James Snook-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
We take a look at UCLA's upcoming opponent, the Colorado Buffaloes, who are trying to take a step forward after their surprising comeback against Washington St.
When UCLA hosted Colorado last season, Colorado entered the game at 2-9 and was coming off their first conference win of the season. The Buffaloes had shown improvement, but UCLA managed to win big, outscoring Colorado 45-6. The following week, Colorado helped UCLA get into the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game by beating Utah.
Once again, Colorado is coming off their first conference win of the season. Of course, it was their only conference game of the season so far, and they currently sit above UCLA in the Pac-12 standings. Colorado beat Washington St. 35-34 on the road in stunning fashion, scoring 21 points in the 4th quarter. For Colorado, the win was much needed, as the team looked like one of the worst FBS teams in the country to open the season. They opened with a loss to Colorado St., got beat by FCS Sacramento St. at home in week 2, and got crushed by Fresno St. 69-14 in week 3. Whether the win against the Cougars was a mirage or a sign of things to come is yet to be seen.
We'll take a look at the coaching staff and offensive players after the jump.
Jon Embree returned to his alma mater to turn the once proud program around. Embree played tight end in the 80's under Bill McCartney. Embree also coached at Colorado as a position coach from 1993-2002. Following coaching at Colorado, Embree was on the UCLA staff from 2003-05, where he served as an Assistant Head Coach and Wide Receivers Coach. He then coached in the NFL for four years before returning to Colorado. There have already been some grumblings that Embree might not last in Boulder past this season unless Colorado shows some real improvement.
The Colorado offense is coached by another familiar name to both collegiate football fans and UCLA fans; Eric Bieniemy. Football fans will remember Bieniemy's great collegiate career as a running back at Colorado. He still holds many rushing records for the school. UCLA fans will remember his tenure as Running Backs Coach and Recruiting Coordinator from 2003-05.
Defensively, Colorado is coached by Greg Brown. Brown is in his third stint at Colorado. He coached defensive backs in the early 90's before moving on to the NFL. He then returned to Colorado to coach defensive backs under Dan Hawkins from 2005-09 before co-coordinating the Arizona Wildcat defense last year.
Jordan Webb (6‐1, 205, Jr.) surprisingly beat out Nick Hirschman (6‐3, 230, So) and Connor Wood (6-3 225, So.) for the starting quarterback position in the offseason. Webb is a transfer from Kansas, and really struggled in the first three games of the season, completing less than 50% of his passes and getting pulled in the blowout loss to Fresno. St. However, he rebounded nicely against Washington St., completing 29/42 passes for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Connor Wood is the listed back-up. Wood was a highly recruited QB out of high school, originally signing with Texas. After a red-shirt season, he transferred to Colorado with his eyes set on more playing time. He replaced Webb against Fresno St. and struggled, completing only 5/14 passes and throwing 2 interceptions.
Colorado lost Rodney Stewart, and gained Christian Powell (6'0, 235, Fr.) in the offseason. Some recruitniks may remember that Powell was originally a UCLA commit who flipped to Colorado late in the recruiting season. He's an impressive true freshman, and has gained 265 yards on 62 carries with 3 touchdowns to date. It should be noted that 28 carries and 147 yards came against FCS Sacramento St., and he hasn't broken 70 yards against any non-FCS opponent.
Behind Powell, Tony Jones (5‐7, 175, So.) will take the majority of the backup carries. On the season, he has 22 carries for 150 yards and 1 touchdown, and he missed the game against Fresno St.
Alex Wood (6‐2, 255, Jr.) is the lead blocker. He hasn't carried the ball this year, but he has caught 3 balls for 36 yards.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Colorado's receiving corps took a big hit when they lost the back-pack thief Paul Richardson for the season due to injury. In his place, they start Tyler mcCulloch (6'5, 210, So.) and Nelson Spruce (6'2, 195, RS-Fr.). They are the only two players on the roster with double digit receptions. Spruce leads the team with 21 receptions for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns. McCulloch has 12 catches for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The slot position is manned by Dustin Ebner (6'1, 185, Sr.) and Gerald Thomas (5'11, 175, Fr.). Ebner only has 1 catch this season for 41 yards, but Thomas, a true freshman, has 9 catches for 109 yards and has also carried the ball 4 times for 55 yards.
Colorado lists 5 tight ends on their depth chart, an improvement over last season's list of 6. They'll all play, and they've almost all touched the ball, but the ones to look out for are starter Nick Kasa (6‐6, 270, Sr.), Kyle Slavin (6‐4, 235, Fr.‐RS), and DaVaughn Thornton (6'4, 230, Jr.). Colorado will undoubtedly have scouted the way Oregon St. used their tight ends in play action to suck up UCLA's safeties, so expect to see a heavy dose of them on Saturday. Kasa is the most explosive of the bunch, with 4 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Slavin and Thornton each have 5 catches this season.
Colorado lost a lot of veterans on the offensive line, and their early season production has showed. Colorado has already given up 18 sacks this season. That's last in the FBS. They haven't fared much better on the ground either, gaining 125.25 yards per game, which is 92nd in the FBS, and have given up 29 tackles for loss, which is 114th in the FBS.
The strength of the unit is LT David Bakhtiari (6‐4, 295, Jr.) and C Gus Handler (6‐3, 290, Jr.), the two returning starters in the unit. Bakhtiari is the most talented lineman of an underwhelming group and arguably the most important offensive player on the team following the injured Paul Richardson.
The rest of the line is made up a group of inexperienced players. At LG Alexander Lewis (6‐6, 285, So.) starts after playing primarily as a TE last year. The coaching staff is very high on him, and although he's raw there is some belief that he could become a very good lineman. He's backed up by true freshman Jeromy Irwin (6'5, 280, Fr.). At RT, Jack Harris (6'5, 305, Jr.) returns from a broken leg which cost him the starting spot at RG last season. He's backed up by Ryan Dannewitz (6‐6, 295, Sr.), who also backs up Bakhtiari at LT. Finally, Daniel Munyer (6'2, 295, So.) starts at RG. Munyer played in 7 games last year
That concludes Part I of the Colorado Buffalo preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments.