Area of need: Defense
Current situation: To begin, it's important to appreciate just how drastically Colorado's defense has improved during the last three years. In 2014, the Buffs were among the nation's weakest units, allowing a full yard more per rush than the next-worst Pac-12 team. By the end of 2016's regular season, Colorado boasted a rigid run defense while sitting atop the nation in pass defense, allowing only 5.4 yards per attempt. The Buffs, along with USC and Alabama, were one of the three teams that gave Washington quarterback Jake Browning serious problems during his otherwise record-setting campaign.
Colorado owed much of its defensive success this season to having many veterans on that side of the ball. Star cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was a senior, as was his counterpart Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Tedric Thompson. Tackle leader Kenneth Olugbode was also a senior along with pass-rush specialist Jimmie Gilbert. To make the Buffs' experience even more pronounced, starting defensive linemen Jordan Carrell, Josh Tupou, and Samson Kafovalu also all exhausted their eligibility in 2016.
And therein lies the Buffs' problem: Whenever a program fields such a veteran unit, a rash of departures is inevitable. In the case of the Colorado defense, eight starters -- many of them stars -- must be replaced. Graduation will hit the Buffs hard across all levels of their defense.
Plan moving forward: Mike MacIntyre has been building depth at Colorado throughout this entire resurgence, and he'll rely on it to fill the holes in 2017. Linebacker Rick Gamboa finished second on the team behind Olugbode with 79 tackles last year, and he'll likely take over as the centerpiece of the defense. Safety Afolabi Laguda will be the one holdover from the secondary, so he'll be tasked with assuming the leadership role in that room following a wildly successful season. Linebacker Addison Gillam will have an opportunity for more, as will defensive lineman Leo Jackson III. Both of those players will be seniors in 2017.
There is also some high-end talent coming on the recruiting trail, and some of it may be able to play immediately. The Buffs have secured the commitment of four-star defensive tackle Javier Edwards, whom ESPN rates as one of the top 50 junior college prospects in the country. Fellow junior college lineman Shamar Hamilton may also be ready to fill in the gaps up front right away, while four-star outside linebacker Jon Van Diest is an exciting player.
MacIntyre aced his first rebuilding job at Colorado. If all goes according to plan, his second one should move faster.