Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Colorado.
Spring Practice Starts: March 10
Spring Game: April 14
Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 specialists
Three Things To Look For:
1. Can the Buffs find a quarterback? After four years as an off-and-on starter, Tyler Hansen has (finally?) graduated and left Jon Embree with the first quarterbacking decision of his young Colorado tenure. The job was expected to be a spring battle -- and possibly a fall one -- between sophomores Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman, but after offseason surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot, Hirschman amazingly broke the same bone in his right foot last weekend and will miss all of spring drills. As the only quarterback on the Buff roster to have taken a collegiate snap, Hirschman might have been the slight favorite, but now that honor falls to Wood as he duels redshirt freshmen John Shrock and Stevie Joe Dorman. From Wood's perspective, spring camp will be a key opportunity to put some distance between himself and Hirschman before the latter returns for fall camp. But for Embree, who winds up winning hte job will be less important than that someone does--and that process starts this weekend.
2. Are there any playmakers out there? If Embree's going to improve on 2011's 92nd-ranked offense, he's going to have to do it the hard way--in addition to Hansen, the Buffs have also lost leading rusher Rodney Stewart and four of their top five receivers, including starting tight end Ryan Deehan. The cupboard isn't bare -- rising junior receiver Paul Richardson and one-time highly regarded tight end recruit Nick Kasa both look poised for breakout seasons -- but it remains to be seen if any of the candidates at running back or any others at receiver or tight end are ready to become serious Pac-12 contributors. Given that whoever wins the quarterback job is going to experience some growing pains along the way, any help Embree can find for his future QB (or QBs) is going to be something valuable indeed.
3. Front seven: same question? The good news for the Colorado defense is that things can't get a lot worse than last year's 114th-place finish in yards per-play allowed (or the 102nd-place finish in total D) no matter what personnel they do or don't return. The bad news is that improvement will nonetheless have to come without their best defensive player in 2011, linebacker Josh Hartigan, who led the team in both sacks and tackles-for-loss on his way to Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors. (No Buff defender made either the league's first or second teams.) As with the offense, there's several promising pieces for Embree to work with: senior nose tackle Will Pericak, junior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, and linebacker Jon Major should all be capable of spearheading a step forward. But for the Buffs just to reach respectability in the rushing defense department -- a year after giving up the nation's 112th-worst mark per-carry -- someone (or several someones) will have to be more than "promising," and more like Hartigan.
To check in on the rest of the Pac-12 and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule.
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