Defensive Coordinator Chris Wilson is in his second year as Coordinator and has assumed coaching duties for the Edge Linebackers. Going into the 2022 season, Coach Wilson has installed a 4-3 base defense that plays to Buffs strengths on the Defensive Line and Edge, and should result in an improved Pass Rush (FBS Rank 127) . Coach Wilson is also emphasizing a reduction in positioning and assignment errors with better on field communication.
The Defense returns 54% of overall production (FBS Rank 102) from last season, and must replace six starters. The Defense looked great at times last year, particularly in the Texas A&M game. But as the season wore on, the Defense was overworked because the Offense could not stay on the field (FBS Rank 125 in opponent time of possession), and fatigue and injuries took a toll. The Defense allowed an average of 28.5 points per game (FBS Rank 77), not bad considering how low they ranked in other key metrics, like 436 yards per game (FBS Rank 101), 6.1 yards per play (FBS Rank 106), and 1.1 takeaways per game (FBS Rank 101).
Key Metrics to Improve: Pass Rush (FBS 127); Takeaways per game (FBS Rank 101); Coverage (FBS Rank 105); Opponent Time of Possession (FBS Rank 125)
New Defensive Line coach Gerald Chatman’s room returns more production than any other unit on defense (78%). The starting Defensive Line could be one of the best units in the Pac-12, anchored by top veterans in the rotation Terrence Lang (DE) Jalen Sami (DL), Na’im Rodman (DL) and Janaz Jordan (DL), all of these players have pro-potential, which Jordan surprisingly the one with the highest pro-grade. Sami had the highest pass rushing productivity, PRP (3.5) last year. PRP is a composite measure of pressure (sacks, hits, hurries relative to the amount of pass rush snaps). Lang had a much higher PRP in 2020 (4.8) than he did in 21. Na’im Rodman (Jr) was a part-time starter who played consistently well last year. Rodman showed his bull rush in the Spring scrimmages. Senior Justin Jackson (DE), who had the second highest pass rush composite rating, (PRP 2.8) and a fast first step, figures to be in the rotation, especially in passing situations.
According to OL coach Kyle Devann, there was not much of a performance gap between the first and second units this Spring. Redshirt freshman players Ryan Williams (RS-FR) worked with the twos, and Allen Baugh (RS-FR) and Tyas Martin (RS-FR) worked mostly with the third unit, as did walk-on Mason Maddox (Fr), who is a dark horse candidate to crack the rotation. Aaron Austin is now onboard as a true freshman.
Forecast: Party Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: Sack Rate (FBS Rank 127) | Avg line yards 2.81 (FBS Rank 100) | Power Success Rate 80.0% (FBS Rank 113)
Breakouts: Ryan Williams (RS-FR)
Coach Wilson (DC) also assumes coaching responsibilities for the Edge players this year. The room is stacked with seniors who have been slowed by injury, (Thomas, Montgomery) that look to finish Strong, as well as several emerging prospects (Williams, Grant). Add the incoming Freshman that will join this Summer, and the Buffs have arguably more talent and depth on the Edge than they have had since the 2017 roster (Devin Taylor, Alex Changham, Carson Wells).
Guy Thomas (Sr), who was injured for half of last year, returns with the most snaps of the edge rushers (281) will likely start. Jamar Montgomery (Sr) is in great shape, and was one of the top performers in the Spring scrimmages. According to Devin Grant, Montgovery is the best pass rusher on the team, and he had the highest PRP grade (5.9). Graduate transfer Chance Main (Sr) will likely play both Edge and inside at Tackle and Defensive End. Main worked with the first and second units in Spring practice and looks to be a high-motor contributor up front, his PFF grades were high (70s) albeit against FCS competition. Alvin Williams (So) made a big jump this Spring. He was consistently in the backfield and around the ball, and will likely see significant time on passing downs. Devin Grant (RS-FR) actually had the highest in PFF DEF (69.2) grades in the room last year in a small sample size. Joshka Gustav (So), who sat out this Spring to recover from injury, is an all around player who is competent in both pass rush (PRP 5.6) and run stop and could also play standing up at SAM or WILL. Zion Magali is another freshman who looked good in Spring practice. Shakaun Bowser and Kaden Ludwig are incoming freshman.
