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UCLA Football: Previewing the Colorado Buffaloes - Part 2 - Defense and Special Teams

We take a look at Colorado's struggling but young defense.

Doug Pensinger - Getty Images

Colorado struggled on defense last year, and they're making the switch from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme. The results thus far haven't been kind, as they're giving up nearly 39 ppg and rank 103rd in total defense. They have improved in their run defense thus far, but they're still giving up 154 ypg, which places them 66th in the country. As high as the number is, it could be worse. They've played a light schedule, including an FCS school, and Washington St. did not really run the ball against them. Their numbers against the pass are even worse, and they're allowing 315 ypg, 117th in the country, and have allowed 13 passing touchdowns already.

We'll take a look at the defensive players and special teams after the jump.
Defensive Line

The defensive line last year was really too light for a 3-4 scheme, and the unit should benefit from the switch to a four man front. The starting NT, Josh Tupou (6‐3, 325, Fr.) is a true freshman that started the season as a back-up. He did suffer a concussion against Washington St. and is currently listed as day-to-day. Nate Bonsu (6‐1, 285, Jr.) starts at the other tackle spot after playing as a reserve defensive end last year. In the interior rotation, Colorado will also use Will Pericak (6‐4, 285, Sr.), who started the season as starting NT before moving to offensive guard, only to return to the defensive side of the ball as a starting end, and true freshman Justin Solis (6'3, 305, Fr.).

At end, the aforementioned Pericak starts at LE while pass rush specialist Chidera Uzo‐Diribe (6‐3, 240, Jr.) starts at RE. Uzo-Diribe has 5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss this season after gathering 5.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in a reserve role last season. Uzo-Diribe is capable of playing DE or OLB, so expect him to move around a bit and play like a bit of a hybrid role. Kirk Poston (6‐1, 255, So.) and Samson Kafovalu (6'3, 250, Fr.) will also play in the rotation.


Colorado lost their best defender, Josh Hartigan, to graduation, and they also lost steady Patrick Mahnke to graduation and Doug Rippy to injury. In their place, Colorado has mix and matched their linebacking corps to form a starting unit.

Derrick Webb (6‐0, 220, Jr.) and Brady Daigh (6'2, 250, So.) start on the inside. Webb is second on the team with 27 tackles, but Daigh is struggling and has only made 8 tackles this season. Behind them, Clay Jones (6'1, 220, RS-Fr.) and Paul Vigo (6'1, 200, Jr.) may see some action. Vigo is light, but he has 10 tackles from his reserve role.

On the outside, Jon Major (6‐2, 230, Sr.) starts after playing in the middle last season. He has 25 tackles on the season, but only has 1 tackle for loss. He's backed up by Woodson Greer III (6‐3, 225, So.).


Ray Polk (6‐1, 205, Sr.) was expected to be the leader of Colorado's young secondary, but he's out due to injury. In his place, Parker Orms (5'11, 195, Jr.) has managed to lead the team in tackles with 28. He's backed up Marques Mosley (6'1, 180, Fr.) who has been good on special teams and has also made an interception.

At SS, Terrel Smith (5‐8, 180, Jr.) is moving from his role as CB last year. He doesn't have great size, but he adds another capable cover man in the secondary and has proven to be a capable tackler, as he is third on team with 26 tackles. Backing Smith up is Jered Bell (6'0, 195, So.).

At cornerback, Greg Henderson (5‐11, 185, So.) and Kenneth Crawley (6'1, 170, Fr.) start. Henderson started as a freshman last year, and now is the elder of the starting CB's. They are backed up by talented Yuri Wright (6'2, 175, Fr.), Josh Moten (6‐0, 195, So), and Jeffrey Hall (5'11, 180, Fr.). Some of you may recall Wright. He was initially a Michigan commit who was dropped by Michigan and expelled from his high school after several controversial tweets. Despite his troubles, he is very talented, and Colorado does look to have a stockpiled some young CB talent.

Special Teams

K Will Oliver (5'10, 195, So.) is 1/2 on FG attempts this season and 13/13 on XP's. P Darragh O'Neill (6'2, 185, So.) has punted 26 times for a 42.8 yard average. Colorado has not allowed a punt return or kickoff return for a touchdown this season.

Kenneth Crawley will handle the punt returns, and Marques Mosley and Donta Abron will handle the kick return duties. Colorado hasn't returned any kicks for scores, and their return statistics are average.

That concludes the Colorado Buffaloes preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments.