Last year, if you asked me about the staff in Colorado, I don't think I could have named a single person besides Mike MacIntyre. He is in his fourth year as head coach of the Buffs, and there has been marked improvement since his arrival. The squad has broken over 100 school records in the last four years, but it was apparent there needed to be some development on both sides of the ball after his first two seasons when Colorado struggled to close games out in the fourth quarter. MacIntyre has all but completely revamped his coaching staff in the last two years, and there is definitely a new feel about the Colorado football program.
Mike MacIntyre won his first game as head coach back in 2013, being the first since none other than Rick Neuheisel did the same thing in 1995. He started that year 2-0, and also guided the team through a disastrous flood that caused them to cancel a game which resulted in back to back bye weeks. Throughout his tenure, he has emphasized what he calls the "Four F'S", which are detailed in his bio on CUBuffs.com:
Throughout his coaching career, Coach Mike MacIntyre has crafted an approach to coaching college football that incorporates "The Four F's" - Foundation, Family, Future and Football. He believes that if Colorado's student-athletes focus on the Four F's, it will lead to great things.
Foundation is about becoming a solid person on a daily basis in their daily activities. That includes a commitment to things like self-discipline, perseverance, time management and responsibility.
Family is about being close, caring about each other and being accountable to each other. CU's players have to fully understand how their actions affect their teammates - on the field and in life. They will understand how their actions represent Colorado and their individual legacies.
Future is putting the necessary energy into their academics. Education is their Future. Even if our student-athletes go on to play in the NFL for three to five years, they need to have an idea about what they want to be the rest of their lives. Football is what they currently do, it's not who they are. He teaches them to use football to get an education and a better future.
The last "F" is Football. Coach MacIntyre believes if they have a good foundation, they are doing the right things, they care about the guys on their team, and they are doing well academically and know what their future is, when they come to football practice they are freed up, they will play better, they don't have a lot of baggage.
Coach MacIntyre's philosophy is that if the Buffs take the Four F's approach, when they leave Colorado, they will be ready for life. That is what he will teach all the time. His student-athletes will know those Four F's. CU will not just put them on the wall and then forget about it. It is something the Buffs will talk about all the time.
Sounds like a pretty amazing philosophy, and it is materializing on the field with continued success. MacIntyre has not hesitated to shuffle the coaching staff around to both fill vacancies by coaches who have left and others who have been fired. His goal in the end is to find what fits best for the program. He has seen the most success in the last two years, and the hiring of new coordinators in that time span cannot be coincidental.
This year, Colorado has a new Co-Offensive Coordinator, Darrin Chiaverini, who came from Texas Tech University. He is returning to his alma mater where he lettered under Rick Neuheisel (there he is again!), and he has also assumed the duties of recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach. His coaching history began at Mt. San Antonio College where he started in 2007 after a career in the NFL and Arena Football League. Then in 2009, he rejoined his college coach, Neuheisel, as the assistant special teams coach at UCLA. He was actually on staff when we played in the Eagle Bank Bowl against Temple. We have clearly seen a difference this year with Chiaverini on staff with a marked improvement in the CU offense. He works alongside Brian Lindgren, who is in his fourth year on staff as Co-Offensive Coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Lindgren joined the staff in 2013 with Mike MacIntyre when they both moved over from San Jose State. In his first season with the Buffaloes, his offense improved significantly in 12 major statistical categories, most notably jumping from 96th to 47th nationally in passing offense, 116th to 87th in total offense and 117th to 86th in scoring offense. It was also the first time since 2003 that a CU team averaged seven yards or more per pass play.
On the defensive side, Jim Leavitt is in his second year on the Colorado staff after spending four years with the San Francisco 49ers. Leavitt had an immediate impact on the team, moving the Buffs from 11th to 7th in total defense and second in pass defense (from fifth). It is clear that Leavitt has been an impact hire, since Colorado seen success not just on offense, but defense as well. Leavitt's hiring came at a risk due to his past. When he coached at South Florida, he was accused of punching one of his players, admitted no wrongdoing, and was ultimately fired. He has been known to show a little emotion on the sideline, and even left a South Florida game with a bloody gash on his nose. But all of that is in the past. He is looking for a new beginning in Colorado, and it has been a successful one.
Aside from a decent loss to Michigan, their only other loss this season was to USC, and it was only by four points. Colorado is no longer the little brother of the Pac 12 that they once were. Clearly, the experience of the players is also making a huge difference. The Buffs are playing mostly upperclassmen, so it will be interesting to see if the success can be sustained. It will now come down to whether or not this coaching staff can continue developing the players so this year is not an anomaly in the Colorado football history books.
The kicking game is literally the only area where Colorado has struggled this year, particularly in field goals. In their 10-5 win over Stanford, they actually missed three of four field goal attempts. Additionally, No. 1 kicker Diego Gonzalez has been out with a torn achilles tendon since their loss at Michigan, and No. 2 kicker, Davis Price, may not even play this week due to the fact that he was sidelined with mono just before their game against Stanford. Their No. 3 man, Chris Graham, has not seen much game time this year, and missed two of three attempts at Stanford. His season long field goal is 36 yards, which he made against Arizona State. According to an article by Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor for CUBuffs.com, McIntyre says, "They've just got to keep working. Kind like your golf swing. You go out there and figure it and fix it a little bit and hopefully hit it down the center of that fairway. I'm hoping they do that. They've been working at it, they want to do well at it. They kicked really well today so hopefully they'll keep that up." MacIntyre is also hoping Gonzalez can get one more year of eligibility, but it will depend on whether the NCAA will grant him another year due to his injury.
Sophomore wide receiver Jay McIntyre is also on punt return duties. He averages 10.2 yards per return and has a season long 32 yard return at Michigan. This is an area where Colorado has used a variety of players in various games, but McIntyre seems to be the one with the most consistent statistics.
It seems like we found a weak spot, folks! I didn't think Colorado had one, but it seems like their kicking game is in trouble. Our defense will really need to step it up this week, and if we can keep them out of the red zone, maybe, just maybe, we'll see the Buffs end up with a bunch of missed opportunities.