a future Pac-10 Conference member, Mike Bohn and the rest of the athletic department need to ensure that the team they are fielding is competitive and draws the fans out to Folsom and onto the TV airwaves.

    But all of that is pie-in-the-sky rumblings that todays current players should care less about. These current Buffs are only focused on executing and performing better than they did last season.

    The 2010 schedule features a very good slate to test the metal of what can no longer be described as a "young and inexperienced" team anymore:

    Sep 04 CSU Rams in Denver, CO
    Sep 11 Cal Bears in Berkeley, CA
    Sep 18 Hawai'i Warriors at Folsom Field
    bye week
    Oct 02 Georgia Bulldogs at Folsom Field
    Oct 09 Missouri Tigers in Columbia, MO
    Oct 16 Baylor Bears at Folsom Field
    Oct 23 Texas Tech Red Raiders at Folsom Field
    Oct 30 Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, OK
    Nov 06 Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, KS
    Nov 13 Iowa State at Folsom Field
    Nov 20 Kansas State at Folsom Field
    Nov 26 Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, NE

    That road schedule will surely put Hawkins and Co. hard to the task at breaking out of their travel woes (2-20 record), but the home games are almost all winnable and that should give the Buffs fans something to look forward to in 2010.

    Some additional coaching intensity from new defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose and wide receivers coach (and passing game coordinator) Ron Prince seems to be lighting a fire with the players so far in the spring.

    Now let's take a look at who will be taking the field for the 2010 Buffs (keep in mind we are only halfway through Spring practice).

    UPDATED WITH REPORTS THRU AUGUST 6TH.

Quarterback

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    #9 Tyler Hansen, Junior. 6'1" 205 lbs

    #7 Cody Hawkins, Senior (5th) 5'11" 190 lbs
    #8 Nick Hirschman, Freshman 6'4" 220 lbs

    Hansen enters the 2010 season with the most confidence of his career after starting two games his freshman year after expecting to redshirt, and starting the final seven games last season. This season Hansen enters spring practice with that experience and the belief that he will be the general to lead this team. He has yet to play against the in-state rival Rams, so expect that his focus will be on that game to start the campaign.

    Hansen lead the team in 2009 to their best two wins against a ranked Kansas squad, and against Texas A&M. He also made the team much more competitive in their final three matchups against Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska. Building on that will be the key to the Buffs 2010 season.

    Cody Hawkins will provide some spring competition with his knowledge of the playbook and field general persona, but this team is Tyler's now. His leadership role on the team will be vital, and he can spell Hansen without the offense "dumbing down" since his knowledge of the offense is first-rate.

    Nick Hirschman is a true freshman in the recruiting class of 2010 that enrolled early at CU and has been impressive thus far. Barring any injuries to the top two QB's, he will most likely redshirt this season and push Hansen for the starting job in 2011. If Hirschman is thrown into the fire early, my personal opinion is that we couldn't ask for a more college-ready QB recruit at CU, and haven't had a freshman like him in quite a while.

Running Back

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    #5 Rodney Stewart, Junior 5'6" 175 lbs

    #20 Brian Lockridge, Junior 5'7" 180 lbs
    #28 Quinton Hildreth, RS Freshman 5'8" 185 lbs
    #33 Cordary Allen, Freshman 6'1" 230 lbs 
    #26 Trea' Jones, Freshman 5'10" 190 lbs
    #26 Tony Jones, Freshman 5'7" 180 lbs 
    #36 Corey Nabors, Senior 5'9" 190 lbs

    "Speedy" Stewart has racked up nearly 1,500 yards on the ground over the last two seasons, and expects another strong season in 2010. The third member of the massively talented RB recruiting class of 2008, is the only one left on the roster at running back (Darrell Scott left the program, and Ray Polk moved to safety). A consistent threat from the passing game must allow Speedy and Co. the space they need to be effective on the ground.

    Brian Lockridge was an electric return man last season that has spent time on both the running back and wide receiver depth charts. With the transfers of Demetrius Sumler and Darrell Scott, he will be sorely needed exclusively at tailback. Lockridge is a much more accomplished receiver than Stewart, and should be used in passing downs, screen plays, and as a relief to Speedy when needed, but don't be surprised if B-Lock sees as much, or more, playing time than Speedy.

    Both Nabors and Hildreth have some upside with speed, and "Q" can also be used effective on passing downs. So far throughout spring Quentin has solidified himself as the #3 option as his practice time has been increased with Speedy and B-Lock out with injuries.

    "Q" will have to hold off two under-the-radar recruits that have tremendous promise in Trea Jones and Tony Jones. Trea is a 5'10" 185 pound stud out of North Carolina that must rehab a broken ankle suffered in the 2009 playoffs. Tony is 5'8" 180 pounds all-everything back out of New Jersey that will most likey push hard for playing time in the fall and could earn that 3rd spot and some return duty (assuming he is academically eligible of course).

    Another potential player at the position is Josh Ford. Ford was a highly touted recruit out of Colorado in 2008 and went to Kansas State as an invited walk-on but was hurt in 7-on-7 drills and never enrolled. He has been very public about wanting to come to CU as a walk-on and try and earn a scholarship, but no confirmation yet if that will happen.

    With speed in abundance, the only thing missing from the above group of backs is SIZE. The short-yardage/goal-line duties could fall on one of two more incoming recruits: Cordary Allen (6'2" 230 lbs) and Justin Torres (6'1" 215 lbs) if they qualify, and if they are placed at the RB or FB position.

    One intriguing prospect for goalline duty could be to put newly converted tight end Clark Evans who has the size (6'3" 220 lbs) and experience with the offense as a former QB to be effective in pressure situations.

