One might think that after losing so many players in the 2017 draft that Colorado’s defense might come back weak. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was selected by the Dallas Cowboys late in the second round, Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was picked by San Francisco in the third round, safety Tedric Thompson was drafted in the fourth round by Seattle and defensive tackle Jordan Carrell was chosen by the Cowboys in the seventh round. Three more CU players — defensive tackle Josh Tupou, defensive end Jimmie Gilbert and linebacker Kenneth Olugbode — signed free-agent deals in the post draft days.
On top of that, Frank Umu, who was suspended at the beginning of the season for violating team rules, has officially been dismissed from the team. While missing key pieces of the Bruin defense has ruined us week after week, the Buffs have returned strong, especially in the secondary. Let’s take a look at what Colorado’s defense brings to the table.
Up front, Colorado definitely has size. The three upperclassmen that have occupied the line this season are all 275 pounds plus, but what they lack is depth. Leo Jackson III, Javier Edwards, and Chris Mulumba are the starters, but aside from them, the Buffs only have a freshman and Frank Jase (who is listed as both a tackle and an end) to pull from. Umu’s dismissal was a huge blow to this unit and the Bruin’s quick tempo on offense could easily wear this group down.
Juniors Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa lead this unit, with 69 total tackles between the two of them in four games so far. Our run game may suffer this weekend because Gamboa has actually been compared to Scooby Wright from Arizona—they both find ways to get to the ball under any circumstance. Lewis is quicker and more athletic, and can chase down ball carriers better than anyone else on the team. Our inconsistent (yet slowly improving) running backs are going to need a lot of help from our offensive line to create opportunities for yards on the ground.
Even though CU lost a lot to the draft, the secondary continues to look strong this year. One of the Colorado cornerbacks, Isaiah Oliver, was touted before the season started as one of the best in the nation. Afolabi Laguda and Ryan Moeller provide stability for the safety position, along with cornerback Evan Worthington, who took a year off from the program in 2016 but has returned healthy and ready to play this year. The Buffs may have lost a lot, but the well isn’t as dry as you might think.
I never want to count my chickens before they hatch, but I think we’ve got this one. We definitely have the quarterback advantage, and as bad as our defense has looked, I don’t think the Buffs can make up for it on offense. We need this win on Saturday and I think it’s ours.