It's reloading time around the Pac-12. For some programs, the offseason challenge is more daunting than it is for others. Still, even Utah -- perhaps the league's most experienced team -- will depend on multiple players to fill voids in 2015. So here's our team-by-team look at players who'll be called on to deliver key replacement production around the conference.
We'll continue our breakdown with Colorado.
Reinforcements along the defensive line
Underclassmen composed the entire two-deep of the Buffs’ 2014 front seven, and perhaps that explains why the team struggled so mightily up front: Colorado allowed 5.6 yards per rush, a full yard more than the next-worst Pac-12 team.
The good news: On top of the natural physical maturation expected this offseason, the Buffs stand to benefit from the arrival of three capable, veteran bodies in the defensive trench. Jordan Carrell (6-foot-3, 280 pounds) and Leo Jackson (6-2, 270) are both junior college transfers, while Colorado expected Samson Kafovalu to be one of its most productive contributors in 2014 before he took the year off for personal reasons. All three will be counted on to help replace the inexperience — both physical and mental — that dogged the Buffs up front last year. Another integral part of that effort, of course, involves strengthening the rest of the roster, and that also seems to be happening in Boulder.
Nelson Spruce’s shifting supporting cast
With speedy screen specialist D.D. Goodson and large target Tyler McCulloch both gone, quarterback Sefo Liufau must establish rapport beyond Spruce (a conference-best 106 catches last year) and Shay Fields (50 catches). Those two are undoubtedly Colorado’s top two receiving targets, but the offense must keep more passing avenues open if it is to continue improving and help Liufau cut down on his league-high 15 interceptions last season.
Donovan Lee can pick up some of the slack, while Bryce Bobo -- a player with big potential -- is expected back from injury. The Buffs are looking at 5-foot-9 Devin Ross, who redshirted in 2014 after playing as a freshman the year prior, to fill Goodson’s slot receiver void. Meanwhile, Jay MacIntyre (yes, the coach’s son) has also been in the discussion for playing time and could help complete Colorado’s aerial arsenal.
A pair of new interior offensive linemen
Kaiwi Crabb and Daniel Munyer have both graduated, so four names are auditioning to take over Colorado’s two open spots along the interior line. Gerrad Kough, Jonathan Huckins, Sully Wiefels and Shane Callahan are the candidates. There’s excitement regarding this foursome’s size, as all of them check in at or near 300 pounds. If the two victors of this competition are able to quickly mesh with the Buffs’ returning three starters up front, Colorado's offense will be dangerous.
Cornerback Greg Henderson (signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent) is gone, but optimism also surrounds Colorado’s secondary. Awuzie took Henderson’s spot at the top of the spring depth chart, but Witherspoon — whose 6-3 frame oozes tantalizing potential — is also expected to play. Most of the Pac-12’s high-octane offenses force their opponents into nickel packages, so it’s possible both of these fresh talents are on the field at the same time. In that scenario, Awuzie would theoretically man the nickel, while Witherspoon could suffocate opposing receivers on the outside with his length.