    Two linebackers, Tyler Ahles and Derrick Webb could see time as a Fullback in goalline situations.

Wide Receiver (Z)

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    #17 Toney Clemons, Junior 6'2" 205 lbs

    #35 Kyle Cefalo, Junior 5'10" 165 lbs
    #82 Jarrod Darden, RS Freshman 6'4" 210 lbs 
    #83 Dustin Ebner, Sophomore 6'1" 175 lbs 
    #80 Paul Richardson, Freshman 6'1" 175 lbs 

    The biggest asset added to the Buffs in recent years (finally one coming in, instead of going out!), is stud prospect Toney Clemons. Clemons was a very highly touted recruit in the 2007 class that signed with Michigan but transferred out when Rich Rod took over. He came to CU last year but had to sit out a year due to the transfer. With a year of practice under his belt, his dynamic playmaking abilities and hands will bolster this group of wide-outs, and help make this a position of depth for the first time in a long while. I am expecting BIG things from Clemons this season, but trying to contain my enthusiasm.

    Kyle Cefalo has been an impressive walk-on so far in the spring. In my opinion he should fill the slot role really well and his ability to run good routes and make some moves after the catch will serve him well there. So far, he has been used an outside receiver, as he has deep-threat speed. He also is a former high school teammate of Cody Hawkins, so his ability to get on the same page of the offense gives him an advantage.

    Jarrod Darden is a redshirt freshman that was a highly ranked recruit in the 2009 class. He has great size and hands, but should only see the field due to injury of the players above, which is a great testament to the depth we finally see at WR. Darden has a great set of players in front of him to learn from, and the future is bright with him on the team.

    Dustin Ebner is a speedy walk-on that follows in the Scotty McKnight mold of a player, with a little more height. He caught 3 balls in 2009 as well, and will look to distinguish himself from a crowded and talented group of wideouts.

    Paul Richardson is another big-time recruit that is looking for a rebirth at CU.  He is a true freshman who got into some trouble in the off-season and lost his UCLA scholarship.  He has now been officially accepted at CU after review of his situation, and the team hope that the speedy wideout can focus on school and football and put the past behind him.

Wide Receivers (X)

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    #80 Will Jefferson, Sophomore 5'11" 190 lbs 
    #2 Travon Patterson, Senior 5'9" 170 lbs 
    #1 Andre Simmons, Senior 6'2" 200 lbs 
    #89 Mario Conte, Sophomore 5'10" 180 lbs

    The dark cloud that hung over Markques Simas this off-season broke into a fullblown storm. In the aftermath, the talented wideout is no longer going to be playing football for the Buffs, and the team has a gaping hole that needs to be filled as a playmaker.

    True Sophomore Will Jefferson has been a pleasant surprise as a late signee in 2009 who saw decent playing time last season. He can be an effective player for the Buffs in 2010. Jefferson has been stepping up in spring practices and could be the man to fill in for Simas. In any case expect plenty of opportunities for Will to make plays on Saturdays

    Recent (and not quite finalized) USC transfer Travon Patterson is hoping that the Pac-10 will grant him the chance to play for CU this fall, his final season.  A deep threat receiver with lots of practice experience at USC he was expected to make a big contribution this season for the Trojans.  Of course, the heavy penalties levied on the program pushed away many of their players and now Travon looks to compete for the spot left open by Simas' departure.  He is an unkown in the mix, but could be inline for solid playing time at this spot.

    JUCO signee Andre Simmons had high expectations in 2009 but struggled to grasp the plays last season. He will have to be much more focused and disciplined in 2010 if he wants to make an impact, and if he does, his talent can really create mismatches when we go four-wide.

    Mario Conte is a walk-on that has been impressing coaches in practices, but with the depth at this position he will have a hard time getting playing time, but if he does, you will know that he earned it.

Slot Receiver (H)

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    #21 Scotty McKnight, Senior (5th) 5'11" 185 lbs

    #15 Jason Espinoza, Junior 5'8" 185 lbs
    #47 Kendrick Celestine, Junior 5'11" 180 lbs
    #40 Alex Turbow, Freshman 6'1" 205 lbs

    McKnight will continue his assault on the CU all-time record books for receivers this fall. One of the most consistent and reliable players we have had over the last few years, Scotty is a great representative and leader of the team. He did suffer a broken fibula in early spring scrimmages, but it is expected that he will be back 100% for the fall. For the rest of the team, the extra reps in practice will serve them well, for Scotty no obstacle will stand in his way and nobody will doubt that he will come back from the injury even stronger.

    With the talent and experience at the outside WR positions significantly upgraded, and the adoption of the new playbook, expect to see McKnight playing a true Slot position this season. This is the best position for his sure hands, perfect route running, ability to diagnose coverage, and shifty after-the-catch running. It also might be his ticket to a future in the NFL after this season.

    Backing him up should be the sure-handed Jason Espinoza who got most of his playing time at Punt Return, but also snagged 13 receptions in 2009. Espy had one huge game against Toledo with 8 catches for 109 yards and a TD.

    Newly returned Kendrick Celestine who is now a walk-on after returning from his one year leave of absence. He was an exciting recruit that CU fans eagerly waited to impact the team but his one-year leave of absence put that on hold and now he looks to earn back his scholarship.

    Turbow is a walk-on player from California that went overlooked in the recruiting process but possess a very strong frame for a WR and has worked hard to put himself in position to be an NCAA Division I-FBS player.

    Incoming freshman Keenan Canty (5'9" 155 lbs) and preferred walk-ons Heath Davis (6'0" 180 lbs) and Justin Gorman (6'0" 182 lbs) could also be future players at the slot position.

Tight Ends

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    #34 Ryan Deehan, Junior 6'5" 245 lbs

    #81 Luke Walters, Senior (6th) 6'3" 235 lbs
    #85 DaVaughn Thornton, RS Freshman 6'4" 230 lbs (Pictured)
    #4 Clark Evans, RS Freshman 6'3" 225 lbs
    #84 Alex Wood, RS Freshman 6'2" 245 lbs 
    #88 Kyle Slavin, Freshman 6'5" 235 lbs

    Deehan is the only returning player at TE to have caught a pass with CU (Luke Walters had 1 catch as RS Freshman with New Mexico), as he has 15 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown over the past two seasons. Deehan was recruited as primarily a pass-catching TE, but has developed his blocking while with CU and will be the best all-around player at the position for the Buffs. Ryan will also fill the role as the Fullback and H-Back.

    Luke Walters returns with his sixth year of eligibility and will expect to be a key contributor as a blocking tight end.

    Redshirt freshman DaVaughn Thornton has looked outstanding in early spring practices. His size and athleticism over the middle show great promise at providing another playmaking threat for the offense.

    Newly converted to the position, former QB Clark Evans has also impressed with his route running and good hands. Transitioning to a blocking role will take more time but his great athleticism spell good things for the future of the position.

    Incoming freshman Kyle Slavin (6'5" 225), Henley Griffon (6'5" 215), and Harold Mobley (6'4" 230) will also help the depth and future of the position. Look for Slavin especially to make a push for immediate playing time this upcoming season.

Left Tackle

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    #78 Nate Solder, Senior (5th) 6'9" 315

    #53 Ryan Dannewitz, Sophomore 6'6" 310
    #75 Jack Harris, RS Freshman 6'5" 290

    Solder made first team All Big-12 Offensive Tackle in 2009 after starting every game and all but one snap, further solidifying his status as an elite anchor at left tackle. His freakishly tall and strong frame can shut down opposing pass rushers and seal the edge in the running game. One of the most valuable players on the squad, Solder provides a bookend that can hold up the rest of the line.

    Dannewitz is a highly regarded recruit from the 2007 class and has been apprenticing over the last few years as he develops his skills even further and gains bulk (up 40 pounds now). In 2009 he took 27 snaps and might factor in some more in 2010 so that he can be more prepared to take over for Solder in 2011. If needed to step up and fill-in for Solder (or at guard), Ryan would quickly prove himself more than ready.

    Jack Harris is another highly sought after recruit that came to CU in the 2008 class. He shows incredible promise, another season of development and practice could see him pushing the starters. If injuries forced him into the lineup earlier than that I would have confidence that he would only grow even quicker into an impact player.

    A 2010 "grayshirt" that committed to CU in February is Alex Lewis (6'6" 250 lbs). He is a late-bloomer prospect with an outstanding pedigree and great athleticism. He will not be on the roster for 2010, but could be an important member of the O-line in three years.

Left Guard

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    #63 Ethan Adkins, Junior 6'4" 305 lbs 
    #70 Eric Richter, Junior 6'3" 310 lbs

    #64 Mike Iltis, Junior 6'3" 290 lbs
    #66 Blake Behrens, Junior 6'3" 300 lbs

    The left guard position was the one spot that needed to see the biggest improvement, as it graded the lowest of any spot in the trenches.

    While Adkins took over 65% of the snaps at left guard in 2009, he was also credited with allowing the most sacks (6) of any linemen. After being suspended in 2008, Ethan battled back to earn the starting job in 2009 and will expect to take an even bigger leadership role in 2010. Adkins faces some stiff competition this season to retain that starting spot.

    JUCO signee, and early enrollee, Eric Richter comes directly into the battle for the starting spot at LG. All signs and reports point to Richter making an immediate positive impact, whether it is earning plenty of playing time or pushing the other players to perform better. Personally, I hope that Adkins, Iltis, or Behrens can win the job outright, so that Richter can redshirt and give us some breathing room from a Junior-heavy O-line class.

    Mike Iltis was the early starter at Center, but lost the job due to injury and helped fill in at left guard later in the year after healing up. Iltis will enter the fray at left guard now that Stevens has the Center job locked down.

    Blake Behrens also provided depth at both left guard and right guard last season, notching 204 snaps in total. He is a versatile player that tallied two starts at each guard position, and saw time in one other game. The team was actually 3-2 in games that Behrens saw duty (coincidence?).

    A future guard prospect is 2010 signee Daniel Munyer who projects as a collegiate guard or center.  He enters his freshman year with great size and skills, but won't be forced into early playing time.

Center

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    #56 Keenan Stevens, Senior (5th) 6'2" 290
    #64 Mike Iltis, Junior 6'3" 290

    #76 Gus Handler, RS Freshman 6'2" 285 lbs

    Stevens took over the center job after Mike Iltis went down with injury during the '09 campaign and finished by playing 78% of the snaps. After some struggles adjusting, Keenan filled in the role fairly well as he graded out (according to CU coaches) as the second most effective member of the offensive line in 2009.

    Stevens performed so well, that once Iltis returned from injury he saw the majority of his playing time at left guard. However, if injury forces Stevens out of the lineup, look to Iltis to take over once again.

    The future at center looks bright with Gus Handler, who was an underrated recruit in the 2009 class. Gus could play either center or guard, so his development (as with all young linemen) will be key to see if he can handle the "quarterback of the line" spot. Handler is a physical player with a mean streak that should serve him well at CU.

    Another "center of the future" is 2011 "re-commitment" Shaun Simon (6'2" 315), who went to Hutchinson Community College after failing to qualify academically for the Buffs in 2009. He will enroll early in 2011 as a sophomore, after playing the 2010 JUCO season at center. Simon's commitment to becoming a member of the Buffs is nothing short of inspiring.

Right Guard

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    #73 Ryan Miller, Junior 6'8" 310 lbs

    #68 Shawn Daniels, Junior 6'3" 275 lbs 
    #60 David Clark, Junior 6'4" 305 lbs  
    #66 Blake Behrens, Junior 6'3" 300 lbs
    #71 Matt Bahr, Junior 6'4" 285 lbs
    #55 Max Tuioti-Mariner, Sophomore 6'3" 305 lbs

    Ryan Miller will hopefully return fully healthy in the fall from the broken plate in his arm that he suffered early in spring practice. If he does, having him providing a mammoth push will go a long way towards providing much needed stability for the Buffs hog-mollies. Miller started every snap for the Buffs in 2009 after recovering from a broken arm the previous season.

    Shawn Daniels is a versatile junior that has seen some time at guard, tackle, and center, including one in-game snap in 2009 at center. He was considered a top-notch guard prospect out of high school, but has yet to push his way to the top of the depth chart.

    Behrens is a solid backup at both left and right guard, that could factor into the top of the right guard position behind Miller if he isn't able to edge out the left guard position.

    Matt Bahr has progressed very well in the last few years, eventually earning three starts at right guard in 2009 when Miller slid over to right tackle. In 2008 he started eight games at right tackle, so he is the most experienced backup on the line. He will be challenged for his now valuable #2 spot at right guard by highly recruited but injury-prone Max Tuioti-Mariner.

    Mariner is a supremely talented guard prospect that has been marred by severe knee injuries since his senior year of high school. If he can return from those injuries his talent should be a big boost to the Buffs when he is called upon.

Right Tackle

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    #77 Bryce Givens, Sophomore 6'6" 270 lbs

     
    #59 David Bakhtiari, RS Freshman 6'4" 275 lbs 
    #73 Ryan Miller, Junior 6'8" 310 lbs
    #79 Sione Tau, Junior 6'5" 350 lbs
    #75 Jack Harris, RS Freshman 6'5" 290

    The highly-touted Givens stepped in as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and started seven games at right tackle, and over 60% of the total snaps. Despite some costly penalties, the youngest member of the offensive line only allowed one sack on the season. If Bryce can buckle down and stay focused, another year of practice and physical development could seem him turn into the right-sided anchor the Buffs need.

    Former tackle, Ryan Miller can still fill-in as needed at the position, as he did for four starts in 2009, but let's hope that Ryan can focus on perfecting his technique at right guard and recovering from his spring injury.

    Behind Givens and Miller could be oft-troubled big-man Sione Tau. If Tau can maintain an effective playing weight and show the promise that he brought with him in 2007 he could help back-up Givens, and also push for playing time.

    If Tau isn't ready to step into a playing role this season, then redshirt frosh, David Bakhtiari sure seems like he is ready to force his hand into the mix.  Due to Givens missing a good portion of Spring practices, David has assumed the role as the "#1" RT for early fall camp.  His ascendance would be a pleasant surprise and help push the competition at this position.

    Incoming freshman Kaiwi Crabb (6'4" 270 lbs) could be a factor at the position down the road. Crabb was one of the few positive surprises for the Buffs in this recruiting class and will redshirt this season with the hope of adding more bulk and adjusting to the college game. Expect Crabb-cakes in the future for opposing defenders!

Strongside Defensive End

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    #90 Marquez Herrod, Senior (5th) 6'2" 280 lbs

    #44 Nick Kasa, Sophomore 6'6" 275 lbs
    #93 Conrad Obi, Junior 6'3" 280 lbs 
    #n/a Dakota Poole, Freshman 6'6" 255 lbs

    Herrod stepped up big time for the Buffs last season, starting every game at defensive end. He is a solid run-stopper and takes up blockers so that the linebackers can make plays behind him. His tremendous strength is on par with a defensive tackle, as he squats over 700 pounds and recorded a 427 bench press. Herrod gets great penetration into the backfield as well, as he tallied a tackle-for-loss in all but two games, including a team leading six sacks.

    Nick Kasa was the prize of the 2009 recruiting class, as he chose CU over Florida at the last minute. His size and ability quickly raised expectations for him in 2009. However, his freshman year was sidetracked by a partially torn MCL in fall practice, then after returning for four games, a serious bout of mono ended his season. Kasa will be big factor in the Buffs defense, regardeless of whether or not he earns a "starting" position. Another off-season for him to learn the defense, watch tape, and match some experience with his tremendous physical skills will only do good things. Expect Kasa to move over to the other side of the line when the Buffs go with a "big" front four or in goalline situations.

    Obi is a DE/DT hybrid player that will fill a valuable role providing depth and size at both positions. He has a good burst and is a strong player, but hasn't seen much game time so far to evaluate.

    Incoming "Athlete" recruit Harold Mobley (cousin of former Denver Bronco John Mobley and the NBA's Cuttino Mobley) has been listed as a possible defensive end in college (he also could play Tight End). He is 6'4" and 230 pounds so his frame could develop into a defensive end. First, we'll see if we are lucky enough to get him to academically qualify this summer, then start the wishful thinking for this monster of a player.

    Another very intriguing athlete that the Buffs picked up this off-season is Dakota Poole.  At 6'6" tall and weighing a solid 255 pounds, the former Canadien rugby player (U20 National Team) enters his freshman year of football at the age of 20 years old.  With his size, explosive athleticism, and rugby background (he played Lock) it makes sense that he will first try his hand as a defensive end.  He could really be an "X factor" at this position if injuries plague that top of the depth chart.