Forecast: Mostly Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: Sack Rate (FBS Rank 127) |
Break Outs: Alvin Williams, Devin Grant
Coach Mark Smith’s room must adjust to the 4-3 scheme, where the three inside three backers (SAM, MIKE, WILL) play standing up. At MIKE, the Buffs return Senior Quinn Perry returns as the leading tackler among the inside backers. Also competing at MIKE is graduate transfer Josh Chandler-Semedo (MIKE), an all Big 12 performer from West Virginia, who has 31 career starts and is highly graded in pass coverage (71) and tackling (79). Sophomore Mister Williams (MIKE) ran with the second team. Robert Barnes (WILL) should build on his strong performances at the end of last season. Barnes is stepping into a leadership role with the team. Marvin Ham (SAM) was the other starter in the Spring. Ham is a fast linebacker who figures to be used more often in coverage. Others on the depth chart are Juco transfer Isaac Hurtado (SAM), who played with the second unit and flashed his closing speed. Early enrollee, Eoghan Kerry (WILL) repped with the second unit and held his own in coverage. This Fall, Aubrey Smith (MIKE), one of the highest rated recruits of the incoming class, will vie for early playing time.
Forecast: Partly Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: COV Grades (Unit AVG is below 50 - poor)
Break Outs: Robert Barnes is a former 5 star who flashed toward the end of last season.
New Coach Rod Chance inherits a room that was hit hard by the transfer of starters Mekhi Blackmon (USC) and Christian Gonzales (Oregon). The freshman corners Kaylin Moore and Nikko Reed looked good in limited reps last season. Early enrollees Joshua Wiggans and Jason Oliver were on campus this Spring. Nigel Bethel (Jr) last year’s starting nickel back was injured this Spring, but is expected to be healthy and competing for a starting spot this fall. Jaylen Striker (Jr) will also compete for a spot on the depth chart at corner or nickel. Incoming freshman Simeon Harris and Keyshon Mills will provide depth.
Outlook: Partly Sunny
Key Metrics to Improve: Takeaways per game (FBS Rank 101); Coverage (PFF COV Grades should be in mid 70s)
Coach Brett Maxie’s room is thin with the transfer of starter Mark Perry (TCU). Although Senior Isaiah Lewis returns at Strong Safety. Lewis was the leading tackler last year and is pre-season second team all Pac12 selection. Trevor Woods, who had one start last year, will compete at Free Safety. Early enrollee Oakie Salvea was on campus in the Spring but was held out of practices due to injury. Torren Pittman also cross-trained both at corner and Safety, will likely be at Safety in the Fall.
Several walk-ons ran with the ones and twos in the Spring scrimmages. Senior walk-on Anthony Lyle worked with the ones, sophomore walk-on Ben Finneseth was the leading tackler in the scrimmage finale, and sophomore walk-on Jordan Woolverton, a converted QB, had an interception in both of scrimmages. Dillan Dixon (Fr) and Juco transfer Jeramy Mack (So) are solid bodies who the Buffs are counting on to compete day one for the depth chart. Xavier Smith (Fr) is recovering from surgery, and may not be available this Fall.
Key Metrics to Improve: Takeaways per game (FBS Rank 101); Coverage Grades (improve to mid 70s) | Tackling Grades (improve to mid 70s)
Special Teams was a bright spot for the Buffs last season. Colorado was highly ranked overall in the Special teams Fremeau Efficiency Index ratings (FBS rank 24), and their PFF Special Teams (89.2) ranking, which combines kickoff return, kickoff, punt return, punt, and field goal efficiency into one overall rating, was the best in the PAC12.
Cole Becker returns and highly rated recruit Ashton Logon will assume punting duties.
- Buffs Offensive Line will be in the top ten performance improvement by measures of Opportunity Rate (FBS Rank 129) | Pass Block Efficiency (FBS Rank 127) | Sack Rate (FBS 123)
- Buffs Offense will rank above 75 in Avg Time of Possession (FBS 127)
- CU Defense will rank above 80 in Avg Opponent Time of Possession (FBS 125)
- CU Defense will be in the top 20 movers up the charts by measure of Sack Rate (FBS Rank 127)
- QB Time to Throw will be at 2.8 or below
If the above predictions hold true, then the Buffs will get the six wins needed for bowl eligibility