Big 12 Football Preview - Colorado

Last season: 8-5 overall (4-4 Big 12). Mason Crosby's four field goals – including a 60 yarder and a 54 yarder – pushed the Buffaloes over Iowa State 19-14 in Boulder.


This season: Iowa State will host Colorado on Nov. 12


Key Returners – The Buffaloes will return 50 letterwinners (22 offense, 23 defense, 5 specialists); including 19 starters.




Juniors Brian Daniels and Mark Fenton and senior Clint O'Neal – Colorado's three returning starters will anchor the offensive line. The three started every game in 2004.


Signal-caller Joel Klatt will try take over all of Colorado's major passing records in his senior campaign. A solid player throughout his career, Klatt set 16 school records his sophomore year and added eight more as a junior. Last season, Klatt passed for 2,065 yards, making him the fourth player at Colorado to have a pair of 2,000 plus passing seasons.


"I would say offensively one of the biggest things that we have to get better at is, especially from my standpoint is our efficiency in the passing game," Klatt said. "We really worked on that this spring. Coach Barnett put a strong emphasis on throwing the ball."


Tight end will also be strength for the Buffaloes with the return of Joe Klopfenstein, who caught 33 passes for 418 yards and five touchdowns last season. The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder was a second team all-Big 12 selection by the league's coaches a season ago.


Gone to graduation is Bobby Purify and Colorado is left with a big hole at running back. Lawrence Vickers has the most experience, but Colorado head coach Gary Barnett said he wants to use him more at tailback. Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis look to be in the equation at running back. 


"I think the only area that doesn't have a great deal of experience is the running back spot and we have two returning sophomores, as well as a senior back there, so we have got some guys that played a little bit," Barnett said. "We were young last year. I think we have just gotten a little bit older and better at most positions."


Barnett said Vickers has gotten down to the 225-230 pound range so he can be utilized at the running back position if the younger players don't step up.


"I want to give those two or three young guys a chance to prove they are tailbacks," Barnett said. "We are a better team when we have a legitimate tailback and Lawrence in there at fullback."


With the loss of veteran leadership, Colorado experienced some growing pains in 2004 - Colorado receivers dropped 39 balls, which could have resulted in over 700 more yards gained for the Buffaloes.


"As far as tight ends and receivers, we have been working this off-season catching a lot more balls and just concentrating on eliminating that number, which is way too high," said tight end Klopfenstein.


As the season wore on, former walk-on Evan Judge emerged as a threat at wide receiver, leading the team in receiving with 29 catches for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Also blooming late in the season was Blake Mackey who averaged a team-high 16 yards per catch. The Buffalos brought in junior college transfer Alvin Barnett for reinforcement.


"One of the things that we did that I think is going to be a very big advantage for us is the wide receivers now meet with the quarterbacks in meetings," Klatt said. "We are able to be on the same page much more than we were in years past."




Last season was a transition year for the Colorado defense as they moved from a 4-2-5 scheme in 2003 to a 4-3 base in 2004.


"As far as defensively, I think that we, as a defense, we need to focus more on preparing and knowing our opponent, and third-down plays," said Brian Iwuh. "I think that if we were prepared and know our opponent better, we would be prepared to make plays and make third-down stops and get the defense out of the field."


During the spring the CU coaches moved James Garee from end inside to tackle with the hopes that the pass rushing skills of Alex Ligon and Abraham Wright will put the heat on opposing quarterbacks. A year ago the Buffaloes had 31 quarterback sacks.


Linebacker will be the biggest strength for Colorado, four veteran players return with 34 combined starts and only one player is a senior. Thaddaeus Washington, Jordon Dizon and Akarika Dawn highlight the position. Washington was second on the squad with 93 tackles last season. As a true freshman Dizon had 83 tackles; while Dawn accumulated 73 tackles and a team-high 13 third-down stops.


At outside linebacker Iwuh was the Buffaloes team leader with 98 stops and a team-high 14 tackles for losses.


The entire Colorado secondary is intact, including cornerbacks Terrence Wheatley and Lorenzo Sims. Competition at secondary will heat up with Tom Hubbard, Tyrone Henderson and Dominique Brooks all in the mix for playing time.


Special teams:


Colorado could have one of the best place kicker-punter combinations in the nation in Mason Crosby and John Torp.


Crosby was the nation's leader with six 50-plus yard field goals last season; while punter Torp helped Colorado win its fifth net punting title with a 42.43 average.


A first-team all-Big 12 place-kicker in 2004, Crosby is 15-of-15 in his career from 40 yards in.


Entering the 2005 season, Torp will be the NCAA's leading active punter with a 44.62 yard average. Last year 80 of 159 opponents drives began at or inside the 20 yard line.


Fast Fact:


After winning the Big 12 North last year Colorado is the preseason favorite heading into the 2005 season. The Big 12 is entering its 10th year of existence – Colorado, Kansas State and Nebraska each have won three titles, with Colorado and Kansas State winning owning the 2000's. Will Colorado or Kansas State become the first four-time Big 12 North Champion or will Iowa State, Kansas or Missouri win their first crown?


The Schedule:


9/3/05      vs.  Colorado State

9/10/05    vs. New Mexico State

9/24/05    @   Miami (Fla.)

10/1/05    @   Oklahoma State

10/8/05    vs. Texas A&M

10/15/05  @   Texas

10/22/05  vs. Kansas

10/29/05  @   Kansas State

11/05/05  vs. Missouri

11/12/05  @   Iowa State

11/25/05  vs. Nebraska

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