Nose Tackle

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    #50 Curtis Cunningham, Junior 6'1" 280 lbs

    #98 Eugene Goree, Junior 6'1" 310 lbs
    #94 Nate Bonsu, Sophomore 6'1" 290 lbs

    Curtis Cunningham is the unsung hero of the Buffs defense, that started every game in 2009 as a true sophomore. Now that Curtis has another year of experience and adjusting to playing with more bulk and strength 2010 looks even brighter for him. He played the fifth most snaps on defense last season, and his leadership in the trenches will be vital for the team.

    Goree is a physical specimen that was a severely under-rated tackle prospect coming out of Tennessee. He has seen 162 plays over the last two seasons, and has proven his hard work in the weight room with a max squat over 700 pounds, and a 405 pound bench press. 2010 could be his year to step in as an effective nose tackle to relieve Pericak at times.

    Nate Bonsu can move over from defensive tackle when called upon and be the usual wrecking ball that he provides. In fact, he might start the season as the #2 man at both positions on the defensive line.

Defensive Tackle

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    #83 Will Pericak, Sophomore 6'4" 285 lbs

    #94 Nate Bonsu, Sophomore 6'1" 290 lbs
    #93 Conrad Obi, Junior 6'3" 280 lbs

    Pericak is the "Nate Solder" of the defensive line. He came in as a potential linebacker/tight end prospect that committed to bulking up and playing the crucial nose/defensive tackle spots. Starting all twelve games in 2009 as a redshirt freshman, the sky is the limit for Pericak. Early reports in 2010 say only mean and nasty things about Will, which is music to Buff fans ears.

    A tremendous surprise in the 2009 season was the play of true frosh Nate Bonsu. Nate stepped in to provide relief at both tackle spots at different times and ended up playing 184 snaps. Another season of practice and growth will only build on a tremendous start to his CU career. His outstanding strength is his main asset, but he also has quick feet. Unfortunately, Bonsu suffered a knee injury in the spring that required surgery. We'll be watching his recovery closely and hope that it doesn't slow him down once the season starts.

    Obi has bulked up a little bit every year and now will primarily be used as a defensive tackle and "big" defensive end in certain situations. He has great upside and the team will be relying on him to step up in 2009 to provide depth and plenty of snaps in rotation.

    Kirk Poston (6'1" 260) is a member of the 2010 class that will develop into an interior defensive linemen. Coach Bandison mentioned that they want Kirk to possibly bulk up to play tackle. Poston was one of the most highly recruited players in the Buffs signing class who played both positions in high school. There is a slight chance that he sees playing time his freshman year depending upon the health of Bonsu and the team's lack of depth across the DL. Long-term I see him as a really good tackle or nose tackle prospect.

Weakside Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

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    #92 Forrest West, Sophomore 6'1" 255 lbs

    #55 Josh Hartigan, Junior 6'1" 240 lbs
    #95 Tony Poremba, Junior 6'1" 240 lbs 
    #96 Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Freshman 6'3" 230 lbs

    This position is a "psuedo-starter" position, as normally CU has to play a nickel-corner that takes this player off the field. However, it is still a big part of the defense as giving multiple looks and bringing pressure from different angles is a key to the Buffs pass-rush.

    In a season full of surprises (good and bad), one of the biggest positive surprises was the immediate impact that Forrest West made in his limited playing time. West played in all 12 games, notching 192 snaps. His pass rush ability helped the defense to pressure opposing offenses and another year of development could see him make a bigger impact on the games in 2010. He will stand-up as an outside linebacker at times, and at others with his hand in the dirt off the edge.

    Making the move from inside linebacker to defensive end last season, Josh Hartigan will provide flexibility to the position as an edge rusher from either an outside linebacker spot or a traditional defensive end as well.

    Chidera Uzo-Diribe is a raw incoming freshman recruit that found football late in his high school career. He possesses tremendous athleticisim and is a pure speed rushing weak-side defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid. He will most likely redshirt his freshman year, but if injuries or performance force Chidera to step into the game, he could make an immediate impact off the edge.  Lindy's 2010 College Football Preview has picked Chidera as their Big 12's "Top Sleeper" for the season.

Strong Outside Linebacker

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    #59 B.J. Beatty, Senior (5th) 6'2" 234 lbs

    #58 Tyler Ahles, Junior 6'2" 245 lbs
    #62 David Goldberg, Junior 6'1" 250 lbs
    #48 Liloa Nobriga, RS Freshman 6'2" 225 lbs

    Beatty pushed for the starting SAM backer spot in 2008, but was edged out by Brad Jones (now in the NFL). Finally getting his starting shot in 2009, Beatty's aggression was infectious, and at times undisciplined. Containing his pre-snap aggressiveness until he can explode into the offense will see the senior deliver his Orange Mane of Pain onto a national spotlight. His ability to read plays, diagnose offenses, and react with his fierce style will be a key to the success of the 2010 Buffs.

    Backing up Beatty will be Junior Tyler Ahles, who started two games in 2009 when B.J. sat out with injury. Ahles is very solid backup that will use the 2010 practice season to make his case for a starting gig in 2011. Things look to be coming together for Ahles this off-season and he could see pretty good playing time this season.

    Behind Beatty and Ahles will be redshirt freshman Liloa Nobriga, who is a "head first" player that fits the mold of players that Cabral likes. If he can adapt to some coverage duty and play recognition from the SAM spot, then his future at the position could be bright. It was mentioned that he could add bulk and lower body strength to move to a weakside edge rush position. The 2010 off-season should dictate which direction his future will go as the Buffs will need to have some depth behind Major. In my opinion Nobriga fits the mold of the way this position is played on this team, as he is a pure tackling machine that finds his way into every play.

