Part Five: Defense
No one could have missed the seeming meteoric rise of the Buffs' defense over the course of the last two seasons. But to some extent it raises a bit of a chicken or the egg sort of conundrum. Was The Rise on defense due to the coming of age of a dynamic class of seniors on defense? Or was it the coming to Boulder of Jim Leavitt and his work as defensive coordinator that made it happen? It’s probably fair to say that it was some combination of both. So it’s also fair to expect a drop off on defense for CU next fall as both of those factors will be gone, with the graduation of those seniors, and the movement of Leavitt to wetter climes.
What does return, of course, is a coach who won Assistant Coach of the Year awards as a defensive coordinator at a school that did well defensively using lesser talent against much better teams. No, I don’t mean Leavitt. I haven’t completely lost it. I’m talking about head coach Mike MacIntyre, who won the award as defensive coordinator at Duke, a school which year in and year out has significantly less talent than most of the teams it plays.
It is not entirely clear what role MacIntyre played in the rebuilding of the CU defense, but we do know that his entire playing and coaching career was spent on defense. We also know that he is one of the most highly regarded secondary coaches in the game. And finally, we know that MacIntyre values very highly a collegial approach to a coaching staff where everyone collaborates and works together to make things work. In hindsight it has become clear that this approach did not sit very well with Leavitt, who does not work well with others, and prefers to have total control over his defense.
Given all these things, it appears that MacIntyre had a great deal to do with the growth and success of the CU defense the last couple of years, and it’s fair to expect that he will not allow CU’s defense to decline or fall off very far. And what is beyond dispute is this: The players that Leavitt coached as defensive coordinator were primarily guys discovered and recruited by MacIntyre and his staff before Leavitt even arrived. So it’s very clear that MacIntyre knows talent - both playing and coaching talent - and will continue to find guys that other programs overlook.
That said, what is the state of the Colorado defense moving forward? Part Six will include an in-depth look at the Buffs' defensive line going into spring practices.