10 Returning Buffs Primed for a Bigger Role in 2017

With eight starters departing on defense, and three on offense, we decided to take a pre-spring ball look at 10 returning players that should garner more playing time for the Buffaloes in 2017...

DB Anthony Julmisse

Julmisse showcased his versatility during his first camp with the Buffaloes last August and he was one of just four true freshmen to see action during the season. While his role on defense was limited with seniors Ahkello Witherspoon and Chidobe Awuzie starring in their roles, Julmisse showed off his explosiveness a few times as the starting kick returner, and he recorded a take-away in each of the first two games of the season. He is too talented to keep off the field going forward.

CB Isaiah Oliver

After being CU's No. 3 cornerback in 2016, Oliver is expected to be No. 1 in 2017. He racked up 13 pass breakups as a true sophomore, and also took over punt returning duties mid-way through the season, with his return for a score against UCLA being one of the biggest plays of the season. Now an upperclassman, Oliver is a legit all-conference candidate and he is looking forward to taking on more of a leadership role.

OLB N.J. Falo

After an off-the-field incident last off-season, which resulted in a three game suspension, Falo worked his way into the defensive rotation and showed flashes as the 2016 season wore on. He was named the most improve linebacker during spring ball last year, and with a similar productive spring on the practice fields this year, Falo would be second in the pecking order at outside linebacker, behind Derek McCartney, going into camp.

QB Steven Montez

Montez will be the only quarterback on the roster this spring that has any game experience at the college level. As Mike MacIntyre said, that gives Montez a leg up on Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle. And given his standout performances against Oregon and Oregon State, it would take a surprising development for him to get passed up. Montez has been spending the winter getting in terrific shape. The physical tools are all there, but can Montez follow in Sefo Liufau's footsteps and become a true field general?

DB Nick Fisher

Fisher can play every position in the secondary, and he can play all the defensive back spots at a high level. His excellent closing speed as a tackler might make him Colorado's best option at nickel back in 2017. Colorado fans got a good glimpse at his potential last November when he made four critical tackles on third or fourth down against Washington State, earning him Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

DL Leo Jackson

After playing nearly 600 defensive snaps as a sophomore in 2015, Jackson only played 254 snaps as a junior. Samson Kafovalu and Jordan Carrell proved they could handle a bulk of the snaps up front, but both are graduating, which opens the door up again for Jackson, who kept a positive outlook even though his role was diminished last season. His experience will be extremely valuable on a defensive line that will feature three new starters.

OT Aaron Haigler

Haigler was likely to step into a full-time starting role at right tackle in 2017, after he started six games last season. And the fact Sam Kronshage has decided to leave the team and forgo his senior season seemingly cements Haigler's status as a starter going forward. Haigler gained 40 pounds in a year-and-a-half after signing with the Buffs, and he hopes to gain another 20 pounds, to get up over 290-pounds before the start of his redshirt sophomore season.

TE Chris Bounds

The departure of Sean Irwin, who was quietly one of the best blocking tight ends in the country, opens the door for Bounds to step into a prominent role on the Buffaloes' offense. Bounds is known to be a fairly well-rounded tight end, with his pass catching ability being slightly ahead of his blocking at this young stage of his college career. He got his feet wet as a redshirt freshman last fall and caught an eight yard pass against Idaho State.

ILB Drew Lewis

The Jack linebacker job is up-for-grabs with Kenneth Olugbode's eligibility exhausted, so Lewis has a chance to work his way into the starting line-up in 2017. Redshirt freshman Akil Jones will also battle for the spot. Lewis only played 46 defensive snaps in 2016, his first year with the Buffs after transferring in from the Junior College ranks, but he started on numerous special teams units and showed good speed.

DL Frank Umu

After turning heads on scout team last season, Umu is primed to make a run at the starting three-technique spot, which Carrell manned in 2016. Umu has developed into a stout, hard-to-move defensive lineman. He is nearly 40 pounds heavier than when he verbally committed to the Buffs as a high school recruit. With no experience, Umu will undoubtedly go through some growing pains, but he has a high ceiling.

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