    Another potential future SAM backer is incoming freshman Lowell Williams. Williams has been described as a rush-type linebacker who has played end and linebacker his last two years in high school.

Middle Inside Linebacker

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    #10 Michael Sipili, Senior (5th) 6'1" 250 lbs

    #56 Derrick Webb, RS Freshman 6'0" 220 lbs
    #51 Doug Rippy, Sophomore 6'1" 240 lbs
    #43 Brandon Gouin, Junior 6'1" 220 lbs
    #35 Geoff Sissom, Freshman 6'1" 220 lbs

    Michael Sipili should be nicknamed "the Multiplier", as his 250 pound frame can deliver hits that feel like a ton of bricks. The coaches seriously worry about him hurting players in practice as he just naturally packs a whallop that cannot be contained. He started his career off to a great start in 2006, but sat out the 2007 season due to off-the-field issues, and has now matured into an outstanding leader of the defense and mentor to fellow players. Sipili will make a tremendous impact leading Brian Cabral's unit in 2010 after splitting duties in 2009 with Marcus Burton.

    The backup Mike backer could be Derrick Webb, a redshirt freshman from Tennessee. Webb has many good reports about his abilities in practices so far. He was a pure outside linebacker prospect out of high school and fits at any of the LB spots at CU. I like him at the SAM position personally, but he is a great all-around player, and Cabral has named himi the #2 Mike so far, cutting into the impact that the next player might make on the season...

    For two years we have been hearing about the practice field exploits of Doug Rippy at linebacker and on special teams in limited game duty. Rippy will move from outside to inside linebacker in 2010 with the aim to take over the full-time job in 2011. I could not be more excited about this move, as his all-over playmaking ability and feel for the game could not be more taken advantage of than at the Mike position. Expect for him to get time in every game and push for 200 snaps in 2010, unless pressed into immediate starting time due to injury.

    Brandon Gouin is a transfer from the Air Force Academy that made the top three depth chart at SAM backer last year. He will factor into the depth once again and challenge for a more prominent role in 2011.

Weak Inside Linebacker

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    #31 Jon Major, Sophomore 6'1" 225 lbs

    #n/a Evan Harrington, Junior 6'0" 225 lbs
    #12 Patrick Mahnke, Junior 6'1 205 lbs
    #57 Guy Sergent, Sophomore 6'1" 220 lbs

    Queue your inner-Bruce Buffer voice: "IT'S TIME!". Jon Major WILL be the starting WILL backer for the CU Buffs in 2010! The much anticipated impact that the nationally-recruited Major would have on the program is about to be felt. His elite size and speed combination and years of tutelage under guru Brian Cabral (side by side in above picture) will all come to bear on the 2010 season. After his freshman year was lost due to a torn ACL, he rebounded in 2009 to play in 6 games and 110 snaps behind Jeff Smart and Shaun Mohler. Now that both players have graduated, it is Major's time to shine.

    JUCO Junior linebacker commit Evan Harrington could also step into the inside linebacker position once he arrives on campus. Harrington was an undersized linebacker prospect out of high school that has added 20+ pounds of muscle in two years at College of the Canyons. His style of play is very smash-mouth and his speed is a great asset that will translate well at Colorado.

    A possible conversion from Strong Safety, Patrick Mahnke has seen time in early spring practices at WILB. Mahnke describes himself as a "slow safety, but a fast linebacker" and has grown to excitement over a possible switch. Adding some bulk and being quicker to react to plays will be crucial to his ability to succeed at the position. Coaches have said that he could fill a nickel role at the position in 2010.

Left Cornerback

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    #23 Jalil Brown, Senior (5th) 6'1" 205 lbs

    #25 Deji Olatoye, RS Freshman 6'1" 195 lbs
    #39 Josh Moten, Freshman 6'0" 190 lbs

    Jalil Brown returns as the starting left corner, after starting all but two games in 2009 there. He forms an outstanding pair of cornerbacks with Jimmy Smith that will be a strength of the defense in 2010. Jalil notched 66 tackles, 15 passes broken up, and two interceptions last season. He has improved his physical conditioning in the off season and posted his best numbers in the gym that proves his dedication to making an impact in his senior season.

    Deji Olatoye is another very good CU recruit to come out of Ohio in recent years. He came out of high school as an "athlete" but CU quickly found his home at cornerback. In early spring practices he has wowed coachs and fans with his athleticism and playmaking ability. If that continues, expect for CU to reward him with playing time this year with the mind of grooming him to take over one of the corner spots next season.

    Josh Moten is a former quarterback that was moved to corner quickly upon entering CU practice. His speed and agility show great promise for his future at corner, but he still has lots of practice time to prove his mental grasping of the position. Look for Moten to redshirt in 2010.

Right Cornerback

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    #3 Jimmy Smith, Senior (5th) 6'2" 205 lbs

    #32 Paul Vigo, RS Freshman 6'1" 185 lbs
    #18 Jonathan Hawkins, Junior 5'11" 195 lbs
    #20 Matt Meyer, Junior 5'9" 190 lbs 

     
    Jimmy Smith was close to testing the NFL draft waters after last season, but a collective sigh of relief blew out of Boulder when he announced that he would return for his final season at CU. Smith is as close to a shutdown corner that you can find in college football. His elite combination of size, speed, instincts, and fearless play is a saving grace for the Buffs defense. He racked up 70 tackles, 10 pass defenses, and two interceptions; as well as changing opponents game plans as they avoided his side of the field whenever possible. Expect Jimmy to take on a bigger leadership role in the upcoming season and to hear his name on many award watch lists and pre-season all-something teams.

