2019 Colorado Buffaloes Football Preview
The Colorado Buffaloes are looking to rebound after a disappointing 2018 campaign that saw the team start 5-0, only to lose their final seven games–all against Pac-12 opponents. That losing streak cost Mike MacIntyre his job, and subsequently saw Mel Tucker hired away from SEC power Georgia to lead the Buffs.
2018 Record: 5-7 overall, 2-7 in Pac-12
Head Coach: Mel Tucker, 1st year
Shenault is not just the best wide receiver in the Pac-12, but he is a potential Top 10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and currently stands as the number one overall player on our 2020 Big Board. That’s right, No.1.
At 6’2, 225-pounds, the junior has ridiculous strength, explosive talent and was an unstoppable force in 2018 before suffering a foot injury and later a shoulder problem. In nine games last year, he caught 86 passes for 1,011 yards and six scores, and got the ball in his hands 17 times as a runner and scored five times. When healthy, he is the playmaker in Boulder.
Senior quarterback Steven Montez has all the tools to be a great college signal caller as well as an elite pro prospect, but he has to be more consistent.
The offensive line struggled last season and that was a big part of the inconsistency, allowing a shocking 104 tackles for loss. The good news? The team gets four starters back from that unit that look to play with more aggression under a new coaching staff.
If the unit up front can give Montez time, he has the tools and the players to make it happen in the Pac-12. Outside of Shenault, K.D. Nixon is a serious player at wideout along with Tony Brown, who can take it deep at any time.
Running back is a question mark however, the team lost 1,000 yard rusher Travon McMillian to the NFL (currently signed as a UDFA by the Steelers) and second-leading rusher Kyle Evans to graduation. Beau Bisharat, would be next in line but the new coaches coming in decided to move him to tight end (a position that has been lacking for years).
That leaves little used sophomore Alex Fontenot, who was mainly a special teams player last year and true freshman Jaren Mangham Jr.
Mangham Jr. is 6-2, 215-pounds and ready to take over the ground game right away–he looked the part in the spring game with 149 yards and three scores.
This unit struggled during the seven-game slide last season, one reason why I believe Tucker was brought in. He’s a defensive-minded coach who knows how to get the most out of his guys.
While the numbers show that the Buffs weren’t that bad last season–ranking fifth in the Pac-12 in total defense–a lot of that is skewed by the team’s five wins against lesser competition. Against the better teams, they were overmatched.
Nate Landman is the leader of the defense and put together an incredible sophomore season with 123 tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble and the two interceptions.
With the graduation of senior inside linebackers Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa, who were previously two of the Buffaloes’ unquestioned leaders on defense, it is now Landman who is leading the charge on defense. He knows it, too.
“I love it. I love being a leader on a team — I always saw that for myself when I first came here [and] wanted to prove myself and I feel like I’m doing that,” said Landman. “I love taking the leadership role. I’m going to be a two-year starter now. This is my defense and I want to take control of it. I want to win with these guys, I have won with these guys and I know what we’re capable of. I’m just excited to lead them in the future.”
Mustafa Johnson is the star of a rebuilding line, he made 51 tackles with 7.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss after coming in from the JUCO ranks last season. But they need a second guy to step up–Tucker hopes Auburn transfer Jaunta’vius Johnson is that man.
Takeaways will be key to the Buffs finding success on defense—history proves it too. The 2016 team that got to the Pac-12 title game generated 26 takeaways. The following year, the turnovers stopped with just 14, and none in the last three games. Last season, the defense once again failed to come up with a takeaway over the final three games – the Buffs went -11 in turnover margin during the stretch. The D recovered just three fumbles over the last nine games, and only generated multiple interceptions once all year.
Mel Tucker and his revamped coaching staff will certainly bring the fire to the team, but with a difficult schedule that includes Nebraska and not many slouch conference games–it will be difficult to see Colorado bowling unless their potential turns into production.
If Montez and Shenault stay healthy, along with freshman running back Jaren Mangham Jr. playing above his age, this offense can be special. The defense needs to be better and Tucker will make sure that happens.