Colorado Preview: Defense and Special Teams


One more day till Cal vs. Colorado 2011 kicks off! To finish my preview off, here is the 2011 Colorado Defense and Special Teams preview. I also wrote a 2011 Colorado Offense Preview, so make sure to check that out if you haven’t yet. Now, let’s preview Colorado’s D.

The defense’s strengths are in the front 7, particularly against the run. It lacks elite speed, both side to side and in the secondary.

Defensive Line:
The unit is switching to a 4-3 (ran a 3-4 last year). Last year the Buffs were 4th in the Big 12 in run defense and third in sacks.
6’3″ 240 pound Chidera Uzo-Diribe starts at one end, with Nick Kasa starting opposite him. Both are pretty green. At tackle the unit is anchored by Will Pericak, who has started all 24 games in his career at CU. He’s a great athlete and can break down a line. At the nose tackle spot is 295 pound Conrad Obi, who has bulked up and is also capable of disrupting the line. Nate Bonsu and Curtis Cunningham provide depth. This unit has some explosion and depth, particularly at tackle, though it is also counting on Uzo-Diribe to add a pass-rushing dimension of some kind.


Jon Major missed most of 2010 with a knee injury. At the time of injury he was CU’s leading tackler. He returns to start at the SLB spot, and brings a solid 6’2″ 230 pound frame to the position. He isn’t one to shy away from contact, despite two major knee surgeries in the past. He is a prototypical football player and his willingness to take and receive punishment is something his defense has shown it can feed on.
At the weakside linebacker spot, CU starts Patrick Mahnke, a 210 pound veteran who has paid his dues. He is undersized but moves fairly well.
In the middle, 225 pound Dough Rippy is expected to make ripples this season. He was a standout recruit in 2008 and is transitioning to a starting role after playing on special teams and as a backup last year.

Derrick Webb and Liloa Nobriga provide depth. This unit isn’t very big – only one of the 5 players listed here weighs 230. It also lacks depth and has average athleticism. It is not, however, short on hard-nosed players like Major.


In addition to Solder, Colorado also lost Jimmy Smith in the first round of last year’s NFL draft. The safeties are strong, with Ray Polk starting at FS and Anthony Perkins starting at SS. Polk had 72 tackles last year and Perkins is the acknowledged leader of the unit (he was also leading the Buffs in tackles when he blew out his knee last year in game 5). Both are savvy and instinctual – think Donte Hughes, though I’m not sure either plays the ball as well as Hughes did.

At corner, yet another starter is returning from a knee injury in Parker Orms, an oustanding athlete. Opposite him is Arthur Jafee, a senior with good size (5’11”, 210). They are backed up by Ayodeji Olatoye and Johnathan Hawkins. All four corners are either returning from injury, very green, or both.

Special Teams:

Zach Grossnickle returns at punter, and a new PK comes in the form of Justin Castor (a highly regarded recruit – maybe we’ll get one of those at PK someday). Richardson is set to return punts, while Clemons and Jaffee return kicks.

Biggest Strength against Cal’s Offense:

Interior defensive line. With Cal’s offensive line a question mark, and CU’s depth of capable defensive tackles with good (though not Moala-esque) size, it is easy to imagine the interior lineman playing Cal to at least a draw. I’si may struggle to get room, and we may find ourselves hoping Tedford plays a bigger back.

Biggest Weakness vs Cal Offense:

Speed. Cal simply has better athletes on the perimeter and CU’s linebackers in particular appear both smaller and slower than the guys that will be lining up opposite them. They also struggled to contain Bryant Moniz last weekend, a QB who isn’t known for his mobility but who ran for 3 TDs and had a career-high in rushing. Maynard is definitely a faster and more elusive player.


Cal struggles early, because of the attitude, early start, lack of motivation, *insert excuse here*. However Cal is a better team than Colorado, and I do expect them to come out with a win.