    Paul Vigo is a very mature redshirt freshman, as he was a 2008 commit to CU that "grayshirted". He has already been gaining quality reps in spring practices and has impressed coach Ambrose. While no official depth-charts have been listed by CU, Ambrose has indicated that Vigo is right at the top of the list behind the starters.

    Jonathan Hawkins is a veteran player that has limited playing time so far at CU. 2010 will be a year that he could step up in a reserve role to earn a starting shot for 2011 once Smith and Brown graduate. Hawkins (no relation to the Head Coach/QB) performance in practices will determine if Jonathan can push to the #2 spot at RCB, he will also press for duty at Nickel-corner.

    Jered Bell (6'1" 185 lbs) is an incoming freshman that was an early commit to CU in 2009. He has the look of a ballhawking corner with very good speed.

Nickel Cornerback

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    #30 Parker Orms, RS Freshman 5'11" 180 lbs

    #19 Travis Sandersfeld, Junior 6'0" 205 lbs
    #18 Jonathan Hawkins, Junior 5'11" 195 lbs

    The Nickel Corner position is a crucial one for the Buffs, and any other Big 12 defense that has to face the many spread formations in the league. In 2009 Cha'pelle Brown filled this role and tallied 96 tackles to lead the team, four sacks (tied for second), and twelve 3rd-down stops (also a team-high). So, the importance of this spot as a starting position should be obvious. In most formations the Buffs played three down linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs to try and contain the spread offenses.

    With that said, the biggest hole in the depth chart entering 2010 is the loss of Cha'pelle Brown, as there is no clear cut player that is next in line.

    Or is there?

    2009 recruit Parker Orms has been so impressive in spring drills playing the nickel position that he looks like a natural at the position. He has been flying all over the field making every play and tackle that has been asked of him. He is a safety prospect so it is safe to assume that he can handle "in the box" play. He has great speed and so far his lack of experience doesn't seem to be a factor.

    Orms got the shot to get reps in practice due to an injury to veteran safety and 2009 special teams stud Travis Sandersfeld. Once healthy, it remains to be seen if Travis will take over the reps and get his chance at the position, or if he will move back to playing strictly safety. Travis was an "unsung hero" in 2009 as he was one of the few special teamers that stood out in a positive way. He certainly has paid his dues and now can force his way into the starting lineup with a solid off-season of practice.

    Veteran corner Jonathan Hawkins could also get a look here, as could any of the backup corners like Deji Olatoye, Paul Vigo, or Arthur Jaffee. Another option would be to slide starting left corner Jalil Brown over to play nickel-corner while one of the reserve corners steps into the traditional corner role. Jalil is a ridiculously strong cornerback that has the size to play in the box as well.

Strong Safety

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    #46 Anthony Perkins, Junior 5'10" 205 lbs

    #27 Vince Ewing, Sophomore 6'0 200 lbs 
    #19 Travis Sandersfeld, Junior 6'0" 205 lbs 
    #37 Cody McAninch, RS Freshman 6'1" 200 lbs 
    #29 Terdema Ussery, RS Freshman 6'3" 225 lbs

    Perkins started eight games in 2009 at Free Safety and four at that spot in 2008. Entering his junior year in 2010 he will be looking to provide a veteran safety blanket to the secondary at the Strong Safety spot. Third on the team in tackles last season with 78, Anthony had over half of those in the final four games (41).  Whether he is the starter at Strong or Free Safety is still up for debate, but he and Polk should be the two starters regardless of position.

    Vince Ewing was considering a move to linebacker, but those plans seem to be on hold.  As of yet, much less information about his specific role and expectations in 2010 have been discussed.

    Also in the mix at backup Free Safety is Travis Sandersfeld. Travis is also vying for time at nickel corner.

    The future at strong safety past Perkins, could be in former wide receiver Terdema Ussery.  Terdema took a short leave-of-absence in the spring semester, and now has taken a permanent leave-of-absence from his fomer position upon returning to the team.  He will look to make an impact at the safety position

Free Safety

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    #26 Ray Polk, Sophomore 6'1" 210 lbs

    #22 Arthur Jaffee, Junior 6'0" 205 lbs 
    #30 Parker Orms, RS Freshman 5'11" 180 lbs
    #37 Cameron Ham, Senior (5th) 6'1" 205 lbs 

    Ray Polk was a nationally recruited running back prospect out of Arizona in 2008, but defensive back is in his blood and he made the switch to safety during his redshirt freshman year. Last year he saw action in 10 games, including three starts (one at Strong Safety and two at Free Safety) registering 40 tackles. His talent at the position is obvious to everyone who watches him play. Molding that innate talent with experience and decision-making in another off-season should see Ray take tremendous strides in 2010. He suffered a bad shoulder injury last season which limited his time the last three games of the year, hopefully he is fully recovered or will be by the fall.

    Arthur Jaffee is a speedy player that has seen most of his time in a special teams role. Last season he was third on the depth chart at both cornerback positions and is a converted running back. Jaffee has the physical tools to step into a more productive role at the safety spot this season, but he is still a bit of an unknown in gameday situations here.

    Parker Orms has lit up the 2010 spring practices and should make the starting lineup regularly at the Nickel Back spot in CU's oft-used 3-3-5 alignment, but in his spare time he will be a key backup at the Free Safety position.

    2010 signee Terrel Smith (5'8" 185 lbs). Smith comes in as a pure safety prospect. Hard hitting. Fast. Good tackling. He could see time on special teams his freshman year.

Kicker and Kickoffs

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    Kickoffs:
    #13 Aric Goodman, Senior 5'10" 190 lbs

    #38 Marcus Kirkwood, Junior 6'6" 215 lbs

    Aric is a very good kickoff specialist. He has a booming leg that resulted in 15 of his 51 kickoffs going for touchbacks last season. Walk-on Junior Kirkwood has a big leg as well and could push Aric for this position. It seems unlikely that Goodman could be unseated for this spot as he is on scholarship, is in his senior season, and has a proven track record.

