BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Buffaloes are in a hurry.
They can’t wait to put the sour taste of last year’s program-worst 1-11 season behind them and get on with new coach Mike MacIntyre’s up-tempo offense that he’s bringing over from San Jose State.
MacIntyre engineered a quick turnaround with the Spartans from 1-12 in his first season in 2010 to their first 11-win season since 1940 last fall.
Helping him in his quest to duplicate that fast fix in Boulder is speedy wide receiver Paul Richardson, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. His return gives the Buffs a playmaker who can stretch the field and open up opportunities for other receivers as well as Colorado’s deep stable of running backs.
The one delivering all those passes looks like it’ll be junior Connor Wood, who entered preseason camp atop the depth chart, although he’s being pushed by incoming recruit Sefo Liufau, junior college transfer Jordan Gehrke and sophomore Stevie Joe Dorman.
Last year’s starter, Jordan Webb, is facing a knee injury and an assault charge. Nick Hirschman transferred to Akron and Shane Dillon gave up the gridiron for the hardwood, opening the door for Wood, a transfer from Texas who played in seven games last season and started against Washington.
“We have the ability to score a lot and score really fast,” Richardson said. “And I think defensively, the level of intensity has picked up and those guys are being more disciplined.”
No team in the country allowed more TD passes (39) that Colorado did last year, when the Buffs led the nation with 57 starts by true freshmen.
Five things to watch as the Buffaloes try to end their seven-year glitch and post their first winning season since 2005, before the Dan Hawkins (19-39) and Jon Embree (4-21) failures led to a decline in interest and revenue that led to a change in athletic directors this summer from Mike Bohn to Rick George:
1. Can the scarred secondary recover from last year’s trial by fire? Senior Parker Orms is back at his natural safety position after playing linebacker and missing time with concussions in 2012 and he leads a group that learned plenty of lessons while getting torched by Pac-12 passers. “Last year we had a lot of inexperience and that’s going to hurt you in college football these days,” said Orms. “I mean, the reason I red-shirted is because when I got up here I didn’t have the ability to play at this level yet, so I give it up to those guys for what they did last year going out and playing. They might be four years younger than some guys. Yeah, I think the experience from last year is going to help them this year.”
2. It might not matter who’s under center if he doesn’t have time to find Richardson downfield. The offensive linemen have to stay healthy because there is a serious lack of depth. David Bakhtiari skipped his senior season to go pro and Alex Lewis transferred to Nebraska. So, senior Jack Harris moved back from right tackle to left tackle. Daniel Munyer is the only other incumbent full-time starter and he’s moving back to right guard.
3. This ain’t the Big 12 anymore. The D-linemen had to lose some weight to keep up. MacIntyre told his half-dozen defensive linemen to lose a combined 100 pounds before the Sept. 1 opener against rival Colorado State in preparation for the Pac-12’s athleticism. “We just need to keep being able to get a little bit quicker step in this league,” he said. “If you’re that much closer to the quarterback, he’ll throw it high. Then all of a sudden you hit him and he starts to get nervous. Come off a block and you trip a guy in the backfield and all of a sudden he would have gone 50; instead, it’s a 1-yard loss.”
4. Hand it to the running backs. The best depth on the squad is in the offensive backfield where sophomore Christian Powell led the team in rushing with 691 yards last year. Junior Tony Jones is the fastest of the group, senior Josh Ford is the big-play threat, sophomore Donta Abron averaged 5 yards a carry and junior Malcolm Creer is a year removed from major knee surgery.
5. Don’t look back. That’s MacIntyre’s mantra. “I don’t talk about last year’s season at all. Now, I know that they do, and I hope that they do. But, I don’t bring up anything about last year or things that went on,” MacIntyre said. “All I talk about is the future, and now. I talk about now more than I do the future. I talk about what we do now reaps dividends in the future.”
Pac-12 South Division: Sixth.
By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)