Previewing the Colorado Buffaloes

Despite having its fair share of offseason woes, Colorado is looking ahead to the 2004 season. The Buffaloes will be hoping to re-establish a ground game that was once one of the Big 12's best, and getting starting quarterback Joel Klatt back in the mix will help CU.

When Colorado has the ball
The Buffs will keep their basic pro-personnel look — two backs, a tight end and two wide receivers. But they will also go to their one-back/three receivers set in passing situations, and their two-tight end look on short yardage plays.

Strengths/Weaknesses
Colorado's running game should be able to return to the form it displayed in 2001 and 2002 when the Buffs averaged between 225- and 240-yards per game on the ground. And CU will be solid at tight end, where three veteran players return. However, wide receiver is a question mark as only one player has significant game experience. If the Buffs happen to struggle running the ball, it's unclear if the passing game can come through.

Key Players
Junior quarterback Joel Klatt is an exceptionally accurate passer and brings the kind of intangibles and leadership you like at his position. His classmate, Joe Klopfenstein, could be one of the better tight ends in the country. Sophomore guard Brian Daniels is a fighter who will anchor what should be an improved offensive line. The Buffs will once again run the ball by committee, where as many as four backs have the talent to put up big numbers in 2004.

Colorado will be successful on offense if …
The offensive line can control the line of scrimmage and open holes for the running game while the passing game finds its legs.

When Colorado is on defense
Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz returns to Boulder, where he led some stellar CU defenses in the early 1990s. He's bringing back the 4-3 look, after CU failed to find effectiveness in the trendy 4-2-5 scheme the past two seasons.

Tendencies Hankwitz's defense will give opponents zone coverage looks and zone blitzes. Teams may be able to move the ball on the Buffs, but it will be difficult to score on CU if the players can execute the new scheme.

Strengths/Weaknesses
The Colorado front four should be the strength of the defense, especially up the middle where CU returns four players with experience. The new scheme should allow the Buffs to get more pressure on the quarterback, something they struggled with in recent years. While there is talent at linebacker, there isn't much experience. The safeties should be good, but the corners will be young.

Key Players
Remember the name Brian Iwuh, as the junior linebacker is primed for a monster year in the new defensive system. Senior tackles Brandon Dabdoub and Matt McChesney need to play to their potential. Junior safety J.J. Billingsley is the old man of the secondary, and is a good one.

Colorado will be successful on defense if …
Juco transfer defensive end Abraham Wright can use his impressive quickness to get to opposing quarterbacks, the starting linebackers can stay healthy and — unlike in recent seasons — the entire defense can find a way to generate turnovers.


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