    Place Kicker:
    #13 Aric Goodman, Senior 5'10" 190 lbs
    #15 Zach Grossnickle, RS Freshman 6'2" 185 lbs
    #38 Marcus Kirkwood, Junior 6'6" 215 lbs

    Aric Goodman has had a very sporadic career for the Buffs at placekicker, however. For a program that has been spoiled with producing clutch kickers, Goodman's 15 out of 32 field goal rate just isn't acceptable. From hitting goal posts to missing some crucial "makeable" field goals, Aric's mistakes tested the patience of coaches and fans alike.

    Zach Grossnickle came out of high school as one of the top kickers in the nation in 2009. He can be a kicker or a punter, or both, at the collegiate level. So far in the spring he has shown good accuracy and decent distance.

    Walk-on Marcus Kirkwood has zero football experience, but loads of futbol experience. The transfer soccer player has been working with kicking specialists and it paid off in getting him the roster spot at CU. So far his spring performance is up and down.

    The Buffs will really need this competition to bring out the best in all of the rostered players. We know Goodman will have a roster spot (kickoffs) and Grossnickle (punter) too, so this is Kirkwood's best shot at making the team.

    Justin Castor (6'4" 180 lbs) is a 2010 commit that could even enter the position battle at Place Kicker. Barring a complete collapse from the other players, however, I would expect Castor to redshirt this coming season.

Punter, Snapper, and Holder

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    Punter:
    #15 Zach Grossnickle, RS Freshman 6'2" 185 lbs

    Coaches have already handed the vacant punting duties to Grossnickle. Zach has already shown promise in the spring by showing off much better hang time than the team got from Matt DiLallo last season. Zach has a good leg, a calm demeanor, and the faith of the team and coaches.

    Short-Snapper:
    #68 Joe Silipo, Senior 6'2" 250 lbs
    #63 Ethan Adkins, Junior 6'4" 310 lbs
    #79 Sione Tau, Junior 6'5" 350 lbs

    Silipo is the only returning snapper that has spent any practice time at the position. He converted fully from defensive tackle and will spend all spring and fall focusing on that job.

    Long-Snapper:
    #68 Joe Silipo, Senior 6'2" 250 lbs 
    #69 Ryan Iverson, Freshman 6'1" 220 lbs 
    #89 Mario Conte, Sophomore 5'10" 180 lbs
    #79 Sione Tau, Junior 6'5" 350 lbs

    Silipo seems like the favorite here too, but the coaches have been trying out the diminutive Conte with the idea that he can get through the line unblocked and with his speed effectively be another gunner on the punt coverage. Hard to say if that experiment works or not.

    The coaches have also said that one of the incoming freshman could see time here as well, and preferred walk-on Ryan Iverson (6'1" 220 lbs) seems to be the guy. In the world of kicking/punting/snapping he is an elite prospect. With long arms and one of the fastest snapped balls coming out of high school he can seize this job in fall camp.

    Holder (Pinner):
    #7 Cody Hawkins, Senior (5th) 5'11" 190 lbs
    #21 Scotty McKnight, Senior (5th) 5'11" 185 lbs

    Ever since Scotty McKnight came to CU he immediately grasped the holder job as a way to get on the field and maintained that throughout his time even after becoming the starter at wideout. With his broken leg in the spring, however, someone else will have to fill that role. Cody Hawkins has been described as being the best holder on the team, and having the backup QB in that spot opens up more potential trick plays as well.

Kick & Punt Returners

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    Kick Returner:
    #20 Brian Lockridge, Junior
    #28 Quinton Hildreth, RS Freshman 5'8" 185 lbs
    #22 Arthur Jaffee, Junior 5'11" 205 lbs
    #n/a Tony Jones, Freshman 5'8" 180 lbs

    B-Lock was a very good kick returner for CU last season, averaging 23.3 YPR and taking one 98 yarder to the house. Despite being involved more directly in the running back position, Lockridge needs to remain the main kick returner with his home run threat.

    In four returns last year Jaffee averaged 24.0 yards, and his speed can be used effectively there once again. Another speed-demon that the Buffs can use at kick returner is running back Quinton Hildreth. Q has great speed and elusiveness.

    Incoming freshman running back Tony Jones could also factor in here with his quickness and agility.

    Punt Returner:
    #21 Scotty McKnight, Senior (5th) 5'11" 185 lbs
    #15 Jason Espinoza, Junior 5'8" 180 lbs
    #5 Rodney Stewart, Junior 5'6" 175 lbs
    #17 Toney Clemons, Junior 6'2" 210 lbs
    #35 Kyle Cefalo, Junior 5'10" 165 lbs
    #80 Will Jefferson, Sophomore 5'11" 190 lbs
    #1 Andre Simmons, Senior 6'2" 200 lbs
    #26 Ray Polk, Sophomore 6'1" 210 lbs
    #n/a Justin Gorman, Freshman 6'0" 182 lbs

    This is a who's-who's of the CU roster! Pretty much everyone who can catch a punt will get a shot at this spot. Espinoza led the team last year with 22 punt returns, but only averaged 3.1 yards on returns. McKnight filled in after an injury to Espy and notched a 4.6 YPR on 7 punts. Speedy Stewart had one return last year (0 yards), and is in the mix in early spring practice as well.

    Picking a starter from this mix will be a tough task, as it will be a process of elimination throughout training camp. My best guess is that Clemons and McKnight have the best chance of success, but Espy will probably get his reps there as well.

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