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Three offseason questions: Colorado Buffaloes

Mike MacIntyre finally got Colorado turned around last season, but can the Buffaloes sustain it over the long haul? Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

It’s a slow time of year in college football. Spring practices are over and the NFL draft has come and gone, leaving four long months before college football returns to our television screens. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll take a look at some questions facing each Pac-12 team. Next up: Colorado.

Can Colorado sustain success over the long term?

It’s not necessarily a question specific to this offseason, but in the wake of their first-place finish in the Pac-12 South last season, the Buffaloes now have more to prove than ever. It’s one thing to rise up and turn in one solid season (see: Arizona, 2014) and another altogether to come from irrelevance and then routinely challenge for conference tiles (see: Stanford, 2010-present). There are several reasons to believe Colorado will lean more toward the latter. There has been a concerted effort to invest heavily into the program’s recruiting infrastructure (it has been paying off), a recent upgrade resulted in some of the best facilities in the country, and coach Mike MacIntyre has established himself as one of the best in the country. The expectation here is that Colorado remains a Top-25-caliber team for the foreseeable future.

How quickly can the defensive rebuild take shape?

The Buffs’ 8-1 Pac-12 record last season was largely a product of the conference’s best scoring defense (18.4 points per game), but the unit will have a whole new look and feel in 2017. Of the eight outgoing starters they need to replace, four were drafted and three others, including first-team All-Pac-12 linebacker Jimmie Gilbert, signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents. That looming exodus already figured to be difficult to deal with even before defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, a finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach, left in December for a massive payday to do the same job at Oregon. Leavitt’s replacement, D.J. Eliot, runs a similar system and MacIntyre has a defensive background, but the combination of new players and a new playcaller makes it difficult to project what to expect. A soft nonconference schedule (Colorado State, Texas State, Northern Colorado) should help with the transition before Washington travels to Boulder to open conference play.

What will come of the investigation into the university’s handling of a domestic abuse allegation against a former assistant coach?

In February, two lawyers were hired to look into how the school responded to allegations of domestic violence against former assistant coach Joe Tumpkin. As a result, the Board of Regents delayed a vote on whether to approve a $16.25 million contract extension for MacIntyre that would take him through the 2021 season. The lawyers met with the regents last month in a closed-door meeting, according to the Boulder Daily Camera, but a final report has yet to be completed.